One of the most frustrating experiences with miles and points is when you accidentally let your hard-earned airline miles expire. When this happens, you might be out of luck if the airline won’t do anything to reinstate your miles — or you could get your miles back after paying a reinstatement fee.
Regardless of which category you fall into, saving yourself the headache by avoiding this situation is more desirable.
To help, we’ve put together a handy guide with mileage expiration dates for 69 airlines (nine domestic and 60 international). If you want to keep track of the expiration policies of various airlines, bookmark this page for reference.
Domestic airline expiration dates
International airline expiration dates
Policies vary among airlines and some have extended mileage expiration dates due to the pandemic. Delta SkyMiles, United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, HawaiianMiles and JetBlue TrueBlue points don't expire. On the other end of the spectrum is Spirit Airlines, where miles expire three months after they are earned. This deadline is extremely tight for this budget domestic airline.
Some airlines (like Lufthansa) have more lenient expiration policies for those who have elite status or hold a co-branded credit card as a way to incentivize elite members and cardholders to maintain loyalty to the airline.
Some airlines set expiration dates for miles a certain time after they are earned, while others consider any activity to be valid for keeping miles active (earning, redeeming and transferring). In these cases, as long as your account has some mileage activity and isn't inactive, your miles won't expire.
This kind of policy is the broadest and provides the most options to keep your miles active. British Airways, for example, expires Avios after 36 months of inactivity in your frequent flyer account. Some examples of qualifying activities include purchasing merchandise through the British Airways eStore shopping portal, reserving a car rental (and adding your Avios number to the reservation) and transferring points from a rewards credit card.
The AmEx and Chase option
If you have a credit card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points or Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, you can transfer points to British Airways, which would keep the account active and extend the life of expiring Avios. Although it would be nice to transfer just one mile, you’ll likely need to transfer a minimum of 1,000 points into your account. AmEx is known for running transfer bonuses to hotels.
While that example is specific to British Airways, the ways to keep your miles alive are often similar from airline to airline: earn, redeem, transfer or buy to trigger activity.
Consider low and no-fee cards
There are even some low-fee and no-fee rewards credit cards that allow point transfers. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card only has a $95 annual fee and earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card earns American Express Membership Rewards points and has a $0 annual fee. Credit card offers can vary, so if you’re in the market for one of these cards, check out their welcome bonuses to make sure you’re maximizing the offer.
Other card and loyalty programs
Keep in mind that Chase and AmEx aren’t the only credit card companies with rewards programs that allow point transfers to airlines. Citi ThankYou points and Capital One miles can also be transferred to airlines.
If you’ve collected hotel points that you have no use for, consider transferring them to an airline if you have expiring miles. Some of the hotel rewards programs that allow point transfers to airlines include:
The number of miles you receive in your frequent flyer account will depend on the transfer ratios of each hotel program.
Some airlines aren’t transfer partners of many programs (or any at all), in which case you can extend the validity of your miles by applying for a co-branded credit card. For example, American Airlines is only a transfer partner of Marriott, so if you don’t have Marriott hotel points, you won’t be able to do a transfer. A great way to keep your American Airlines AAdvantage miles active is to apply for a co-branded credit card. Citi and Barclays are the credit card issuers on AAdvantage co-branded cards, so you have various options to choose from.
One of our favorite cards is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® because it has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $99, providing you with a great opportunity to try the card. The welcome offer is: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
» Learn more: 34 Ways to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles
The bottom line
Knowing the mileage expiration dates for frequent flyer programs is crucial to ensuring that the miles you’ve worked hard to earn don’t disappear from your account. We suggest that you bookmark this page as a reference to stay ahead and even set reminders in your personal calendar for key dates of your big stashes of points.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card