Here's When Your Airline Miles Typically Expire

Traveling isn't just about hitting the skies and discovering a new place. With each journey, there's more of a reward than just experiencing somewhere new or exploring a destination you've been dreaming about: You're also earning airline miles. If you've ever taken a moment to look through your flight booking details or peered at your airline account, you've seen just how quickly some airline miles add up. These little tokens of appreciation for choosing a particular airline — rewarding frequent travelers for their loyalty — do more than just offer discounted flights; they also provide access to exclusive airport lounges and seat upgrades, among other perks.

However, nothing lasts forever, and the same principle applies to airline miles. So while some miles last a mere 12 months, others might linger for 18 months, and a few generous ones? They might "never" expire. These different policies and expiration timelines make it essential that you keep an eye on mileage validity and account activity so you don't lose your hard-earned rewards. After all, no one wants to find out they've missed out on a potential first-class upgrade or discounted five-star stay because of the fine print.

How long do airline miles typically last?

Navigating the different policies of airline miles can sometimes feel like you're trying to decipher a secret code. However, it doesn't need to be that difficult — all it takes is a little patience as you sift through all of the jargon. Once you've created an account with your preferred airline, you'll be ready to earn airline miles with them. From there, every time you book a flight, make sure to include your frequent flyer number in your booking in order to guarantee you'll receive the miles after your flight. Then, it's up to the airline to determine when your miles expire or how you can prevent them from doing so.

For example, American Airlines' AAdvantage program gives you 24 months to use your miles before they expire. However, if you're an AAdvantage credit card holder, you'll be able to keep them for as long as your account stays open. Oh, and travelers under 21 also get an extra perk: They're exempt from pesky expiration dates. Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines' Free Spirit policy ensures that your points will still be there as long as you earn more points or redeem them within 12 months.

Now, for the cherry on top, some popular airlines such as Delta, United, Southwest, Virgin, and JetBlue gift their passengers with miles that never disappear – an ideal scenario that makes it a lot easier for you not to worry about losing your miles if you're taking an extended break from hitting the skies.

Making the most of your airline miles

Your accumulated miles are an asset — that said, it's important to make them last. With this in mind, one of the easiest ways to make sure you can hold on to the miles you've earned is by either earning more of them or redeeming what you already have. Whether it's using them to book a quick trip or hotel stay, or even donating them to charity, this guarantees your account stays active — and that your miles won't randomly disappear. Another option to help keep your account active if you're not planning to travel anytime soon is to sign up for and use an airline credit card that will continue to feed miles into your account with every purchase you make.

So, the next time you're on the verge of booking that flight, make sure you're also thinking about maximizing the perks that come with it. Whether you're looking to redeem your airline miles for upgrades or future flights, or even use them on a shopping spree, they can be your ticket to even more memorable experiences for a much lower price tag.