How to Save Frequent Flyer Miles About to Expire
You’ve worked hard to earn frequent flyer miles, and it would be disappointing to lose them all. Each loyalty program is different, but your account can become inactive within one or two years if you don’t use or accumulate new miles.Fortunately, you can reset the clock each time by making qualifying purchases, or you can transfer the miles.
Earning Extra Miles to Keep Your Account Active
Shop through an airline portal.Almost every airline has online malls or portals where you can shop. You’ll earn extra miles on your purchases, and the clock will “reset,” so you won’t lose any miles because of inactivity. To shop, visit your airline’s portal and search for a store. Then click through to the retailer’s website when you are ready to make your purchase.
Sign up for an airline dining program.You can also reset the clock by using an airline’s dining program. Go to the airline's website to sign up and find which restaurants you can dine at. You’ll earn bonus miles for every dollar spent.
Rent a car.Give the rental car agency your frequent flyer number. You might need to pay a small fee in order to collect the miles, but it will keep your account active.
Stay in a hotel.You can accrue miles—and keep your account active—by staying at a hotel. Most hotel chains participate in the program, but you should ask ahead of time. Give your frequent flyer number when you book your hotel room.
Take a cruise.Most airlines offer large mileage bonuses for cruises if you book through their site. It’s not cost effective to go on a cruise just to save your miles. However, if you’re planning to go anyway, then book through your airline’s website.
Open an investment account.Many brokers will give you airline miles if you open an accountant with them. For example, TDAmeritrade offers 25,000 miles (40,000 km) if you open a new account. Other brokers have similar programs.Ask the broker ahead of time if you’ll earn miles.
Use other loyalty program partners.Visit your airline’s website to find out what businesses you can use to gain additional miles and keep your account active. Depending on your program, you might earn miles when shopping at the florist, signing up for DirectTV, or getting a cell phone contract.
Buy miles.It’s rarely a good idea to buy miles from an airline. Typically, they jack up the price so that you pay about three cents a mile when a mile is really worth only 1.2 cents to the airline.Nevertheless, buying miles will keep your account active.
- Airlines sometimes offer special discounts, so be on the lookout. For example, you might be able to buy 25,000 miles and get an additional 25,000 for free.Depending on the deal, you might be paying close to what the miles are actually worth.
Use a co-branded credit card.You can get a credit card affiliated with your airline and earn miles whenever you make qualifying purchases. These purchases will reset your account so that your miles don’t expire.
- For example, you might have miles with American Airlines. You can get an American Airlines credit card. Check which purchases qualify for miles and use your card before your miles expire.
Cashing Out Your Miles
Redeem some miles for a gift card.Some airline programs will let you keep your account active if you redeem a small number of miles. One low-cost option is to buy a gift card with your miles. Check with your airline whether this is an option. You may also need to use the airline’s co-branded credit card.
- Redeem as few miles as possible. Generally, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you use the miles for travel instead of gift cards.Nevertheless, by redeeming some miles, the clock resets and your account remains active.
Give your miles to charity.Before your miles expire, donate them to a charity you believe in. Check with your airline program first to see if donating is possible. Some programs allow you to donate to charities such as Unicef, Wounded Warriors, or USO.
Transfer miles to people you know.If you can’t use your miles, consider transferring them to someone who can. You’ll have to pay a fee, which varies depending on the airline. Generally, you’ll pay a fixed fee (of around ) and a fee per mile (usually 1 cent).
- You can also transfer an award to someone for a fee. Airlines want to prevent you from bartering or selling awards, so you might need to prove that you know the person receiving the gift.
Transfer miles between loyalty programs.Visit the points.com website. The transfer rate isn’t great, so use this as a last resort.At the website, click on “Join for Free” and sign up with your email address or your Facebook account.
Video: How to Earn a HUGE Amount of Airline Miles From Credit Cards
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