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Sunday Reader Question: How to Keep Miles and Points From Expiring

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TPG reader James writes:

“What is the best way to avoid miles/points from expiring? Does transferring a small amount to the particular account from either Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards extend the lifetime?”

Yes, transferring points from American Express, Chase or a hotel program to an airline, will generally reset the expiration clock. Additionally, purchasing an item though the online shopping portals and thus earning miles through that method will also extend the expiration. Apple iTunes is a merchant on most portals, so buying a single song can keep your miles/points active – something most people don’t realize.

There are, however, exceptions such as Singapore Airlines miles which expire after three years from when they are earned. They can be extended once for 6 months (12 months for elites), but after that you lose them. I recommend checking the expiration policy for your airline just to be safe. Some airlines, like Delta, don’t have expiration dates and this Wikipedia post has a rundown of expiration policies of most major frequent flyer programs.

I recommend using an online mileage tracker like Award Wallet, which will alert you if any of your mileage balances are in risk of expiration.

As a last resort option, you can also swap points on points.com, though swapping large balances is generally a bad deal. However, letting miles expire is the worst possible deal and basically amounts to throwing money in the trash.

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