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How to prevent your miles from expiring

If you’ve ever checked your mileage balance and been surprised to find that you have fewer miles than you thought, you’re not alone. Many travelers don’t know that their frequent flyer miles will expire, or realize that they can take action to prevent these miles from disappearing forever. We’ve answered the most common questions about expiring miles so that you can get them to last as long as you need them.

When will my miles expire?

Different airlines have different policies about when miles will expire. JetBlue miles expire after 12 months, and Southwest just changed its policy to expire miles after 24 months, rather than 12. Most low-cost carriers have similar expiration policies.

The legacy lines are more lenient. Most major airlines, such as American and Delta, do not expire miles unless 36 months have gone by without any mile-earning activities. Continental miles, however, never expire, although Continental reserves the right to change that policy at any time.

How can I prevent my miles from expiring?

Even if three years go by without you taking a flight, you don’t need to forfeit your miles. Taking a flight is the easiest way to keep your miles alive, but you have many other non-travel options. You can extend your miles’ expiration date by purchasing miles, using an airline-affiliated credit card, or earning miles through a partner company, such as an affiliated hotel, car rental agency, online store, or communications provider. Redeeming miles for travel also extends the life of any remaining miles.

Where can I find mile-earning partners?

A quick online shopping purchase can save your miles with little effort or expense on your part. But how do you know which companies partner with each airline? You can check your airline’s frequent flyer page on its website, or for a comprehensive listing for 12 major U.S. airlines, you can go to the Mile Finder.

Can I get my expired miles back?

Once your miles expire, they’re gone for good. If you don’t act fast enough to complete a mile-earning activity, you can’t reactivate your miles. That’s why it’s best to keep close tabs on your frequent flyer account, so you’ll have plenty of time to pick up some miles before your current stash disappears.

However, American currently has a promotion that allows you to reactivate miles that have expired since 2002. You will have to pay for the privilege, but if you’ve recently lost a substantial number of miles, it could be worth your while to buy them back.

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