How to Save Your Expiring Miles for $1

Posted in American Airlines, Southwest, United

Airline miles don’t last forever. If you’re a big player in the points and miles game, you know full well that airline miles expire after a period of inactivity, so what do you do if you’re about to lose your miles and have no flights booked? The airlines will try to convince you to use them on something frivolous (“Buy this dumb magazine subscription!”) or join their dining rewards program or push you into using the miles for a flight. Don’t let them make you use those hard-earned airline miles on something you don’t need! There’s a better way and it’s really, really easy.

The Situation

My wife barely uses her miles. We’ve qualified for the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass the last two years, so almost 100% of our flights are on Southwest these days. While my accounts are in good standing with the various carriers, she had not one but two accounts fall into the category of “about to expire” (American Airlines AAdvantage miles and United MileagePlus miles). After months and months of letters arriving at our house warning about the expiring miles, we finally decided to take action.

The Solution

Since we’re not big magazine readers and we didn’t want to book a flight just for the sake of booking a flight, we came up with an alternate strategy that’s totally easy and cost only $1. Both American Airlines and United Airlines offer shopping portals for you to accrue more mileage. If you haven’t used a shopping portal before, it’s basically just a site that lists the various stores you can shop at and by clicking through their links, you earn a certain amount of miles for every dollar you spend. It’s actually a great way to build your mileage bank even if you don’t need to save your miles from expiring.

In this case, though, we had two sets of miles to save. Earning any miles (even just one!) is enough to reset the counter on the expiration clock, so we just needed to earn one lonely mile in each account. Most stores have a threshold for free shipping, so those were out. Ultimately, we came upon a plan: buy something for a dollar at Home Depot allows free in-store pick-up and there’s one just a few minutes from our house. Perfect!

We bought sprinkler plugs (just over a dollar each when tax is included) on two separate purchases through both the United MileagePlus shopping portal and the American AAdvantage shopping portal. Those plugs each gave us a mile for both of my wife’s expiring accounts and that activity was enough to save both sets of her expiring miles.

The Takeaway

When your miles are expiring, don’t freak out and waste them on something you don’t need. Instead, go onto the carrier’s shopping portal and find a low cost item that you can purchase and pick-up in-store. The activity will extend the life of your miles and you won’t have to worry about losing your expiring airline miles into the void. Just $1 is all it takes to keep all of your miles active for another year (or however long your preferred airline carrier requires in between activity).


    • I’m not entirely sure. I believe it depends on the merchant. If I remember correctly, the Home Depot miles posted within a month.

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