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

by on January 29, 2012 · 24 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Gerry

    Any idea if you can buy and return an item on the airline’s shopping site? Does the “event” that is the buy reset the clock? For that matter, does returning an item also act as an event that resets the clock?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ethan.r.jones Ethan Jones

    If you are trying to extending your United/Continental balance, you can also signup for TopGuest and check-in to an airport on Foursquare or Facebook for a free 50 miles. Doing so takes 6-8 weeks to post to your account though. http://mileageplus.topguest.com/

  • Laura

    If you have a United account and need to extend your miles, sign up for a Continental account, link the two and transfer miles. It resets the UA miles and the CO ones “never expire” (although I wonder what will become of this).

  • Gerry

    Any thoughts on how to extend JetBlue?

  • n/a

    Also believe that Air France’s mileage program has miles expire 18 or 20 months after date earned, and the only way to extend life of your miles is by flying on AF or a partner airline. Can’t buy a chunk of miles, can’t use a mileage mall, etc. Stay away from that program.

  • Rob Perelman

    I also tried to figure out this one, Gerry, but it looks like there isn’t a way. My miles expire Feb 14th, and I made a purchase through their TrueBlue program, but AwardWallet.com still shows the Feb 14th expiration, so I think the only way to extend the expiration is by flying. And my next JetBlue flight is Feb 17th. OUCH!

  • Asdf

    The most obvious way to keep miles from expiring is to simply use a credit card associated with that program. Buy something on the card, pay your bill, boom – you’re reset. I had thought that all programs work this way, but apparently not. Those programs that I’m in all do.

  • Tom

    There are several ways to keep miles from expiring:
    1. Spend a few miles on a gift card or magazine subcription.
    2. Donate a few miles to charity
    3. Make a purchase on the Credit Card associated with the airline
    4. Join the airline’s dining program and dine at a participating restaurant
    5. Make a purchase from the airline’s mall
    6. Rent a car, stay in a hotel, or otherwise do business with one of the airlines partners
    7. Use miles for an award ticket
    8. Answer trivia questions on Audience rewards (US Air and Delta)
    9. Transfer Amex or Chase points to your account.

    As listed above, there are many ways to keep your account active. The place to start is to read to Airlines website and look at the various ways to earn or spend points. In most cases, any points transaction that posts to your account (either positive or negative) will reset the expiration date of your points.

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Anonymous

    Definitely use AwardWallet. That thing is a lifesaver.

    FWIW Aeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity like most programs, but any miles that aren’t redeemed after 7 years expire permanently like the Singapore ones (but you don’t get to extend them).

  • Rachel

    Just an FYI, if anyone uses Amtrak, you can only extend expiration by actually taking a train.

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