published Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Phillips: What to do with airline miles before they expire

by Ellen Phillips

Q. just noticed my airlines miles are set to expire this fall. What can I do if I don’t plan to travel before the expiration date but don’t want to lose the miles? —Airline Al

Dear Al: It’s true that no activity equals expiration. However, you don’t have to use your mileage for travel and still derive some enjoyment before they run out, plus any activity at all automatically resets the expiration date to give you more time to come up with some (hopeful) vacation travel. According to, the following suggestions are mile savers:

• Charities: Donate miles to a charitable organization, such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The minimum typically is a thousand miles a pop. Not only do donations benefit the charity, but also they make you feel good.

• Marketing companies: Some of these companies will hand over frequent-flyer miles if you take a survey or watch a few online ads. For example, gives miles in the Continental, Delta, US Airways, Alaska Airlines and AirTran programs if you both watch a few online videos and answer some follow-up questions.

• Online retailers: Often airline partners, online merchants such as, and so forth, allow mileage if you purchase from its store(s).

• Restaurants and bars: Whether buying a single drink or an entire meal with a credit card that’s aligned with your frequent flyer program, you not only add miles but also reset the expiration of those miles.

• Subscriptions: Pay for small item purchases, including magazine and newspaper subscriptions, flowers, and gift cards.

• Transfers: If you don’t mind paying anywhere from $30 to $60 (or more) in transfer fees, you can transfer miles from one person’s account to another’s. In fact, the reset of the expiration dates may well benefit both the donor and the recipient.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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