Milk Expires: Miles Shouldn’t

Unless all of your miles are with Delta, they can expire.  There is no sadder fate for an airline mile, given how easy it is to avoid mileage expiration.

First, the facts:  most airline miles expire after a defined time period during which there is no authorized activity.  The typical time period is 18 months (American, US Airways, United).  Some airlines are a bit more generous.  Southwest Airlines is 24 months.  And, Korean Airlines is an amazing 7 years.  For a complete list of program expiration policies, visit MileCards.com.

United Airlines

United Airlines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is authorized activity?  Put simply, it is earning or spending miles.  Authorized activity typically includes:

  • Earning miles in the air, by flying
  • Earning miles on the ground, by using a credit card, renting a car, staying in a hotel, or earning via an online shopping portal or dining network
  • Redeeming miles, by booking a flight or donating miles to charity

As you can see from the list above, there are plenty of ways to avoid the expiration of your miles.  Below are my 4 favorite ways to keep those miles alive!

  1. Transfer Ultimate Rewards Points (Chase Sapphire), Membership Rewards Points (American Express) or Starwood Preferred Guest (American Express) to your frequent flier program: This one is so easy!  You already have points sitting in your account.  For example, the minimum mile transfer from Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards to United MileagePlus is 1,000 miles.  So, if you have 1,000 points sitting in your account – do an instant transfer today, and all of your miles reset for another 18 months.
  2. Make your next online purchase using an online portal, like EVreward.com or AAdvantageshopping.com: With these portals, you have the ability to earn airline miles – and you can use any credit or debit card for the purchase (it does not have to be an airline credit card).  For example, imagine you want to buy some furniture at CB2.com.  You can go to EVreward.com, type in CB2.com, and you will quickly see the list of offers.  Those include 3 AAdvantage miles per $ spent.  Just click on the American Airlines link, and it helps you login and ensure you earn the miles.
  3. Whether your miles are expiring or not – you should always start your online shopping journey on these sites.  But if you need to buy something online, and your miles are close to expiration – this is a great way to keep your miles alive and earn some more at the same time!
  4. Open or use a mile credit card: About 50% of miles earned today are on the ground with credit cards, not in the air.  You should consider joining that statistic.  Airline credit cards offer incredible sign-up bonuses.  A few years ago, the average sign-up bonus was 25,000 miles.  Now you can get up to 50,000 bonus miles.  Rather than letting your miles expire – why not add 50,000 to your balance and get that free trip faster.

Applying for a mile card online is easy, and then you can continue to earn miles every month with your everyday credit card spend.  This ensures that your miles will never expire.  The bonus offer is usually based upon spending a certain amount of money during the first 90 days.  The first $ spent is enough to keep your miles from expiring – and the rest just gets you to your free trip faster.

Please remember to pay your balance in full every month.  Airline credit cards are great for earning miles, but they are terrible ways to borrow money.  And don’t leave applying for a credit card to the last minute.  It can take a few weeks for the card to arrive – and then a complete billing cycle for the miles to post.  If your miles expire next week, you will have to consider another option.  But, if you have a few months, this is a great way to keep your miles alive.

Finally – if you have an airline card that is buried deep in your wallet, then pull it out!  Buy a gallon of milk and keep those miles alive for another 18 months!

Give your miles to charity: Most frequent flier programs offer the opportunity to gift miles to a charity.

United Airlines, for example, has a long list of charities that includes the American Red Cross, the Cancer Society and Guide Dogs of America.  The minimum donation required is 500 miles.  During the holiday season, this is probably the best way to ensure that your miles don’t go to waste – and you can help people at the same time.  With just 500 miles (but of course you can give more), you keep your miles alive for another 18 months – and you make someone’s life a bit better.

As you can see, there are many very easy ways to keep those miles alive.  Although mileage expiration can be considered annoying, it is not hard to ensure those miles will ultimately get you to the beach, ski slope or Parisian café you are dreaming of!  For more information, or to ask any questions, visit MileCards.com.

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