If you rack up frequent-flier miles, the last thing you want to have happen is for the airlines to delete them. Yet major airlines usually allow reward miles to expire if a frequent flier account is stagnant for 18 to 24 months. (Delta SkyMiles and Alaska Mileage Plan are rare exceptions in that their miles don't expire.)
Good news: You don't have to actually fly within the allotted time to keep miles alive. Providing your frequent flier number when you make reservations for a rental car or hotel room will protect your miles while also earning a few more. In some cases, using a credit card affiliated with the airline counts as account activity—keeping your miles fresh. (Ask your credit card issuer or frequent flier customer service number for details.)
For the rest of us, a simple way to keep miles active is to do a little shopping at the online malls that reward programs have, with links to businesses where you probably already shop, such as Old Navy, Target, and Starbucks.
Sign in at one of these online malls with your frequent-flier number and buy a product. This will count as activity, keeping all of the miles in your account active. You don't need to use an airline-affiliated credit card to benefit, either. Just register at the online malls.
Case in point: American Airlines' mall
Sample product: H&R; Block At Home Deluxe tax preparation software. Buy it through the store and you'll reactivate miles in your account while paying only $25 for the service, or a 15 percent discount off the price listed on H&R; Block's homepage.
You'll find an airline's shopping portal by visiting its website and looking for its shopping portal. For example, on Southwest.com, you'll find a link to Southwest Airlines's mall
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