You worked hard earning your miles and points. For a regular person, not someone who’s obsessed with points and miles, worrying about miles expiration dates is probably very low on their priority list. A former coworker once told me she’d let 27,000 United MileagePlus expire. Hearing that was like having a dagger plunged into my heart.

People let miles and points expire because they don’t know about a few very easy ways to keep them alive. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to have that airline’s credit card to keep your miles and points from expiring. This is not true and there are a number of ways to keep your miles from disappearing from your account.

There are a few programs, like Delta SkyMiles, that have no expiration policies. United and Southwest recently changed the rules, and their miles no longer expire. But it always pays to know the rules of the program where you have points. We spend a lot of time earning them, so let’s spend a little time learning how to prevent them from expiring.

Why Would the Points and Miles Expire?

Rewards program points and miles expire usually after 18 or 24 months of no activity. Which means, zero points earned and zero points redeemed. So every time you earn or redeem a point, that expiration clock starts over.  Any activity will give you more time to avoid getting the dreaded “Your Points Are About to Expire” email.

But life happens, and we forget to stay current on these things, especially if we haven’t earned any points or miles in a program in a while. In some programs, however, your miles and points have a finite life span and will expire anyway. Singapore Airlines’ Krisflyer miles or Emirates miles, for example, expire after three years.

To avoid this scary scenario, here are a few tips to help you preserve your points and miles.

Know Your Expiration Dates and Stay Organized

Stay organized – sounds simple enough, right? But life happens and we forget. However, there are a few problems in life a good spreadsheet can’t help. Organization is key to everything in this hobby. Figure out a system that works well for you, be it a spreadsheet or an app designed to track things, like AwardWallet.

I like setting up alerts in my calendar or in the reminders app on my phone. I always have my phone with me and it’ll bug me with alerts until I do something about it. There are so many great time management and organization apps today like Todoist, it’s easier than ever to stay on top of things.

Although the 18 or 24-month rule is common, pay attention to the rules of each specific program. Some programs, especially the non-U.S. based ones, can have different rules.

Don’t spread out your points and miles among many different programs. If you are going to fly on a foreign carrier that you might never use again, credit the miles to a program where you already have miles. This will prevent having “orphan” miles in various accounts, as well as extend the life of miles you already have to your name.

Give Priority to No Expiration Programs

If you have a choice of carriers, keep in mind that some programs’ miles never expire. The miles earned with four major U.S. airlines – Southwest, JetBlue, Delta and United – don’t expire. You don’t have to do anything, since the miles will remain under your name indefinitely.

How to Extend the Life of Your Miles

Here is your golden rule: any account activity will reset the expiration date on your points and miles in most (but not all) rewards programs. So all you have to do is earn or redeem points to reset the expiration clock in your account.

Here are a few easy ways to generate activity in your rewards account.

Book a Flight

Including your frequent flyer number when you fly will earn miles and extend the life of miles that are already in your account. Many airlines have alliances and partnerships. So even when flying with a new airline, you can credit the miles to the program where you’ve already accumulated some miles. This will reset the expiration clock. Don’t forget to login after your flight to make sure you received the miles.

There’s a caveat, however. With so many restricted basic economy fares, check the rules to make sure you will actually earn partner miles on the cheapest tickets.

If you have enough miles for an award, book a ticket and take a trip, even if it’s just a weekend getaway to see your old college friends! This is why we collect miles and points after all, right?

Putting some spend on a credit card tied to your frequent flyer account, like even just making one small purchase, will reset the clock. Some cards offer bonus miles for account anniversaries. So when an anniversary comes around and you get your anniversary points, the clock is reset.

You can also open a new credit card and earn a nice signup bonus. It might take a couple of months to reach the minimum spending requirements and for the miles to post to your account, so keep this timeframe in mind.

Shop Online

Many travel rewards programs offer shopping portals that allow you to earn points by making purchases. By simply purchasing something through the portal, you will earn points and keep your account active. Using a shopping portal to make everyday purchases is a great way to boost your mileage balance too.

When you are buying something through the portal, you can use any credit card.

Dine Out

Similar to the shopping portals, many programs offer dining rewards. Link frequent flyer account to the dining portal, connect a credit card and go out to eat. Some, like United’s Mileage Plus Dining, even have sign up bonuses. If you eat out often, linking your credit cards to a program of your choice can earn you a good stash of miles.

You can only connect your credit card to one dining program. Eating out just once can extend the expiration date for another 18-24 months.

Consider Transferring Points

Transferring points to your frequent-flier account is considered to be a qualifying activity. That includes transferring credit card points like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points. Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer to lots of different airlines

Look Into Partners

Airlines have partners that offer bonus miles on all kinds of everyday purchases and activities. For example, you can book a cruise through American Airlines and earn miles. Airline also partner with rental car agencies and hotels so when you book a rental car or hotel stay through the airline, you’ll earn airline miles.

You can even sign up for new utility and cell phone accounts and earn airline miles! Each airline’s frequent flyer program will have a list of participating companies. Just make sure you aren’t overpaying for any of these services in your quest to earn miles.

Earn Some Miles for Free

Frequent flyer programs sometimes offer opportunities like surveys and social media contests  to earn a few points and reset the clock. So the next time you receive an email to “sign up and receive a bonus”, don’t send it to spam. Take a few minutes and keep your points alive.

Donate to Charity

Consider donating miles to charity, especially if you know you aren’t going to use them any time soon. You can donate to such worthy organizations as the American Red Cross and Make a Wish Foundation.

Buy Miles

Not my favorite way of keeping the miles alive, but if all else fails and you need to do something fast, buy 1,000 miles from the airline. I would only recommend doing this if you are about to lose a large number of miles.

Mileage Expiration Policies for the Major Frequent Flyer Programs

Here’s a list of frequent flyer programs and their miles expiration policies. Keep in mind, these policies could change with very little notice. If you think you are nearing the expiration date on your miles, double check with the airline.

Airline/Frequent Flyer ProgramWhen Do Miles Expire?How to Extend
Aegean AirlinesMiles+Bonus Miles don’t expire N/A
Aer Lingus AerClub 36 monthsTransfer Amex or Chase points; earn via flights; redeem Avios
Aeroflot BonusStarting in 2019, miles don’t expire N/A
Aeromexico Club Premier24 monthsTransfer points from Amex or Capital One
Air Canada Aeroplan 12 monthsTransfer Amex or Capital One points; earn miles via flights
Air China PhoenixMiles36 monthsNo extension
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 24 monthsEarn miles via flights or Bank of America co-branded card
Air New Zealand AirpointsAirpoints are valid for 4-5 yearsNo extension
Alaska Mileage Plan24 months Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points; earn miles via flights, shopping, dining; redeem miles
Alitalia MilleMiglia24 monthsTransfer Amex points; earn miles via flights; redeem miles
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club36 monthsNo extension
American AAdvantage18 monthsTransfer Marriott points; earn miles via flights, shopping, dining; redeem miles
Asiana Club10-12 yearsNo extension
Avianca LifeMiles12 monthsTransfer Amex, Capital One, Citi points; buy miles; earn miles via flights
British Airways Executive Club36 monthsTransfer Chase or Amex points; earn Avios via flights or shopping
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles36 monthsEarn or redeem miles every 18 months to extend. Transfer Amex, Citi or Marriott Bonvoy points
China Eastern Miles36 monthsNo extension
China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club36 monthsCan pay 20% of mileage balance to extend for another 12 months
Copa Airlines ConnectMiles24 monthsTransfer Marriott points
Delta SkyMilesMiles don’t expireN/A
El Al Matmid36 monthsNo extension
Emirates Skywards36 monthsCan pay $20 or 1,000 miles to extend their validity for another 12 months
Etihad Guest18 monthsTransfer Amex, Capital One, Citi points
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands36 monthsTransfer Capital One, Citi points
Finnair Plus18 monthsTransfer Capital One points
Frontier Miles6 monthsBuy something with the Frontier World Mastercard (but, why?)
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club24 months Transfer Marriott points; earn miles via flights (incl. Alaska Airlines)
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles18 monthsEarn miles with a co-branded card such as Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard; use shopping portal
Iberia Plus36 monthsTransfer Chase or Amex points; earn Avios via flights; redeem Avios
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank36 monthsNo extension
JetBlue TrueBlueMiles don’t expireN/A
Korean Air SKYPASS10 yearsNo extension
LATAM Pass36 monthsFly with LATAM Airlines
Lufthansa Miles & More36 months (unless you have elite status)Use Barclays Miles & More World Elite Mastercard
Malaysia Airlines Enrich36 monthsCan pay to extend
Qantas Frequent Flyer18 monthsTransfer Amex, Capital One, Citi points; earn points via flights; redeem points
Qatar Airways Privilege Club3 years - expire at the end of the half-year period in which they were earned unless you have Platinum status (no expiration)Can pay to extend
Saudia Al Fursan36 monthsNo extension
Shenzhen Airlines PhoenixMiles36 monthsNo extension
Singapore KrisFlyer36 monthsNo extension
South African Airways Voyager36 monthsCan extend for 1 year with some activity
Southwest Airlines Rapid RewardsMiles don’t expireN/A
TAP Portugal Miles&Go36 monthsCan pay to extend for another 36 months
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus36 monthsNo extension
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles36 monthsCan pay to extend for another 36 months
United MileagePlusMiles don’t expireN/A
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club36 monthsTransfer Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi points; use shopping portal
Virgin Australia Velocity24 monthsEarn points via flights; transfer Marriott points

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several ways to avoid losing points and miles that you have already accumulated. These simple steps will also allow you to start amassing points for long term use, even if you can’t imagine just yet how you are going to use them.

If you do find yourself with some expired miles, it never hurts to call and ask to reinstate your account. Usually, there are very high fees involved, so decide if it’s worth it or not. However, if the miles just recently expired, and you find a sympathetic agent, they might be willing to do this as a one-time courtesy.

Travel well,