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One of my least favorite aspects of free travel is keeping track of all the points and miles earned by every member of my family. It can be a daunting task and the worst case scenario is when you come across an account where you mistakenly let miles expire. While airlines are pretty good with allowing you to earn miles, they are also pretty good at wiping your account clean once they expire.

Before kids, it was much easier to keep track of mine and my husband’s accounts as our miles were typically never up for expiration due to our everyday activities — using the cobranded credit card and flying on paid fares due to business travel. Now that we have two kids, this means I have doubled the amount of work I need to do with respect to keeping track of everything points and miles related. While some airlines permit families to pool miles into a household account, many US programs do not.

Westend61 / Getty Images
Photo by Westend61 / Getty Images

Even if your children are not earning a ton of miles quite yet, you do not want them to go to waste. Of course, the most important thing is to understand your airline’s rules for mile expiration. (Tip: AwardWallet is very helpful in keeping track of your family’s loyalty program accounts.)

You can also reference the following chart to get up to speed on airline mileage expiration rules.

Airline Mile Expiration Rules

Airline Expiration Term
Aeromexico 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Air Canada (Aeroplan) 12 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Alaska Airlines 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Alitalia 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
American Airlines 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity
ANA 36 months from earning, no way to extend
British Airways 36 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles) 36 months from earning, no way to extend
Delta No expiration
Emirates 3 years from earning, no way to extend
Etihad 24 months from earning, no way to extend
Flying Blue: Air France/KLM 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Hawaiian Airlines 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Iberia 36 months from last activity (not including this year’s 90,000 Avios promotion), can extend with activity
JAL 36 months from earning, no way to extend
JetBlue No expiration
Korean Air 10 years from earning, no way to extend
Lufthansa (Miles & More) 36 months from earning, no option to extend. No expiration if you have a cobranded credit card or elite status.
Qantas 18 months with no activity, can extend with activity
Singapore Airlines 36 months from earning, no way to extend
Southwest 24 months with no activity, can extend with activity
United Airlines 18 months with no activity, can extend with activity
Virgin Atlantic 36 months with no activity, can extend with activity

 

Fortunately, even for kids, there are many ways to keep your miles from expiring that do not require you to actually get on a plane — and many activities can be done from the comfort of your home.

Purchase Magazines to Extend Your Miles

Many airline programs partner with MagsforMiles, which allows you to redeem your miles for magazine subscriptions. While this is typically not a recommended way to use your miles (due to a poor redemption value), it will count as account activity and reset your expiration counter for those programs that simply require some type activity. The cost of doing this is also incredibly low as you can purchase a magazine subscription for as low as 500 miles.

Extend Your Miles By Donating to Charity

Probably the easiest way to keep your miles from expiring is by donating a set number to charity. Most airlines have this option with donations starting at 1,000 miles. While not the least expensive way to “spend” your miles to keep them active, it at least gives back a little bit to charities.

Make a Shopping Portal Purchase

Instead of redeeming miles to keep your account active, you can instead earn miles. Most of the US airline programs have online shopping portals that allow you to earn miles in their programs while shopping online. With a shopping portal, you are ultimately purchasing the same item(s) as you would through the merchant, you are just starting at the shopping portal site first and then redirecting to the retailer’s direct site. Your purchase is tracked in the background and miles are awarded based on the total amount purchased (usually excluding taxes and shipping fees).

Keep in mind it can take sometimes up to eight weeks for the miles to post to your account, so if your miles are about to expire, this option might not work to keep them extended.

To earn miles in your child’s account, make sure to log in to the shopping portal with their airline number so the miles will post to their account; the credit card used to pay for the purchase does not have to match the name on the loyalty account.

Purchase Miles

This is definitely a last resort method, but if all else fails and miles are about to expire that day, you might want to consider purchasing miles. Unfortunately, purchasing miles can be expensive — we are often talking about paying at least $35 for 1,000 miles. But if it means your account stays intact, it can be worth it.

Bottom Line

There are many ways to keep your child’s frequent flyer accounts active and there’s no reason to see their miles disappear. With just a little bit of tracking and effort, your child can continue to earn miles in their respective loyalty programs, which will someday amount to a free flight.

Jennifer Yellin covers family travel deals for TPG and blogs at Deals We Like. Follow her family’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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