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Easiest Ways to Stop American Miles from Expiring Without Flying

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Earning airline miles can help you save on future flights, but you’ve probably heard stories about people’s miles expiring if they went a while without flying. That’s definitely a frustrating situation you don’t want to find yourself in, but luckily, airline programs like American AAdvantage® make it fairly simple to keep your miles current.

American AAdvantage miles expire after 18 months from the date of your last account activity. But there are so many ways to generate activity, so it’s not hard to keep them going indefinitely. Essentially, you only have to give your account some attention once every year and a half, and you won’t lose your miles. And, your account will always show the number of miles you have and the most recent activity date, so you won’t be caught off guard.

The most important thing you need to know: Any activity that adds or deducts from your AAdvantage account will extend the expiration of your miles, no matter how small.

Also worth noting, you can extend the expiration an unlimited number of times, so if you have some activity at least once every 18 months your miles won’t expire.

Generally, activity in which you’re redeeming some AAdvantage miles will reset the clock more quickly, because things that cost you miles tend to post to your account within a day. Activity that earns you miles may take longer to post, so you don’t want to wait until the last minute to keep your miles going. That said, here are the simplest ways to extend the expiration on your miles and keep them alive, without actually flying.

1. Make a purchase with an American Airlines credit card

If you have a credit card that earns American Airlines AAdvantage miles, the easiest way to keep your miles from expiring is to make a small purchase at least once every 18 months.

A purchase as small as $1 will cause 1 American Airline mile to be added to your frequent flyer account, which will extend the expiration of your miles by 18 months. Better yet, you can purchase something that you were already planning on anyway — maybe your daily latte or the new sheets you need for the house. This method will not cost you anything extra (assuming you pay your bill in full by the due date).

Surprisingly, just paying your annual fee each year isn’t enough to keep your AAdvantage account active, however, as paying your annual fee doesn’t earn you any miles.

Here’s a list of AAdvantage cards:

Credit cards that earn AAdvantage miles
Card Sign-up bonus Annual fee Rewards
AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®* Earn up to 75,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles. Earn 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. Earn 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card. $95 Earn 2X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 2X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent at eligible office supply, telecom and car rental merchants. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.
*
AAdvantage® Aviator® Mastercard® N/A $0 Earn 1 mile for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every two dollars spent on all other purchases
AAdvantage® Aviator® Blue Mastercard® N/A $49 Earn 2X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.
AAdvantage® Aviator™ Silver World Elite Mastercard® Earn 5,000 Elite Qualifying Miles for each $20,000 in annual purchases (10,000 maximum EQMs per year).
Earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 each calendar year.
$195 3X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on hotels and car rentals and 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®* Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days. $99 Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X AAdvantage® miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases.

2. Shop through the AAdvantage Shopping portal

Start the online shopping you’d do anyway from the American Airlines AAdvantage Shopping Portal, to advance the expiration date of your AAdvantage miles. You might even score extra miles with certain retailers, like this 2 miles per dollar and discount code offer from Kohl’s, so check the current deals.

To get started, you must create an account with the AAdvantage Shopping Portal, and link it with your AAdvantage account. Then, search for a store that you were planning to shop, and follow through with your purchase to protect your points for another 18 months.

With more than 950 online stores that offer additional miles by shopping through the AAdvantage® Shopping Portal, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one of your favorite merchants.

Keep in mind: Miles can take up to 15 days to post to your account after your purchase, so if you’re relying on a shopping session to reset your expiration date, plan ahead.

If your miles are already within a couple weeks of their expiration date, it is still possible that your purchase through the shopping portal might count, but you may have the added hassle of contacting American Airlines to get your miles reinstated after the shopping portal activity posts to your AAdvantage account.

3. Eat a meal at an AAdvantage partner restaurant

Thousands of restaurants participate in the AAdvantage Dining program, which lets you earn miles each time you dine, even for takeout or delivery. All you do is register your credit or debit cards with the dining program, and pay for your meal with the card. Doing so will earn you extra points in your AAdvantage account, and allow you to keep your miles active. You don’t need an American AAdvantage® credit card to take advantage of this – any card will do.

4. Transfer hotel points into your AAdvantage account

If you have some hotel points, you can transfer them into your AAdvantage account. Here is the minimum number of points you can transfer from each participating hotel program as a general member to AAdvantage miles:

  • Best Western Rewards: 5,000 points = 1,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Choice Privileges: 5,000 points = 1,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Hilton HHonors: 10,000 points = 1,500 AAdvantage miles
  • World of Hyatt: 5,000 points = 2,000 AAdvantage miles
  • IHG® Rewards Club: 10,000 points = 2,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Marriott BonvoyTM: 30,000 points = 10,000 AAdvantage miles
  • Wyndham Rewards: 6,000 points = 1,200 AAdvantage miles

This is the most expensive method of those listed here to keep your miles from expiring, but it’s still way better than letting all of your miles expire, and it does some good along the way.

American Airlines allows you to donate miles to Miles for Our Social Good, Miles for Our Well-Being and Miles for Our Heroes.

The minimum donation is 1,000 miles, which will post as qualifying activity to your AAdvantage account.

You can also donate cash (minimum $25) to Stand Up To Cancer through the Miles To Stand Up program, and you’ll get 10 AAdvantage® miles for every dollar you donate. This will also extend the expiration date of your miles, but may take longer to post.

6. What if your miles already expired?

You’re not entirely out of luck.

American has a few ways to get your miles back, even if they expired many years ago, which can range from reinstating them for a fee, to completing a challenge that includes taking flights and earning miles from partners.

But with so many low-effort ways to keep your miles from expiring, it’s not hard to avoid that altogether.

Bottom line

If you’re a regular flyer or someone with a credit card that earns AAdvantage miles, you’re probably not in much danger of having your miles expire. But even if you’re not, there’s no reason why you should lose out on past miles that you’ve earned. Make a note on your calendar to check your account periodically so that you can see when points are set to expire. Once you notice that the date is a couple of months away, use any one of the simple activities above to reset the expiration clock for another 18 months.

*The information related to this offer has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.