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As our spring travel plans turn into a “staycation,” don’t forget to safeguard your airline miles. After all, it can be easy to forget about expiring airline miles as you replicate DoubleTree chocolate cookies. If it’s been a while since you last logged into your frequent flyer account, here’s the latest mileage expiration policies.
Airline Miles That Don’t Expire
A few airlines stopped expiring airline miles long before the novel coronavirus was on the radar:
You only need to keep your loyalty account in good standing to preserve your miles. Logging into your account at least once a quarter is a good habit. Also, make sure your email address and home address are accurate so you don’t miss any vital correspondence.
Airline Miles That Still Expire
Most airlines still expire their miles after 12 to 36 months of account inactivity. While many airlines are extending elite status, don’t expect most airlines to pause mileage expirations yet.
One of the rare exceptions (so far) is Avianca LifeMiles. If your LifeMiles are supposed to expire between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, they won’t expire at the end of 2020 or your next account transaction — whichever happens first. If you’ve got one of the Avianca LifeMiles credit cards (or want one), this is an easy way to keep your account active.
Most airlines will renew your expiration dates if you earn or redeem miles. One exception is Singapore KrisFlyer miles.
Here is a quick rundown of the normal mileage expiration dates for the major airlines:
- Air Canada: 12 months
- Alaska Airlines: 24 months
- American Airlines: 24 months
- Avianca LifeMiles: 24 months [LifeMiles don’t expire from April 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020]
- Avios (British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia): 36 months
- Cathay Pacific: 18 months
- Emirates: 36 months
- Etihad: 36 months from the month you earn the miles
- Hawaiian Airlines: 18 months
- Singapore Airlines: 36 months from the month you earn the miles
- Virgin Atlantic: 36 months
In many cases, you can earn or redeem miles to reset the clock and renew your entire points balance. Other airlines may also waive mileage expirations for at least part of 2020. However, the best practice can be renewing your miles regularly so you get a longer extension.
Here are a few ways to prevent losing your miles or paying mileage reinstatement fees.
Earn Airline Miles from Home
There are several ways you can earn airline miles without flying. Most airlines renew your balance when you make qualifying purchases. Redeeming miles for something other than award flights can also qualify.
Use the Airline Online Shopping Portal
Most airlines have an online shopping portal allowing you to earn miles for participating purchases. As many local stores temporarily close, shopping online is the only way to buy the items you need from these brands.
You likely won’t earn miles on Amazon purchases (though these are the best credit cards for Amazon purchases). You can, however, earn for other department stores like Nike, Home Depot, or Apple. Some airlines may also partner with meal delivery kits that you can earn miles for.
Most stores award up to 3 miles per $1 you spend, though you may find better deals.
Related: Best Rewards Portals
Your airline dining rewards program is usually an effortless way to earn points as well. The airline dining club lists which local restaurants offer takeout. You can enjoy the same food but from the comfort of your home instead. The offerings may not be as diverse as usual until you can dine inside again. But you can still earn points for takeout orders.
Alternatively, having a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card that earns 2 miles on every purchase can be an easy way to keep earning, no matter what you purchase. However, Uber Eats purchases earn 5x miles per $1 spent, through January 31, 2021. New cardholders can earn 60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of the account opening.
Learn more: Rewards Credit Cards
Plus, all three cards are some of the top credit cards for travel (though the Reserve is a premium credit card). Compare the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture to learn more about all of the perks each card offers.
Participate in Partner Offers
It’s also possible to earn miles by signing up for non-retail partner offers. Each airline has different brand partners but some of the eligible services include:
- ID theft protection
- Installing a home security system
- Switching utility providers
- Taking online surveys
- Refinancing a personal loan
The best way to find the current offers is to explore the “Earn Miles” section of your frequent flyer account.
Use a Co-Brand Airline Credit Card
Most miles credit cards renew your airline miles balance with each card purchase. More co-brand cards are offering bonus miles on daily spend categories, including supermarkets and restaurants. Some even award bonus miles on hotel stays, in case you need to stay local to maintain social distancing.
Some exciting credit card bonus offers are also available. American Express has also extended the amount of time new cardholders of some of their cards have to earn bonuses (ex. 6 months instead of 3 months to meet the minimum spending requirements).
Many airline credit cards earn at least 2 airline miles per $1 on airline purchases and the select bonus categories. All non-bonus spending earns 1 point per $1. Plus, some of the top airline credit cards are also some of the best credit cards for international travel (for future use, of course).
Some airlines let co-brand card purchases qualify for elite status. One of the best offers can be the Southwest Airlines credit cards, since each Rapid Reward you earn counts toward the Companion Pass point requirement. For 2020, you only need to earn 100,000 Rapid Rewards (normally 125,000 points) to get the Companion Pass.
Donate Miles to Charity
Redeeming your miles can usually renew your remaining balance. As a way to help during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible to donate your miles to organizations providing food and medical care. It’s also possible to support American and international charities. Some airlines (and hotels) may match your donation during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Redeem Miles for Merchandise
Airlines also let you redeem your miles for awards like magazines, Apple products, and family products including baby strollers or car seats.
Merchandise rewards are usually the least valuable way to redeem airline miles. Each mile is usually worth below 1 cent each. But redeeming your miles for something you need can still be better than watching your expiring airline miles evaporate.
Instead, you may try to make a simple purchase to renew your balance. That way you can conserve your miles for award flights and upgrades when the skies open again.
It’s also possible to buy airline miles. Some airlines are offering discounts for mileage purchases. American Airlines is offering up to 65% bonus miles with a recent promotion. You can check your other airline accounts to see what current promotions are available.
Before buying miles, calculate the cost-per-mile. Without a bonus promotion, miles can easily cost 3 cents each. You will need to redeem your miles for a business class or first class award flight to at least break even. Many economy class award flights are worth up to 2 cents each.
Summary of How to Stay On Top of Expiring Airline Miles
Expiring airline miles are still a real possibility even during the current travel slowdown. So far, airlines are extending elite status and easing the qualification requirement to upgrade status tiers in 2020. Until more airlines pause mileage expirations for the rest of 2020, look for easy ways to periodically earn or redeem some.
How do you keep airline miles from expiring?
The easiest way to keep airline miles from expiring is by making online purchases through a frequent flyer program promotion or using a co-brand airline credit card.
Most frequent flyer programs have an online shopping portal where you can earn miles at more than 900 online stores. Participating local restaurants may also award miles when you pay with a linked debit card or credit card.
The easier option can be using a co-brand airline credit card. Most card purchases earn airline miles. As long as your card remains in good standing, your points may never expire.
Do Star Alliance miles expire?
United Airlines MileagePlus miles no longer expire. You can redeem these miles directly for United Airlines-operated flights. Star Alliance partner flights are another redemption option.
If you happen to have airline miles of other Star Alliance members, they may still expire.
Some alliance partners with expiring miles include:
- Air Canada
- Singapore Airlines
Each airline has different expiration policies. For example, Avianca LifeMiles expire within 24 months of account inactivity, but, earning or redeeming miles renews your balance. However, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles expire after 36 months from the month you earn them and cannot renew by earning new miles.
Which airline miles do not expire?
These airline miles do not expire:
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Miles for most frequent flyer programs expire within 12 and 36 months. Normally, you can earn miles or redeem miles to renew the balance. Making purchases with a co-brand airline credit card renews your balance with each card purchase. It’s possible to never have expiring airline miles as long as you own the credit card.
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.