How to Keep Your Child’s Airline Miles from Expiring

Sep 3, 2019

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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 US programs do not.

It would be nice if more airlines got rid of their expiration terms, like United Airlines just did in August. With MileagePlus miles that no longer expire, United is joining the ranks of two other major US airlines — JetBlue and Delta — that 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.

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.

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, 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 No expiration
Virgin Atlantic 36 months with no activity, can extend with activity

 

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 Airlines Miles

Purchase Magazines to Extend Your Miles

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.)

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 Our 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 Airlines 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 can earn bonus American Airlines miles for donating. You’ll earn 10x American Airlines miles per $1 spent on a $25+ donation. (Read on for more info on how to donate miles to Make-A-Wish to help them grant wish trips for kiddos.)

Use a Shopping Portal

Instead of redeeming miles to keep your account active, earn miles on purchases you are making anyway. Most of the US 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.

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.

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 by @welarts via Twenty20

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