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How to keep your child's miles from expiring

Jan. 19, 2021
7 min read
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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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(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

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.

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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 (Photo by @welarts via Twenty20)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more