Many would-be travelers have put their travel plans on hold since the beginning of 2020. You may be sitting on a pile of miles and wondering if they have an expiration date. In this post, we’ll explain when airline miles expire for the most popular frequent flyer programs and a few simple steps you can take to keep these miles active for future use.
While it is a growing trend that many U.S. airlines are no longer expiring miles, there are still several airline frequent flyer programs around the world that have a policy stating that your account must remain active within a certain time frame or your miles will simply expire and the value will be lost.
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The great thing about the major credit card points currencies is that, as long as you still have an account in good standing, the points never expire. This is true for the four most useful points currencies used for booking flights with points.
American Express Membership Rewards
Capital One Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi ThankYou Points
Specific credit cards may have different policies depending on the type of points you earn, but if you earn any of these points, rest-assured that your points will always be there until you close your account.
While we always recommend transferring credit card points to airline miles in order to maximize the value when booking flights, you’ll only want to do this when you have a flight ready to book or if you’re simply transferring the minimum amount of points to miles in order to keep your frequent flyer account active.
As for airline miles, it works a little differently. Several U.S. airlines have adopted a “miles never expire” policy, whereas other major frequent flyer programs simply require some sort of activity (earning or redeeming miles) on the account to keep your entire mileage balance active. Here are the expiration policies for the major U.S. airlines.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.
American Airlines AAdvantage: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. *If you’re under 21 years-old, miles do not expire.
Delta SkyMiles: Miles never expire.
Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
JetBlue TrueBlue Points: Miles never expire.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards: Miles never expire.
United Airlines MileagePlus: Miles never expire.
Expiration of Miles for International Airlines
Aer Lingus AerClub: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Aeromexico Club Premier: Points expire after 24 months of inactivity.
Air Canada Aeroplan: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue: Miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.
Alitalia MilleMiglia: Miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.
ANA Mileage Club: Miles expire 36 months after earned.
Avianca LifeMiles: Miles expire after 12 months of inactivity.
British Airways Executive Club: Miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: Miles expire 36 months after they are earned.
Emirates Skywards: Miles expire at the end of your birth month, 3 years after earned.
Etihad Guest: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Eva Air Infinity MileageLands: Miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.
Finnair Plus: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Iberia Plus: Miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.
Lufthansa Miles & More: Miles expire 36 months after earned (except for elite status or co-branded credit card holders).
Malaysia Airlines Enrich: Miles expire 36 months after earned.
Qantas Airways Frequent Flyer: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Qatar Airways Privilege Club: Miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: Miles expire 36 months after earned.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus: Miles expire 36 months after earned.
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles: Miles expire 36 months after earned.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Miles never expire.
This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it includes all of the major frequent flyer programs that allow transfers from the major credit card points currencies.
How to Keep Your Airline Miles from Expiring
Most airline programs only require the slightest bit of activity on your account to keep your airline miles active. For instance, you may just need to dine out at a participating restaurant and pay with a credit card linked to your frequent flyer account. This could earn miles, which is often the easiest way to keep your account active and extend the expiration date of your miles.
Another great way is to redeem for a flight. If you have a large balance of miles about to expire, maybe it’s time you book a flight with them, which will keep the remainder of your mileage balance from expiring as well.
Basically, any time you earn or redeem miles, most airlines will consider this "activity" and the clock on your expiry date moves forward another 1-3 years, depending on the airline.
Simple Ways to Earn Airline Miles without Flying
Spend anywhere using a co-branded airline credit card
Transfer credit card points to airline miles
Shop online through the airline’s shopping portal
Dining programs (mostly U.S. airlines)
Hotel or rental car partners
These methods won’t work for all airlines, but check with your airline to find out other ways you can earn miles to keep your account active. It could only cost you a few bucks and save hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of points in the process.
Some airlines may allow you to pony up some cash in order to keep your miles from expiring. This is likely only worth it if you have an upcoming trip you’re planning to book, but haven’t been able to pull the trigger just yet. Here are some airlines that allow you to pay money in order to extend your miles.
Emirates: $20/1000 miles to extend miles an additional 12 months up to a maximum of 50,000 miles.
Malaysian Airlines: RM0.02 (approx. USD $0.005)/mile plus RM40 (USD $10) fee to extend miles an additional 12 months.
Qatar Airways: $0.015/mile online ($0.020/mile on phone) to extend miles an additional 12 months.
Turkish Airlines: $10/1,000 miles to extend miles another 3 years.
Which Airlines Do Not Allow Miles to be Extended?
There are, however, a few airlines that have pretty strict rules and simply don’t allow miles to be extended once they are earned. From the list above, here are the frequent flyer programs where you’ll have to use the miles by the expiration date, or they’ll be gone forever.
ANA Mileage Club
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Thai Airways Royal Orchid
Airlines Extending Miles Expiration Due to Covid-19 Pandemic
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a special consideration to the expiration of airline miles. Several airlines around the world are being more lenient on their policies and extending the validity of frequent flyer miles that were set to expire recently. Here are some of the most notable airlines extending the expiration date on miles.
Air Canada: Expired Aeroplan miles can be reinstated simply by flying on Air Canada or opening a co-branded credit card.
Air France/KLM: Miles will not expire until at least December 31, 2021.
American Airlines: Miles will not expire until at least June 30, 2021.
ANA: Miles will not expire until at least September 30, 2021.
Avianca: Miles will not expire until at least July 31, 2021.
Emirates: Miles will not expire until at least March 31, 2021.
Singapore Airlines: Miles set to expire through June 30, 2021, have been extended an additional 6 months.
Other airlines may have similar policies so be sure to check if any exceptions are being made.
Can I Reinstate Miles After They Have Expired?
If it completely slipped your mind and you forgot to keep your miles from expiring, you may still be in luck. Many airlines will offer you the chance to reinstate miles that have expired. While some have a written policy, you may find the best method is to simply call the airline and make your request. You may simply have to pay a fee or you could sign up for a co-branded credit card in order to have your miles reinstated. It never hurts to try!
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