Most airline loyalty programs require you to have some kind of account activity every 12-24 months or else you’ll lose your miles. I’ll provide a more thorough breakdown of your options in a future post, but I want to call out what I think may be one of the cheapest options available for redeeming miles to maintain account activity. It happens to be with United Airlines’ MileagePlus program.
Redemption options are important because keeping accounts active by earning miles requires some foresight. I’m not always good about that. Case-in-point: I just remembered my mother has about 35,000 United miles that will expire next month, but she has no United credit card, no transferrable points, and doesn’t fly much. Other than buying miles (expensive), her options are slim. And if I tried to help out with some other kind of action to earn miles — like answering a survey — there’s a risk they won’t post until after the expiration date.
Redeeming 500 to 2,000 miles for a magazine is usually a safe bet with most airline programs. You could also donate miles to charity. In this case I took advantage of United’s Digital Media Store.
Most albums are over 1,000 miles. Most individual tracks are over 100 miles. But if you look around, you can find some that are even less. Louis Armstrong’s “Gone Fishin'” was only 85 miles. Buying it through my mom’s account meant that her miles’ expiration date was reset for another 18 months.
I call this out because I met a reader earlier this week who had spend a couple thousand miles on a magazine subscription that he probably isn’t going to read. I probably won’t listen much to this song, either, but it seems a better choice if you’re just looking to spend as little as possible to keep your United miles active.