An Easy Way to Keep Frequent Flyer Miles From Expiring

You don't have to fly to keep your account active.

Are you guilty of letting your frequent flyer miles expire and missing out on an opportunity to score a free flight? If so, you’re not alone. More than a quarter of the people surveyed in a poll commissioned by, a site that helps consumers maximize travel points, said they have let some or all of their frequent flyer miles expire. Perhaps it’s because, according to the poll, more than half of those surveyed don’t know how the frequent flyer programs that they’re enrolled in work.

Most airlines have programs that award miles for flights on that airline or transactions with partner hotels and rental-car companies. And miles can be redeemed for free flights or other perks. But, with most programs, miles usually expire if an account has been inactive for 18 to 24 months.

There’s an easy way to keep your account active, though, that doesn’t require hopping on a plane, says Brian Kelly, founder of You can reset the expiration clock by using an airline-affiliated credit card or making a purchase through an airline’s shopping portal.

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Most major airlines have rewards cards that let you earn miles when you make purchases. So every time you buy something with that card, you keep your account active and push back the expiration date for your miles.

But if you don’t already have an airline rewards card and don’t want to sign up for one, you still can keep your account active -- and earn miles -- by using any credit card to shop online through an airline’s shopping portal.

These portals have long lists of retailers that partner with the airlines and allow frequent flyer program members to earn a certain number of miles for each dollar spent. has a list of airline shopping portals with links to them.

To keep track of when your miles expire, Kelly recommends using The free site can help you manage all of your rewards balances and notify you before your miles or points expire.

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Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor,

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.