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Following up on the recent national survey I commissioned from The Princeton Group and my contest about how people track their frequent flyer miles, I thought it would be a good idea to create a basic guide to the expiration policies of the major airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Although mileage expiration is a major concern and it looks like miles will only be active for a limited time under the strictest interpretation of these guidelines, miles and points expiration is in fact a lot more flexible than that, and often all you have to do is earn as little as a single point or mile in order to keep your points active and reset the expiration clock.

That’s where co-branded credit cards come in handy since often the points and miles you earn on purchases counts towards your mileage/points expiration qualification, so each time you make a purchase, you reset the clock. Transferable points such as Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points are also valuable because if you carry a credit card that accrues any of these points, they can help you keep your miles active with a single points transfer.

Having a co-branded credit card can help you keep your miles active.

Having a co-branded credit card can help you keep your miles active.

You can also check out this post on shopping portals and this post on dining rewards networks, as well as this top 10 list of mistakes people make with their airline miles for more ideas about how to track your points and miles and keep them from expiring so you can put them to use when you need them.

Today, here’s a list of the rules of the major airlines on miles expiration, and stay tuned for the list of hotel points expiration policies tomorrow.

Airline Expiration Term
Aeromexico 24 months
Air Canada (Aeroplan) 12 months/7 years
Alaska Airlines 24 months
Alitalia 24 months within current 5 year period/6 months after previous period ends
American Airlines 18 months
ANA 36 months
British Airways 36 months
Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles) 36 months
Delta (Sky Miles) No expiration
Emirates 3 years
Flying Blue: Air France/KLM 20 months
Hawaiian Airlines 18 months
JetBlue 12 months
Korean Air 7 years
LAN 36 months
Lufthansa (Miles & More) 36 months
Qantas 18 months
Singapore Airlines 36 months
Southwest 24 months
United Airlines 18 months
US Airways 18 months
Virgin America 18 months
Virgin Atlantic 36 months

Domestic

Alaska Airlines: If no mileage is credited to your account during the first 9 months after opening, or if your account is inactive for longer than 2 years, the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan reserves the right to delete your account and reassign the number. If mileage has been deleted from your account, you can reinstate it for up to one year by paying a $75 fee.

American Airlines: Your AAdvantage miles do not expire as long as you have qualifying account activity at least once every 18 months.

Delta: Under the SkyMiles Mileage expiration policy, miles do not expire.

Delta miles are among the only ones that don't expire.

Delta miles are among the only ones that don’t expire.

Hawaiian Airlines: Any earning or redemption activity will prevent your miles from expiring for 18 months.

JetBlue: Points don’t expire as long as you earn points by flying JetBlue at least once in a 12-month period.

Southwest Airlines: Points don’t expire as long as you have flight or partner earning activity every 24 months.

United Airlines: Mileage accrued shall only be subject to expiration on the last day of the eighteen (18) months after the last account activity in the member’s account. Activity includes flying, using your MileagePlus credit card and more. In cases where mileage is for any reason removed from an account, such as for the redemption of awards, and later returned, the return of the mileage to the account shall not count as account activity.

US Airways: Since January 31, 2007, active membership status is based on having earned or redeemed miles within a consecutive 18-month period. Miles are subject to forfeiture if no miles have been earned or redeemed within a consecutive 18-month period.

Virgin America: As an Elevate member, you can retain all of your Elevate points as long as you have earning or redemption activity posted on your own Elevate account at least once every 18 months. So the expiration of your points will extend for another 18 months with any qualifying activity posted on your own Elevate account such as flights on Virgin America, completed reward travel, or through earning points on your Virgin America credit card or other partners.

International

Aeromexico: Your Premier Kilometers never expire but you do need to make at least one AM code flight with a paid ticket every 24 months.

Aeroplan: All mileage in an account expires if the Aeroplan member has not accumulated or redeemed Aeroplan Miles for a period of 12 consecutive months. Mileage may expire without further notice. Mileage in an account expires 7 years (84 months) after the date of accumulation. Mileage accumulated in an account prior to January 1, 2007 is deemed to have an accumulation date of December 31, 2006 (regardless of the actual mileage accumulation date). Mileage may expire without further notice.

Alitalia: The edition 2008-2012 of the MilleMiglia Program ended on December 31st 2012, in compliance with the Italian law that regulates reward operations (Italian Presidential Decree no. 430 of Oct. 26, 2001), which has established a maximum time limit of 5 years. All miles earned with Alitalia and/or Partner Airlines from January 1st 2008 to December 31st 2012 must be used by June 30th 2013 to apply for the rewards foreseen by the Program. After June 30th 2013, any residual miles will expire and will be deleted from the Member’s account. The 2013-2015 MilleMiglia Regulations also foresee the expiration of the miles due to Account inactivity: if no miles earned with Alitalia, Air One or one of the Program’s commercial airline partners have been registered on the Member’s account within the past 24 months, any miles present will be deleted.

Alitalia's program has changed, so make sure your miles aren't at risk.

Alitalia’s program has changed, so make sure your miles aren’t at risk.

ANA: Mileage is valid until the end of the 36th month counting from the month a service or a product was used to earn miles. ANA is not responsible for expired mileage.

British Airways: Your Avios points stay with you as long as you collect, spend, purchase or share at least one Avios every 36 months — any longer and your Avios will expire and be removed, so remember to take action before those three years are up.

Cathay Pacific: Asia Miles are valid for three years from the month mileage is credited. Simply click “When do your miles expire?” in the Asia Miles Summary Box on “Your Marco Polo Club Account” to instantly view the specific expiry dates for all of your Asia Miles.

Emirates: Your Skywards Miles are valid for three years from the date on which they are credited to your account. Miles due to expire will be removed from your account once each calendar year, at the end of the month in which you were born.

Flying Blue Air France/KLM): As a Flying Blue member, your Award Miles are valid for life and will never expire, simply by taking one flight every 20 months on AIR FRANCE, KLM, our partners Air Europa, Kenya Airways, Aircalin and TAROM or any other of our SkyTeam partners.  

Korean Air: Mileage earned in Korean Air’s SKYPASS program on or after July 1, 2008 has a validity of ten years and any unredeemed mileage will expire. Mileage earned on or before June 30, 2008 will not expire. The ten-year validity is calculated from the date of travel on Korean Air and partner airlines.

LAN: The kilometers earned by flying oneworld Airlines or Associated Airlines, or Partner Companies, using any services of the Partner Companies or promotional bonuses, are valid for 3 calendar years, which means that they shall expire on the 31st of December of the third year in which they were earned.

Lufthansa: Any mileage not redeemed within 36 months of the date of accrual (date of flight, start of hotel stay, time of car rental) will expire at the end of that quarter (e.g. miles expiring in August of any given year would expire at the end of September of that same year), failing other arrangements published in the Miles & More communication media. Attention will be drawn in good time to the date and extent of the lapsed mileage in the Miles & More account information or in the personal Internet mileage account.

With Lufthansa's Miles & More, you've got to use or lose your miles in 36 months.

With Lufthansa’s Miles & More, you’ve got to use or lose your miles in 36 months.

Qantas: Your points won’t expire as long as you keep your account active by earning or using points at least once every 18 months, rather than every three years.

Singapore Airlines: KrisFlyer accounts which have activity are valid for 36 months from the end of the month in which the last activity occurred, after which the membership accounts will expire. KrisFlyer accounts which do not have any activity for a period of 18 months since enrollment will expire after that period of 18 months.

Virgin Atlantic: Your miles will not expire providing that your account remains active. To keep your account active, you need to continue to earn or redeem Flying Club miles, as each mileage transaction will ensure you a further 36 months of active Flying Club miles.

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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  • roy

    Question…I have 50,000 southwest points and 50,000 AMEX points. I want to get a flight to London and August…how can I use these points towards a ticket? Anyway to combine the points? Thanks

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  • Kelsey

    I have Asian miles (flown on Cathy Pacific and Dragon Air) that are set to expire this July. Is there anyway I can transfer them or “reset” the expiration date with a purchase? Thanks!

  • zila

    El Al airlines points expire after 3 years, no matter what…

  • http://twitter.com/pricesquire Ben Price

    If TPG doesn’t get to respond, take this question to FlyerTalk.

  • chuck

    You are such a scab Brian. Million Mile Secrets did a posting like this a few months ago. Your content is becoming much more recycled and even plagiarized. I noticed that many of your Destination of the Week postings are “copied and pasted” directly from wikitravel. Some even are word for word, and identical section names. Didn’t they teach you in college not to do this???

    Anyhow, I have lost much respect for your blog over the last year or so.

  • Paul

    Kris Flyer miles expire 3 years after they are earned. The figure you state above applies to the account as a whole.

  • Tom

    Hi Chuck. I disagree with your position. I’ve only followed this blog for about 2-3 months, but have already earned over $5000 of free travel by following TPG’s suggestions. I find the blog timely, creative, and very valuable. Thank you for your work Brian!

  • Travel Splash

    You can transfer your Amex MR points to one of their airline transfer partners to book a flight to London. Flights to London from the US typically cost 30K each way in coach and 50K each way in business class. So you may need a few more points to book a roundtrip. Unfortunately, Southwest does not fly to London and you cannot use them in anyway for your London trip. However, Southwest points are quite valuable for short domestic trips.

  • PointsHungryCAM

    I also do not agree. This blog has provided valuable tips that resulted in free rooms at the best hotels in Tokyo, Dublin, New York City and Istanbul so far. And I am taking my family to Oahu in June. Using points for Hyatt .

    Did I mention that I got my now-3-year-old elite status on Delta without flying a single mile?
    THANKS TPG!!

  • Carpooltunnel

    PointsHungryCAM, may I ask how you achieved elite status w/out flying? Thanks!

  • thepointsguy

    All of this information comes from the airlines websites directly and I’ve also written about points and miles expiration in the past myself. The reason I write about it again is that the more we cover it and call it out, the better because allowing miles to expire is like throwing money away.

  • thepointsguy

    Really depends on where you’re flying from, but my advice would be to use Southwest to get yourself to Boston and then from there you can transfer Amex Avios to British Airways and book roundtrips on Aer Lingus in economy for 25,000 Avios roundtrip each to Dublin with low fees… not quite London but you can buy cheap tickets from there

    http://thepointsguy.com/2012/04/using-british-airways-avios-on-aer-lingus-to-avoid-taxes-and-fuel-surcharges/

  • Chuck

    I am saying plagiarized content should not be supported and is highly unethical. Blogs are supposed to be original both from an informative perspective and an ethical one. Also, you have not acknowledged my central point that your Destination pieces are copy and paste garbage. You are lucky that the folks over at Wikitravel do not institute a copyright clause in their site. However, it is still low brow.

  • thepointsguy

    I had one piece from a contributor that had suspect/plagiarized excerpts that we immediately pulled down. If you have any specific example of other pieces, please email me directly at tpg @ thepointsguy.com. This piece was not plagiarized nor was the concept of writing a post on expiration “stolen” from any other blogger. We all write about similar topics, but the content here is original (excpet for direct airline policies which we pull from their websites).

  • szuperdan

    I want to weigh in with my thanks to Brian for his originality in what he does. My wife and I have been using many of the techniques he advocates. However and thanks to his posts, we have taken our game to a new level. I hope he continues doing exactly what he has been doing. Now, as for the expiration of points, I use the Dining Miles, occasionally buying 1,000 miles, transferring points from AmEx – in short anything that will work. I don’t want the airlines to beat me at the game!

  • PointsHungryCAM

    Delta transfer promotion– moved 50,000 AMEX points to Delta and they gave me back 25,000 MQMs along with more points.

  • Kelsey

    Just curious if anyone can answer my question above. Thanks in advance.

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  • sbe

    The problem with this post is it fails to distinguish between hard expirations where you lose your miles no matter what you do, soft ones where if you are carefully enough to do something continuously you never lose them (LH, a charge on their branded credit card every single month) and very soft ones where a single transaction resets the expiration.

    There is a world of difference between these three kinds of expiration policies and without this information the round up is correct but really quite useless because the its so incomplete. The question isn’t just when do my miles expire but also what can I do about it?

    Sometimes the answer is nothing, other times its a trivial act and in some cases its nothing at this point but you could have avoided this problem if only you had known the rules from the beginning.

    It really isn’t that much work for a blogger to assemble the complete information but its quite a task for each flyer to do so which is precisely why this is so disappointing.

  • sbe

    Let me at least correct the one glaring omission.

    LH miles never expire if you have at least one charge per month in excess of $1 on your LH branded credit card. The rule says miss a month and that’s it the clock is running and miles start expiring 36 months later but in actuality they give significant leeway in part because the CC company often fails to report transactions properly.

    Does anyone know of any ways to extend the expiration of some of the other airlines that are listed as having hard expiration dates?

  • basejump

    i think you’ll find that Singapore airlines Krisflyer miles expire three years after they are credited

  • basejump

    i think you’ll find that Singapore airlines Krisflyer miles expire three years after they are credited

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  • Ben

    Thanks for the information Brian. I just realized I have Singapore Air mileages that would be expiring by the end of December. Will it be extended if I transfer my SPG points(~5000 points) to Singapore Air account?

  • surferpl

    As far as Southwest goes the situation is misleading: their points may not expire but if you have travel funds left over from a previous booking, the company will CONFISCATE the money.

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  • SPN

    I think that this expiration of miles is totally unfair. I have had 52,777 miles saved up with United that are all gone now. I am a college student so of course traveling isn’t an easy option without money. I want to see my dad who lives across the world. Currently I am in New York and my dad lives in Saipan. But I lost my mileage so now I’m stuck not seeing him for already many years. I think that mileage should not be expired. We spend money for expensive flights to visit family, business, volunteer, or vacation. Are the flights we experience always positive. No. Miles is what encourages us to spend more money and fly more, because we have the opportunity of a free trip. Money doesn’t expire, why should our mileage. We have invested in those miles. This is money being stolen.

  • disqust101

    You could easily have extended you United miles by buying something on their shopping portal. Even $1 in activity would have reset the expiration time. Sign up for Award Wallet so it doesn’t happen to you again.

    I’d call United and see if they can “unexpire” your points as a one-time courtesy.

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