Starwood Platinum members have a unique way to keep airline miles from expiring.
- Starwood has a wide array of mileage transfer partners.
- Starwood Platinums have no minimum number of points they can transfer — they can literally transfer just a single point!
- That’s like free airline miles expiration extension.
St. Regis Bangkok
And of course now that Marriott Platinum gets you Starwood Platinum (and Marriott points transfer to Starwood points) Marriott top elites can take advantage of this useful benefit too.
Now this doesn’t work for every program. There are programs where you can’t extend the life of your miles, or can’t extend them very long. For instance,
- Air France/KLM: Non-elites lose their miles after 20 months without a flight on a Flying Blue or Skyteam airline
- All Nippon: Miles expire at the end of 36 months from when they were earned
- Korean Air: Miles expire after 10 years
- Lufthansa: The Miles & More program expires miles after 36 months regardless of activity in your account, unless you have their co-brand credit card and use it every month without fail.
- Singapore Airlines: Miles expire the month following three years after they were earned, but can be extended at a cost for six months (12 months for elites)
And there are some programs where miles don’t expire at all like Delta and JetBlue.
However many programs have accounts that will expire unless you have some activity during a defined period of time, such as:
- Aeroplan: 12 months of inactivity
- Alaska Airlines: 24 months of inactivity
- American Airlines: 18 months of inactivity
- AviancaTaca: 24 months of inactivity
- British Airways: 36 months of inactivity
- United: 18 months of inactivity
- Virgin Atlantic: 36 months of inactivity
To keep your Air Canada Aeroplan points or your AAdvantage account active, for instance, just transfer one Starpoint over.
That’s much more useful than programs which require you to redeem, say, 10,000 points for 1500 miles.
For folks that don’t have Starwood or Marriott Platinum status, here are 10 ways to keep accounts active when rules allow for any activity to do it.
- Points.com A few programs will let you transfer points in very low increments through the Points.com portal, perhaps 4 miles can be moved into a single mile in another program while extending the life of both accounts, and for no fee.
- Credit a rental car. Most airlines have rental car partners. They usually generate very few miles. Credit an upcoming rental to the frequent flyer program you need to extend points with. I’ve been known to even purposely not credit a rental, and then submit for retro credit later when I need points in a particular program. This is easy online with Avis.
- Online purchase through a shopping portal. Most programs have online shopping portals, if you go to the merchant you’re going to make a purchase from through the shopping portal site you’ll earn miles. The trick here is making sure the miles actually post, some portals are more reliable than others and some merchants take a couple of months to post points. Some shopping portals will credit you a single mile for a very inexpensive purchase, like one song, but be sure to read the fine print — you do not want to make a purchase assuming you’ll extend your miles but find out that it was ineligible. The time lag to posting these transactions is often why I like this method least, even though it can be among the cheapest.
- Buy or transfer miles. Not free but you can usually spend $35 or less with many programs to drop a few extra miles in an account and extend its life.
- Redeem miles for magazines. Even if you don’t want the magazine subscription you can sacrifice 500 miles and generate quick and easy account activity. TGo to your program’s website and find the magazine options, I’d bet there are many many many unwanted subscriptions to Cigar Aficionado out there.
- Transfer points in from a hotel program. The best value tends to come from Starwood, which also has the most airline partners. And Starwood Platinum members get a gold star here because they are allowed to transfer any number of miles they wish including generally just transferring one Starpoint. That generates account activity and gives up almost nothing in the process.
- Transfer points in from a credit card program. American Express Membership Rewards, Chase, Citibank, and Diners Club all have points that transfer into miles.
- Dining for Miles. I remember back when Rewards Network was Transmedia and then became iDine. You register a credit card with an airline-branded version of the miles for dining program, then charge a meal (or a soda) to that credit card to earn some miles. You can join each airline’s program, just be sure to use a different credit card each time.
- Transfer points in from a survey program like e-Rewards (I joined directly rather than through one of their partners, that has allowed me to transfer to any of their mileage partners).
- Donate miles. Many programs will let you donate miles to charity. Choose the smallest number they offer, knowing that your gift probably won’t have any incremental benefit to the charity anyway and the program will likely donate the same amount whether you give or not.