Rewards Dining Programs and Avoiding Airline Miles Expiration Policies

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Updated + United Airlines miles no longer expire. I don’t fly as much anymore, and part of my routine to keep my various miles from expiring is to use dining rewards programs that give me miles for eating at participating restaurants. You link your existing credit card first, then pay with that credit card, that’s it – their system figures it out with no coupons, apps, or membership card required. Not all the food spots are great (this is basically paid advertising and the best places don’t need to advertise) but there is usually a small overlap between participating merchants and places I eat at anyway.

My $10 lunch fills the stomach and resets the clock on my mileage balance (although you could buy something as little as a $1 bottle of water). Most of the time, I don’t even have to think about it, but I also write the name of the restaurant and the airline on the card so I remember. Miles usually post within a few weeks. However, to be safe I try to make sure to make a purchase at least 2 months before the expiration date. (If it’s an emergency, I will do a transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards, AmEx Membership Rewards, etc.)

Here are all the airline mileage and hotel programs along with their expiration policies. Most also offer a new member bonus. You can join each program and grab every bonus (one by one or simultaneously, if you have enough credit card numbers).

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American Airlines AAdvantage

Delta SkyMiles

JetBlue TrueBlue

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Spirit Airlines

United Airlines MileagePlus

Hilton HHonors

International Hotel Group (IHG)

Each separately branded program can have multiple credit cards linked to it, but any single credit card can only be linked with one program. (In other words, you can’t earn miles on two airlines on the same purchase.) However, you can change the linked cards as often as you like via website. Delta, United, and JetBlue now all have points that don’t expire, so you can skip them if you wish.

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  1. This is a good idea if I’ve already got the miles and they’re going to expire.

    But it may be time to rethink the value I’m getting out of the miles game. If I’m starting to feel like you’re taking dinners out I might not have otherwise, maybe it might be time to start looking at cash back cards instead? Nominally they’ll probably give me less, but the real-life value might be more….

  2. “The easiest and cheapest way for me to keep my miles alive has been to using dining rewards programs that give me miles for eating at participating restaurants.” I need to sign up for my United and Delta dining. I’ve been so lazy at doing it but I also don’t eat out at restaurants. If I do it’s mostly at mom and pop shops take out. I just got an email from Delta to receive 2,500 points and deleted it. I think I should just go sign up and add the card.

  3. Southwest airlines Rapid Rewards don’t expire. I checked it few minutes ago.

    • Where do you see that? When you see an asterisk, you gotta follow that up. It says “**Points don’t expire as long as you have flight or Partner earning activity every 24 months. Benefits apply to points transactions. All Rapid Rewards Rules and Regulations apply.” right on their main Rapid Rewards page:

  4. I just got an email saying that my Virgin America points are about to expire. It looks like you can earn dining rewards points through Mogl and transfer them to Virgin America. Hadn’t heard of Mogl before, but I’m signing up now and I’m going to try it

  5. @Jonathan – Do you have any idea what information gets shared when you sign up? Is it just purchases at the participating stores or is it all of your spending activity? Clearly the site has to see all transactions to validate rewards, but what about beyond that? Do merchants get a full view of my purchases on a registered card and/or a demographic profile based on that spending?

    The site seems pretty sparse on exactly what is shared, even in the fine print.

    • I haven’t waded through all the fine print, but I don’t see how Rewards Network could see all your spending info based on just providing a credit card number. Chase or Citibank must value your spending information more than that. Providing your cc is mostly to give the Rewards Network credit for “referring” you to any specific restaurant, and thus getting them whatever fee the food joint has to pay to be on that list.

  6. I donate a portion of my miles to charity if it’s about to expire.

    Not only do I get to keep the account active, but I’m also doing a good deed.

    Both United and Delta allow me to do this. Not sure about the others.

  7. A great method used by airlines to reward people who choose to eat at their restaurants or partners. Especially useful for the ones who are travelling a lot. If people are fair enough, they get rewards as much as they can, and after all, they have to eat at a time, why not get something in return? Eventually something very consistent, considering that some restaurants give up to 3000 miles if you eat $30 worth, which is ok. Other airline companies offer tickets to museums, shows, sim cards for the ones travelling to other countries(definitely not talking about low-cost here) And it’s a great way to market them.

  8. I use AA and southwest the majority of the time and have credit cards with each. I don’t worry about expiration of the airline miles because I will always have some sort of transaction on my CC. I don’t participate with dining rewards, I just go to the restaurants I like. Also, the majority of the time, I pay cash when dining. I’ve had my CC number stolen at two restaurants in the last 20 years.

    Jonathan, I checked my Southwest account, you are correct.

  9. Loyal Reader says

    I use the airlines’ shopping mall programs to earn miles. Home Depot and Target are useful options. I can order online and pick up in store, no shipping fee. Roll of duct tape, tube of toothpaste, easy way to earn a few miles.

    Hawaiian Airlines miles expire in 18 months. They have a shopping mall program.

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