Grounded? How to Use Airline Miles When You Can’t Travel

Before the unprecedented cutoff of travel in mid-2020, none of us thought much about the cache of airline miles sitting in our accounts. There was always “next time,” or upcoming travel plans to re-allocate funds to. Now, you probably think a lot more often about how to use airline miles when you can’t travel.

When you create a loyalty program account with a specific airline, you begin to rack up flyer miles every time you book a trip. These intangible products are extremely valuable, and can even be helpful when you know how to use them.

Many people have chosen to travel during the pandemic by renting or buying an RV. Learn more about RV travel here!

Do Airline Miles Expire When You Don’t Travel?

The short answer is that, yes, your airline miles eventually expire. Unfortunately, some airlines don’t hold flyer points indefinitely. Most are good for 24 months but will expire when there is no activity. If you’ve followed the pandemic travel restrictions, you should look into your miles and do something with them.

Not sure how many miles you’ve accumulated? You can easily check the balance through the loyalty program you signed up for with your most frequently used airline.

You can also collect miles using an airline travel card. This is one of the more universal ways to collect miles. The reason is that—depending on the program—the points are tied to a card instead of a loyalty program and sometimes you can use them with other airlines or trips.

You’ll need to check the rules for travel credit cards when it comes to expiration. Some programs don’t let rewards expire at all, while some have the same rules as the loyalty program points.

The travel card is a useful resource we’ll cover more about further down in this article.

How to Use Airline Miles When You Can’t Travel 

Luckily, there are a few good ways for how to use airline miles when you can’t travel. We’ve put together a guide for those of you in need of airline mile guidance. Keep reading below to find out how you can take control of your miles.

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1. Donate Your Miles to Charity

If you’re feeling generous for the holidays, and you don’t need the points, you can easily donate them to charity. There are many people, especially those who have had a traumatic event like a hurricane or fire happen to them. These individuals often need to take a flight to family or safety but can’t afford it (you can even help them plan their trip with flight packages).

Instead of using your own flyers points to buy flights, you can donate your miles to help someone else book an affordable flight out. Not only will your points be used, but they’ll be for a good cause.

2. Magazine Subscriptions

Want to know an unconventional way for how to use airline miles when you can’t travel? It may seem a little disappointing to trade in frequent flyer miles for something that’s— well—not travel. So, we understand if a magazine subscription seems a little underwhelming. However, it’s still a better option than letting the points expire completely.

There are many types of magazine subscriptions you could opt for. And you can even look at it as helping the publishing industry stay alive a little longer. Subscribe to travel magazines and use them to plan your next trip once it’s safe to do so again!

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3. Credit Card Use

As promised, we’re talking about travel cards and how they can help you know how to use airline miles when you can’t travel. The simplest way you can use them is by using the points on airline and reward sites.

In this way, the best option is to purchase gift cards. The points convert to money and you can either use the gift cards for yourself, or you can give them as gifts for birthdays or Christmas. And, in some cases, you can even find interesting merchandise for which to trade.

On the other hand, you can also have your points converted into “cash” on your travel credit card and you can use that for any purchase you want.

More Rewards Advice 

Frequent flyer miles are definitely more rewarding when you can actually go places with them. But we hope that learning how to use airline miles has given you some ideas to at least make sure they don’t go to waste. Make sure you book a hotel next time you decide to travel!

As you can see, having a travel credit card seems to be the most rewarding way to collect flyer miles, even when travel comes to a halt. Want more ways to accumulate rewards? Check out these credit cards with the best reward programs! That way, you can take advantage of how to use airline miles when you can’t travel.







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