7 Easiest Ways to Keep Your Airline Miles From Expiring (Without Traveling)

by Elizabeth Aldrich | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on June 22, 2021

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A woman standing on the sunny tarmac and waiting to board a plane.

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Do one of these things soon, or you could lose your airline miles forever.

Are your airline miles expiring soon?

A number of airlines have extended their expiration dates due to COVID-19, so double check that yours are actually about to expire. But if they are, and you're not ready to fly yet, there are a number of ways to hold onto your hard-earned rewards. All you usually have to do to keep your account active is redeem or earn any number of miles. Exact terms vary by airline, so make sure to check yours.

That being said, here are some of the best ways to keep your miles active without traveling.

1. Buy something with an airline credit card

If you have a credit card with your airline of choice, you can typically earn miles on any purchase you make. This means that preventing your miles from expiring could be as easy as swiping your airline credit card the next time you buy a latte.

If you don't have an airline credit card, you could consider opening one. Just about every major airline offers at least one, with some offering many different versions ranging from no annual fee credit cards to VIP credit cards that offer premium perks like airport lounge access. These airline credit cards typically come with generous sign-up bonus offers that could get you a free flight on top of helping you keep the miles you already have.

2. Convert your generic credit card points or other rewards to airline miles

You might have a credit card with transferable points, or a generic travel credit card, rather than an airline-specific card. Some of these credit cards allow you to transfer your points to a long list of airline transfer partners that might include your airline of choice. Examples of rewards programs that earn transferable points include:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Rewards
  • Capital One Venture Rewards

Sometimes you can even convert your hotel points to airline miles. If you have hotel points you're willing to spare, check to see if your airline partners with that hotel rewards program.

3. Purchase airline miles

It's rarely a good idea to purchase airline miles, as you'll usually end up paying more than the value you'll get out of them. That being said, it might be worthwhile if you can't find another way to prevent your miles from expiring. If your airline is running a promotion on purchasing miles, that can make this option even more appealing.

4. Redeem your miles for something other than flights

You probably have plenty of redemption options for your airline miles, ranging from gift cards to cruises. For example:

  • Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed for magazine subscriptions
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed for merchandise
  • American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for rental cars

While redeeming your miles for flights will typically yield the best value, you could consider alternative redemptions if that's the only way to keep your miles active.

5. Do your shopping through airline rewards portals

Many airline rewards programs have shopping portals where you can earn miles through online shopping. These portals are filled with hundreds of major retailers, so you can use them for purchases you already planned to make. Let's say you need to buy some foundation at Sephora. Instead of going directly to Sephora's website, log on to your frequent flyer account and navigate to the airline's shopping portal to make the purchase through there. You'll earn extra miles and keep your existing miles from expiring.

6. Donate some airline miles

Most airlines will let you donate your miles to charity. You'll get to choose a charity of your choice from their list of charities, and then you can donate as little as 1,000 miles. This is usually an easy and low-cost option. Plus, even though you don't get anything in return, you do get to do some good while keeping your miles active.

7. Earn airline miles through rewards partners

Check to see if your preferred airline lets you earn miles through any rewards partners. For example, they might have a dining portal that lets you link up your frequent flyer account and earn miles every time you dine with participating restaurants in your area. A lot of airlines have rental car partners that let you earn miles every time you rent a car -- all you have to do is put your frequent flyer number in when you make a reservation. You might even be able to earn a few airline miles by taking online surveys.

Whichever method you choose, keeping your airline miles active will help you score free flights when you decide to travel again. There's no reason to let your miles expire when holding onto them is as easy as clicking a few buttons or swiping your credit card.

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