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How I Keep My Airline Miles From Expiring

How I Keep My Airline Miles From Expiring
Anya Kartashova

United Airlines recently joined Delta Air Lines and JetBlue by removing expiration dates from accumulated miles in loyalty accounts. What this means is that you don’t have to maintain activity in your MileagePlus account every 18 months to keep them alive.

Still, many airline loyalty programs implement mileage expiration when there’s no activity within a specific time period. These range from 12 months to 36 months, depending on the program.

As someone with dozens of frequent-flyer accounts, I must keep track of expiration dates to avoid losing all my miles. Here’s what I do to keep my miles from expiring in the other three U.S.-run airline programs.

I Use AwardWallet to Keep Track of the Dates

AwardWallet is a tool that helps you keep track of all your frequent flyer, hotel and bank loyalty accounts. It doesn’t support every single program, but you’ll find most of them on the list.

Once you link your loyalty accounts with AwardWallet, the tool automatically tracks your reward balances, travel plans and expiration dates for your points and miles. If your balance is close to vanishing, the website sends you an alert a few months before so that you can add a qualifying activity to your account and keep the miles from expiring.

The free version does most of what you might need, but as far as expiration dates go, it only provides three alerts, so it’s best to sign up for the paid version of the site. (Use my referral code “free-fuvoui” to receive a free upgrade if you’re a first-time AwardWallet user.)

What I Do to Keep Miles from Expiring

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire with no account activity after 18 months. To keep the account active, I use the American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping portal and make reservations via Booking.com.

The popular accommodation search engine partners with the shopping portal and earns 4X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. As a frequent traveler, I make Booking.com my one-stop-shop when looking for a place to stay. It lists a great range of cheap hostels to luxury hotels and everything in between, and I often receive a 10% discount just for being a Genius member.

The points post to my AAdvantage account a few weeks after I complete the stay and extend their expiration. So far this year, I’ve earned more than 4,000 miles via the shopping portal.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines miles don’t expire as long as you have earning or redeeming activity at least once per 24 months. To make sure these valuable miles don’t expire, I credit a flight operated by a partner airline to the Alaska Mileage Plan program. If said airline partners with multiple programs, Alaska usually wins because these miles are a bit more difficult to earn than others.

For example, last year I flew Cathay Pacific from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific partners with a bunch of airlines whose miles I could use, including American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia. However, I chose to credit them to Alaska to extend the expiration date and pad my Mileage Plan balance at the same time.

If I don’t end up flying a partner airline in a calendar year, I buy something via the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping portal to ensure they don’t disappear.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards miles expire if there’s no activity once every 24 months, but the program has a unique policy in that it doesn’t count redeeming miles as a qualifying activity. You must have some type of earning registered on the account every two years.

As someone who likes a flight deal, I don’t always book airfare that originates in my city. Every now and then, I book cheap transpacific flights that originate in either Los Angeles or San Francisco, but I still need to get there for my outbound leg.

So, I book an inexpensive fare on Southwest to position for my flight. Typically, that cheap fare still ends up being a deal even after factoring in the cost to position to another airport. This way I save money and miles from expiring.

Final Thoughts

Most likely, if you collect points and miles in earnest, you’re aware of programs’ expiration policies. Sure, it’s nice to eliminate expiration dates altogether and not have to worry about losing your miles by a certain date, but it’s not that difficult to keep them accumulating.

What are your favorite ways to keep the miles from expiring?

[Image Source: Shutterstock/Iam_Anupong]

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