How to extend the life of your air miles


It's a frustratingly common experience: You slowly build up your air miles until you have just enough to take your dream vacation, leave your card alone for awhile and then find out your air miles have expired


Luckily, there are things that you can do to extend life of your air miles. (And, no, you do not have to fly to keep your miles active.) Here's how to make sure you keep the air miles you earn:

1. Carefully read an offer's terms and conditions before you apply.
It is important that you read the terms and conditions for any air miles credit card or frequent flyer program you are interested in before you apply. Sometimes the expiry information can be difficult to find so read the fine print carefully.

Policies also tend to change on a frequent basis, so even if you think you know what the company policy is, it is best to double check.

2. Check the policy differences between airlines.
Every frequent flyer program has a different view on air miles expiry and different ways to extend the life of your air miles.

For example, the BMI frequent flyer program The Diamond Club has no air miles expiry whatsoever. This means that once you have earned enough miles for your dream holiday, you are not required to use the card, unless you want to.

To ensure that you do not lose your hard-earned air miles, keep an eye on the frequent flyer program policies and use your card on a regular basis.      

At the other end of the spectrum is the KLM frequent flyer program. Frequent flyers with ‘Level Miles' lose their miles by 31st December on the year of issue. This is a very short space of time, as you may have only earned your miles in November! However, you can upgrade your membership to Flying Blue Platinum, which will see a certain number of air miles being carried over to the next year.

3. Be proactive.
The majority of airlines, including both British Airways and Lufthansa allow you to keep your air miles indefinitely if you:

  • Use the credit card. If your account is inactive for a certain period of time (36 months for British Airways), your air miles will expire. To keep them active, simply use the credit card on a regular basis. If you don't want to rack up high balances on the card, just use it as an alternative to cash. Make a qualifying purchase with the credit card, and then pay off the balance immediately with money from your bank account. This will ensure that your account stays active whilst avoiding any interest charges.
  • Purchase air miles. Some frequent flyer programs also allow you to purchase air miles in bulk. This adds to your total miles earned and often counts towards the activity of your account. Air miles are usually only available to buy as a minimum of 1,000 miles, and there will also be a limit as to the amount one member can purchase in a single calendar year.

Finally, if you have surplus miles lying around in your account that are about to expire and you don't plan to use your card, be sure to use the miles toward your next airline ticket so that the miles don't go to waste. 

The bottom line: To ensure that you do not lose your hard-earned air miles, always keep an eye on the frequent flyer program policies and use your air miles credit card on a regular basis. Also remember to pay off the balance straight away so that you don't pay interest on the card.

 See related: Editor's Choice: The best air miles credit cards; How to compare airline rewards cards

Published: 27 September 2011