Three Easy Ways to Keep Your Miles From Expiring

View of our Hawaiian vacation, which we got with miles. Keep your miles from expiring with our simple tactics.

As part of my travel consulting business, I often hear some pretty strange travel requests — in fact, having somewhat unusual or out-of-the-norm #vacationgoals are often what bring people my way in the first place. But one of the most common questions I get is about how to keep your miles from expiring.

Simply phrased: what do you do if your airline miles are about to expire, but you don’t yet have enough miles to book your dream trip?

Well, in most cases it’s pretty easy to keep your hard-earned miles alive. You just have to know the rules: generally you’ll just need to either earn or redeem any amount of miles before your expiry date in order to keep your balance “active.” But some methods for doing so are more cost effective than others. Here are my top three favorites:

Pizza could help keep your miles from expiring

Pizza could help keep your miles from expiring

  1. Go out to eat at a restaurant in the airline’s dining program.

Almost all the major domestic carriers with miles that expire (American, United, Alaska) offer a dining rewards program, in which you register a credit card number with the program, link it with your mileage account, and then get points in return if you visit a restaurant that’s part of their dining program.

We’re not even talking particularly fancy-pants restaurants here. In Austin, a coffee shop that I’m a fan of makes the list. That means a $4 latte every 18 months is enough to keep your miles active.

And if it’s actually hotel points instead of miles that you’re worried about expiring, the dining strategy can still work: IHG and Hilton have similar dining programs to the airline versions, while Starwood and Hyatt will give you points for eating at one of their in-property restaurants.

Want to go to Chicago? You can if you keep your miles from expiring.

Want to go to Chicago? You can if you keep your miles from expiring.

  1. Take out a magazine subscription.

If you’re like me, then you’re a sucker for airport magazine stands. If I show up to the airport unprepared, I’ll almost always end up shelling out at least $10 on a copy of People or Martha Stewart Living.

But most of the airline rewards programs actually allow you to buy a magazine or newspaper subscription with your points, and it ends up being a pretty good deal, too.

On American, for example, you can get their cheapest magazine subscription for just a 100 miles redemption. Assuming a 1.4 cents per point current industry value for American miles, that means you pay roughly $1.40 cents to keep your miles alive for another 18 months, and also get a “free” magazine subscription along the way.

Redecorating? That can help keep your miles from expiring.

Redecorating? That can help keep your miles from expiring.

  1. Buy almost anything through the program’s shopping portal.

I’ve talked about shopping portals before as they’re a great way to earn miles. And since you can use them to earn miles, using them can keep your miles from expiring, too. Before you make a purchase at nearly any major online retailer, just sign in via the shopping portal and follow its link to your destination.

But there are two keys here that you need to know about: first, it can take a fair chunk of time before these points hit your account — we’re talking like two to three MONTHS in some cases. So keep a close eye on when your points are actually set to expire, and make sure you have enough time for the points to actually post.

Second, remember that most of the shopping portals now restrict you from earning points if you also use any sort of coupon code. As such, this isn’t the time for my usual couponing recommendations. But the good news is that virtually any purchase counts — regardless of dollar amount.

Using these three strategies, you can keep your miles from expiring virtually indefinitely, and can absolutely keep your balances growing towards your next dream vacation.


  • Angie Cosey

    I want to hear more about the strange and unusual travel requests!

    • Hmmm…the most unusual one lately was a young women wanting to plan a trip using her deceased mother’s frequent flyer accounts. I had to tell her that was in violation of the program’s terms…she wasn’t happy, haha.

      Another interesting one recently was someone wanting help planning a cross-Russian train tour! That one I was jealous of! 🙂

      • Angie Cosey

        Nice! The Trans-Siberian Railroad has been on my list for a while!

        Always enjoy your posts, keep up the good work!

  • Megan Tipton

    Great article. I don’t have miles yet, just because I travel so infrequently right now, but this will surely come in handy when I do!

  • Rachelle Gordon

    I didn’t know this! I am slowly starting to collect miles and am encouraged to know that I can look into the restaurant/dining rewards programs for those times when I might be doing more road trips than flying. And your comment below about a person wanting to use a deceased person’s miles…wow. Just wow.

    • Absolutely! Starting slowly is a good way to go, and when you get that first rewards stay or award flight it just feels like such sweet success!

  • I’ve had airline miles and points expiring before and I wish I had read this before. Just to buy a simple $4 coffee in some cases can keep them active! Buying from the airline shopping portal sounds obvious but I didn’t even think of it either! My points won’t expire again!

    • Yes, exactly. The airlines don’t really “advertise” these easy methods, instead hoping to make you book another flight or buy miles – but it’s not necessary for savvy traveler!

  • Rahul Khurana

    These are really great ways for people who travel by air a lot. Didn’t knew about all this stuff in detail as i don’t travel by air much. Good knowledge to gain. 🙂

  • Oh! I didn’t know any of these. Magazines are a great idea. I will look out for them to redeem miles.

  • Marissa Abao

    I had no idea that you can do this. I will check for more info about this. I like these tips especially eating at the affiliated restaurants/coffee shops. I like buying magazines at the airport too. I prefer reading it than browsing on my mobile phone.

  • Jenni Sheldon

    This is a great list of tips to stop airmiles expiring. I don’t actually have any airmiles and really should look into it as I fly so much I could be getting some great points.

    • Absolutely – if you don’t, it’s like throwing away free cash back on your flights! Definitely something to consider!

  • Sasha

    Wow, these are some really handy and do-able tips. I wish i had gotten on to the whole points thing, I have probably caught 100+ flights etc and could have been doing pretty well by now. I will have to look into how I can get started as this seems like a very easy thing to do.

  • Kassie- The Fly Away Life

    These are all really great options! Sometimes I struggle to make sure that I’m on top of all my milage earnings. Would hate to lose those hard earned points, so I will have to keep these tips in mind!

  • Gemma Baker

    These are some really great tips, I love that going out to eat can help you keep your miles! I need to look into earning points, I travel so often it seems like I could get a lot of benefits. I’ll remember this advice 🙂