3 simple ways to keep reward miles from expiring without flying

Sun Country sunrise with 3 planes
Photo courtesy of Sun Country
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It’s great to earn airline miles, but what happens if you don’t use them?  Most airline miles expire in 18-24 months.  Here are 3 simple ways to keep your airline miles from expiring without paying for another flight.

I use a tool called AwardWallet to keep track of my airline miles and hotel points.  It is a free tool, but there is a paid version that lets you know what your airline miles and hotel points are going to expire.  Click here if you’d like an AwardWallet referral code.

#1 – Use the airline’s shopping portal

Almost every airline has a shopping portal that gives you miles for clicking through to the online store you want to shop at.  Each store will offer a different amount of miles that is based on the amount you spend and the deal they’ve negotiated with the airline.

Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping Father's Day
Sample of Father’s Day offers at Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping

Here are a few links to the shopping portal of the more popular airlines:

Pro Tip: At certain times of the year, there are even bonus mile offers for using the portal!

#2 – Use the airline’s partners

Airlines have partnered with a wide variety of businesses that will offer you miles for spending money with them.  Some of these companies are travel-related, such as hotels and rental car companies, while others are not, such as utilities, cell phone providers, and credit monitoring services.


When you book a room at a hotel, if you use the link from the airline or add your loyalty number to your reservation, you can earn extra miles.  Here are a couple of the relationships that are available:

Or you can use a website like Pointshound or Rocketmiles that offer competitive rates on rooms, but also provide additional airline miles to you.

Car Rentals

For car rentals, it is much the same thing, except there aren’t exclusive relationships between the airlines and hotel chains.  Most every car rental company will credit you miles to your preferred airline.  Take note that some car rentals will charge you a nominal fee for the miles (i.e. I’ve seen $1.50 a day charges from Alamo).

Southwest Budget promotion

Pro Tip: You’ll often get a bigger miles bonus for longer car rentals.  Check the promos on your favorite airline’s site or look for them in their email newsletter for even bigger bonuses.

Other Promotions

There are specialized promos that some airlines have worked out with various businesses.  For example, you can get American Airlines’ miles for signing up with Sprint or having a specific bank account.

American Airlines Sprint promotion

Some airlines offer bonus miles for signing up with LifeLock.

American Airlines Lifelock promotion banner

United Airlines even offers miles for getting solar from NRG Home Solar.

United Airlines NRG Home Solar promotion

Make sure that the prices you pay aren’t increased as a result of getting the miles.  It may not be worth signing up for that deal.

For example, I’ve regularly seen promotions for a wine club that will give bonus miles.  I’ve resisted the offer, but others who have tried it say that the wine is overpriced and doesn’t taste that good.  So, try at your own risk!

Pro Tip: Use the co-branded credit card of your favorite airline when paying for your hotel or car rental. You may receive even more bonus miles on the amount you pay.

I’d appreciate it if you use my links to sign up for credit cards.  If you’d like a free 30-minute phone consultation to help you lower your travel costs, please complete our free travel advice form so we can coordinate a call.

#3 – Transfer points into your mileage account

Many points programs allow you to transfer points to airline mileage programs.  Most airline miles’ programs count this as qualified activity which will extend the life of your miles.

American Express Membership Rewards transfers to 17 airline miles’ programs.  A few of them include:

  • Delta Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Ethiad
  • JetBlue
  • Virgin America

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to 7 airline miles’ programs. They include:

  • British Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Citibank Thank You Rewards transfers to 12 airline miles’ programs. A few of them are:

  • Ethiad
  • Air France
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America

Some hotel points also transfer to airline mileage programs.  Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG for short) is the most powerful of the hotel transfer programs.  And it is the most inclusive of all of the transfer options, since SPG transfers to 34 airline miles’ programs.  As an added bonus, for every 20,000 SPG points you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 25% miles to whichever airline program you tranfser into!  Here are a few of the transfer options:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • Korean Air
  • United Airlines

In Summary

a plane wing with text overlayYou don’t have to pay for a flight to avoid having your airline miles expire.  There are 3 simple ways to keep reward miles from expiring without flying.  You can earn miles through the shopping portals or partners, or you can transfer miles from another program to extend the life of your miles.