How to keep your child’s miles from expiring

Jan 19, 2021

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Editor’s note: This guide has been updated with the latest information. 

One of my least favorite aspects of the miles and points hobby is keeping track of the travel rewards earned by every member of my family. Although some airlines permit families to pool miles into a household account, many U.S. programs do not.

While many airlines are now more flexible with expiration policies during the pandemic, it would be nice if all airlines got rid of their expiration terms permanently, as Southwest and United Airlines did in 2019. Two other major U.S. airlines — JetBlue and Delta — have offered this benefit for quite some time.

Before kids, it was much easier to keep track of my and my husband’s accounts because our miles were typically never at risk of expiring. We used our cobranded airline credit cards and flew on paid fares for business travel, so our accounts remained active.

But now that we have two kids, the amount of work I need to do to keep track of all things points and miles has multiplied. If I slack off, the risk is losing miles to expiration.

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Westend61 / Getty Images
(Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

Even if your children aren’t earning a ton of miles and points, it’s a shame to let any rewards go to waste. So it’s essential to understand the airlines’ rules for mile expiration. AwardWallet is helpful for keeping track of your family’s loyalty program accounts.

Below you’ll find a chart outlining airline mileage expiration rules. As mentioned, the pandemic has changed some of these policies temporarily.

Airline mile expiration rules

Airline Expiration term
Aeromexico 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity.
Air Canada (Aeroplan) 18 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. Miles do not expire for members under 21.
ANA 36 months from earning, no way to extend.
British Airways 36 months from last activity, can extend with activity.
Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles) 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity. Miles earned before Jan. 1, 2020, expire after three years.
Delta No expiration.
Emirates 3 years from earning, no way to extend.
Etihad 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity.
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity.
Frontier Airlines Six 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, 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’ve held a Lufthansa cobranded credit card for three or more months and make at least one purchase per month. Expiration is also waived if you have Lufthansa elite status.
Qantas 18 months with no activity, can extend with activity.
Qatar Airways 36 months from earning, can extend by paying a fee.
Singapore Airlines 36 months from earning, no way to extend.
Southwest No expiration.
United Airlines No expiration.
Virgin Atlantic No expiration.

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

Extending the life of your child’s airline miles

Purchase magazines

Many airline programs partner with MagsforMiles, which allows you to redeem your miles for magazine subscriptions.

While using your miles this way isn’t typically recommended because it’s a poor redemption value, it will register as account activity and reset your miles’ expiration date for programs that simply require some type of account activity. (Even better, you can purchase a magazine subscription for as few as 500 miles.)

(Screenshot courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

Make a donation to charity

Probably the easiest way to keep your miles from expiring is by donating a set number of miles to a charity. Most airlines have this option, with donations starting at 1,000 miles.

For example, you can donate American Airlines miles to Miles for Heroes. Although this isn’t the least expensive way to “spend” your miles to keep them active, you’ll feel better knowing your rewards are supporting a good cause.

Related: Best airline credit cards for families

Certain mileage programs also offer the opportunity to earn miles by making a cash donation to particular charities. As an example, American Airlines has a partnership with Stand Up to Cancer through which you earn bonus miles for donating.

Use a shopping portal

Instead of redeeming miles to keep your account active, earn miles on purchases you are making anyway. Most of the U.S. airline programs have online shopping portals that allow you to earn miles for online purchases.

Essentially, you’re just starting at the shopping portal site and being redirected to the retailer’s 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 up to eight weeks for shopping portal miles to post to your account, so if your miles are about to expire in the immediate future, this option might not work. Also, if you’re managing multiple frequent flyer accounts, be sure to log in to the shopping portal with your child’s frequent flyer number so the miles will post to their account if that is the one you are looking to extend.

The credit card used to pay for the purchase does not have to match the name on the loyalty account.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

Purchase miles

This method should be used as a last resort, but if you have miles and points that are about to expire, consider purchasing miles. Unfortunately, purchasing miles can be expensive — we are often talking about paying at least $35 for 1,000 miles. If you have a lot of miles or points expiring and it means your account stays active, however, it could be worth it.

Bottom line

There are a number of ways to keep your child’s frequent flyer accounts active, so there’s no reason to watch their miles disappear.

With just a bit of tracking and effort, your child(ren) can continue to earn miles in their respective loyalty programs, which might actually amount to a free flight one day.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong. 

Featured image by @welarts via Twenty20.

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