Don’t Let Your Miles Expire, Extend Quickly

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This past weekend I was with a friend who casually said to me, “I have 20,000 United miles expiring in a few days and am not sure of my upcoming travel plans so they are going to expire, oh well.” As I am sure you all can assume, I didn’t let that fly – no way was I going to let 20,000 miles go back into the hands of United!

So sure enough, my friend had no clue that miles could be extended without actually flying. While there are many ways to extend your miles for free, some of them take time and for immediate situations just won’t work. While using the AAdvantage Shopping portal is the easiest way, many merchants take some time to report sales and thus aren’t credited to accounts for a few weeks – some even take 8-10 weeks!

When you check out your respective loyalty program accounts and see that miles are expiring in 2 days, for example, the safest way to ensure your miles do not expire is to donate miles. Typically you need to donate 500-1,000 miles and that will extend your expiration date for another 18 months! While no one likes to give away miles, you are better off just giving away a few miles towards a good cause rather than losing your entire account balance and giving them back to the airline!

So here is how you donate your miles for the respective programs:

  • American Airlines: Donate 1,000 miles to “Children in Need”. Donate here.
  • Delta: Miles do not expire, so no need to worry about it.
  • United: Donate 500 miles to 1 of 49 charities. Donate here.
  • US Airlines: Donate 1,000 miles to 1 of 500 charities. Donate here.

Unfortunately, you are not able to donate miles to AirTran, Southwest, British Airways, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, etc. to extend your miles, but I’ll post more on that on strategic ways to extend miles.

While many will be able to find other ways to extend their miles, for the person who is looking to do as little effort as possible, this should be easy. American Airline states that donating miles could take up to 48 hours, but I know first hand that United deducts them out of your account immediately. This means that you can extend your miles by 18 months immediately. I do not see any terms listed for US Airways.

For those that want to put in just a little effort to extend their miles (and I really mean little effort!) on your next online purchase, go through the airlines shopping portal and enter the merchants online website with that one extra step. Just make sure to do this in advance and keep checking to ensure your miles were credited properly. While miles are typically credited, there are times when merchants do not report miles and it requires the member to take action.

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  1. I use the dining network. For United, American, Southwest and others (Hilton) you can extend by just getting a coffee or a drink somewhere on their designated list. I do this 5-6 months away from expiration just to get them posted before it’s too late. Also, a more expensive way is to book a Y fare (refundable) fare to somewhere close in a week or two and then opt in to their buy more miles program (they post instantly, for United it is called miles accelerator) and then a few days later, cancel your flight. Your clock is reset.

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