Do you know the expiry rules for your airline miles?

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There is nothing more frustrating than finding that your miles have expired when you finally come to use them or add to them. This is most likely to happen with secondary programmes where you once dropped a few miles from a one-off promotion and then forgot about them.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.  It is very unlikely that an active collector like a Head for Points reader would be caught out by such a long time frame!

It is worth noting that if you are in a British Airways household account which contains a Gold, Silver or Bronze member, the Avios points of all members of that Household Account are protected even if they pass the three year point.  This is the specific wording from the BAEC terms and conditions:

18.1.18. Notwithstanding Clause 18.1.16, in the event a Household Account has a Gold, Silver or Bronze Tier Member who has earned or redeemed Avios points within the last 36 consecutive months then the Avios points balance of the other Household Account Members shall not be subject to expiry in accordance with Clause 14.4. In the event a Household Account ceases to have as a Household Account Member any such Gold, Silver or Bronze Tier Member then the provisions of Clause 18.1.16 shall apply.

The full Virgin Flying Club terms and conditions are here.  Mileage expiry is covered in clauses 2.6 and 2.7.

You can reset the clock with Avios or Virgin with a simple action such as buying 1,000 miles, doing a Membership Rewards transfer or doing a transaction via the Avios e-store or the Virgin equivalent.

When do Avios points expire?

One to keep an eye on, though, is British Airways On Business. On Business is the scheme for small businesses (or even one-man bands) which earns points for your company on cash ticket purchases. This is on top of the Avios points earned by the traveller.

I wrote an introduction to British Airways On Business here and here. The key is that On Business points have a ‘hard’ expiry date of 2 years from the December after you earn them.  This cannot be extended – you must spend them within 2 years. If I take a flight today, those points will expire on 31st December 2020 unless I spend them, and nothing can stop that expiry.

Lufthansa Miles & More works the same way. Your miles expire 36 months from being earned, at the end of the next quarter, whatever other activity you have in the meantime. This is one downside of using Miles & More as your default Star Alliance programme since it is very possible – if you only credit a few Star Alliance flights a year – that your miles may start expiring before you have built up enough for a decent redemption.

There are two ways of stopping your Miles & More miles expiring.  One is to earn status in the programme, and the other is to get a Miles & More credit card and use it at least once a month. Unfortunately the UK Miles & More credit card is closed to new applications and it is likely that existing cardholders will soon be transferred to another card.

Perhaps the worst of the Western European frequent flyer schemes is Flying Blue, the Air France / KLM programme. Unless you have status, you need to take a revenue flight with Air France, KLM or one of their SkyTeam or other airline partners every 24 months or you lose your miles – whatever other activity you may have had in the meantime!

If you have any American Airlines miles – and this is probably the most popular US scheme with HFP readers because of the ability to redeem on British Airways – take clear note of AA’s expiry policy.  Your AA miles disappear after just 18 months of no activity. If you have no immediate plans for your miles, make sure you transfer a few hotel points to AA or credit a BA flight to AA every so often in order to keep them alive.

One way of tracking expiry dates is by using AwardWallet to monitor your miles and points balances. I explained how AwardWallet works here.  If you pay for the premium version it will show you the expiry date of your miles alongside your total and send you warning emails as the date approaches.

The key takeaway is to keep on the ball. You don’t want your hard earned miles to disappear in a puff of smoke.

PS.  If you want to know about hotel point expiry rules, I wrote a series of articles earlier this year:

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Jimbob says:

    What are the rules regarding booking a room with SPG points before they expire, but the actual stay in the hotel is after the points would have expired? For example, buy SPG points Jan 2018, then in Oct 2018, I use those points for a stay in Sept 2019. I assume this would be ok, unless I cancel the room sometime in 2019, then I wouldn’t get the points back, as they are more than 12 months old, assuming no further earning activity?

  2. Nick_C says:

    I used to travel a lot with AA. I’ve got about 12000 miles with them, but I let 53000 miles expire about 3 years ago.

    I understand I may be able to reactivate the expired miles for $500. Is it worth it?

    AAs redemptions look so complicated I dont really understand how they work. And are redemptions easily available?

    • Mikea says:

      The availability tool on AA is relatively straightforward.
      I’ve found my orphan AA miles useful for a one way, USA-UK on AA with low tax, and paying cash on Norwegian Premium to get to the USA.

    • Looking at the chart, it might make more sense to reactivate 50,000 of your 53,000 miles for $350. The other 3,000 AA miles are certainly not worth the extra $150.

      It could certainly be worth it for the 50,000 miles though. It all depending on your travel goals. Their programme is a mess in terms of earning miles and status because it is now revenue-based. But their redemptions are simpler, and they don’t add BA’s high surcharges unless you insist on flying on BA metal, so they are also OK for economy awards. Also for one-way awards as suggested above.

      Availability depends on where you are trying to fly and in which class of course, but I don’t think it is worse than BA’s award availability.

      I don’t know how long it would take for them to reinstate your miles, but it is fairly easy to check availability first, even without logging on, to make sure you can find something useful before paying to get the miles back. It doesn’t sound as if you are up against a deadline.

      • I forgot to mention that if you book an AA award, especially on AA metal, they will usually hold it for you for several days. It is one of the useful things about their awards. So if you call them you might be able to ask them to hold an award for you for a few days (even without having the miles) while they reinstate the miles for you.

  3. Does anyone know the rules for Etihad Miles? I have 42k from a trip in October 2016, I’m not going to add to or use them and so am going to cash them in, which is a neat feature of their scheme but I’ve not found it the most straightforward!

    • the real harry1 says:

      It’s 2 years hard expiry so yep, cashing out @0.4p via PointsPay sounds like a decent exit strategy

    • PointsPay as per the other comment. Works a treat.

  4. the real harry1 says:

    It might be tougher to avoid your IB Avios expiring (36 months no activity). No particular need to let this happen as you can send your points to BAEC or (Aer Club etc). Or send 1000 MR points to IB then retrieve them (minus 1 Avios, of course 🙂 ) to BAEC etc.

    You might have a ‘set-up a long time ago & forgotten’ IB a/c with expiry looming. The IB shops portal is generally useless for people who don’t live in Spain. But you can log in then go thru the portal to using your UK Ebay sign in ID. Many UK sellers are there as well so it is easy enough to buy a £2.80 used book (or any other item) to earn a couple of Avios, for the same price as you’d pay on the UK Ebay site.

    • Lumma says:

      Does combine my avios not count as activity? I’m not that as risk from Iberia expiring as I get some avios when I stay in accor hotels. Not that often but definitely more often than 3 years

    • I did the ebay Spain tick and the points tracked but were never paid. Wrote numerous emails and nothing came of it. In the end I just did the MR 1000 transfer to credit the account.

    • Also, if you’re partial to Rioja, you can always place an order with Vinoselección Club de Vinos …

  5. William Kerr says:

    Thanks Harry that was a clever tip about Iberia – as Rob said the particularly uncompromising ones were Miles and More and Flying Blue… both very unuser friendly !

  6. William Kerr says:

    sorry user unfriendly… !

  7. Pedro says:

    The other way to extend Air France/Flying Blue miles is to have an Air France American Express card. Any transaction with it extends the validity of miles by a further 20 months. My miles remain valid despite me not having taken an Air France or Skyteam flight for over 8 years.

  8. Elaine says:

    Flying Blue expiry is 24 months…when it changed in March 2017 it was reported on HfP.

  9. Alex W says:

    What about airlines with no expiry? Delta skymiles is one such program. This is one factor when considering where to credit miles.

  10. Hey all, I’m currently sitting on 80,000 M&M miles, and am very concerned about whether my MBNA card will be pulled before I can redeem for the one way first class flight I had in mind. Something just occurred to me on reading this article – I had always intended to link my Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade account (acquired through the AMEX Plat) with Singapore’s Krisflyer, but was holding off doing so until I next had 3 flight segments with them coming up, in order to get Star Alliance Gold and lounge access for a while. If we receive notification of MBNA pulling the cards, would linking accounts and getting the (otherwise rubbish) Star Alliance Silver stop our miles from expiring?

  11. Dave wood says:

    What about Emirates

  12. Noggins says:

    I recently discovered my Avios a/c had been closed – despite being Silver

    • guesswho2000 says:

      You may be Silver with BA, but you’re not silver with, which has no status tiers. The miles in should have been transferred to your BAEC account, all accounts (except those linked to Aer Lingus) are closing imminently.

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