How to keep your points and miles from expiring

Jan 23, 2021

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While more and more programmes have been moving away from point expiration, it is still one of the unfortunate pitfalls of the travel rewards game that we love. After all, who wants to let (nearly) free travel go to waste? During such uncertain times for the travel industry, you may be wondering how to keep miles and points from expiring if you’re not planning to fly or stay at a hotel anytime soon.

While some loyalty programmes have extended points validity or even paused expiration during the coronavirus outbreak, others have been remarkably silent on the issue.

Fortunately, there are many ways to keep your accounts active that don’t require hopping on an aeroplane or going on a mattress run. In fact, more often than not, you can reset the expiration date on the various hotel and airline currencies from the comfort of your desk or couch, even during times when we are travelling more than right now.

Even better, some airline and hotel programmes have gotten rid of points expiration completely.

So, if you’re wondering whether or not your miles expire or how to keep them active, you’re in the right place. We’ll show you when the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire and highlight ways to keep them from expiring. We’ll start by looking at coronavirus-related expiration extensions, and then dive into standard points expiration policies for all the major airline and hotel loyalty programmes.

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In This Post

When do points and miles expire?

Loyalty programme currencies normally expire after 1-3 years of inactivity. This means that if you go 12 or 36 months without earning (or in some cases, redeeming) points or miles in some way, you’ll lose any accumulated balance. Some programmes vary from this rule by imposing either more restrictive expiration policies or more lenient ones.

To make this easier, here’s a chart that shows how the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire.

Airline mile expiration

Airline Expiration Term
Aeromexico 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Air Canada (Aeroplan) 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Alaska Airlines 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Alitalia 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
American Airlines 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity

Miles do not expire for members under 21

ANA 36 months from earning, no way to extend
British Airways 36 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles) 36 months from earning, no way to extend
Delta No expiration
Emirates 3 years from earning, no way to extend
Etihad 24 months from earning, no way to extend

18 months from last activity starting July 31, 2020

Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Frontier Airlines 180 days from last activity, can extend with activity
Hawaiian Airlines 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Iberia 36 months from last activity, can extend with activity
JAL 36 months from earning, no way to extend
JetBlue No expiration
Korean Air 10 years from earning, no way to extend
Lufthansa (Miles & More) 36 months from earning, no option to extend. No expiration if you’ve held a Lufthansa co-branded credit card for three or more months and make at least one purchase per month. Expiration is also waived if you have Lufthansa elite status.
Qantas 18 months with no activity, can extend with activity
Qatar Airways 36 months from earning, can extend by paying a fee
Singapore Airlines 36 months from earning, no way to extend
Southwest No expiration
United Airlines No expiration
Virgin Atlantic No expiration

As you can see, these policies are all over the map. Some programmes count any activity as eligible to extend the expiration date, while others don’t allow any extensions no matter what. The winners here? Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest Rapid Rewards and United Airlines. These programmes make it easy not to worry about losing your account balances due to a pause in travel.

Hotel points expiration

Hotel Programme Expiration Term
Accor Live Limitless No expiration with activity once per year
Best Western Rewards No expiration
Choice Privileges 18 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Hilton 12 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Hyatt 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
IHG Rewards Club 12 months from last activity; can extend with activity. No expiration for elite members.
Marriott Bonvoy 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity. No expiration for Lifetime Elite members.
Radisson Rewards 24 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Wyndham Rewards 18 months with no activity and 4 years overall

Like airlines, there’s a wide range of policies, ranging from completely flexible (Best Western points never expire) to more restrictive. However, all of these programmes at least allow you to extend the validity period of your points with activity, unlike some of the airline programmes discussed above.

Airlines and hotels that have extended points validity due to coronavirus

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on the travel industry. Many major airlines have cut capacity due to decreased demand and travel restrictions, and hotels have seen dwindling occupancy rates. Many people won’t travel for the foreseeable future, meaning that points and miles may be left to expire.

Airlines and hotels know this, though, and some have opted to delay or pause points expiration during this time of travel uncertainty. Here’s a look at all of the airline and hotel programmes that have extended mile and point validity during the coronavirus outbreak.

Do note that we’ve only included programmes that have extended mile and point validity for all customers worldwide. Some companies have extended points on a region-by-region basis and are not shown here.

Airline mile extensions

Here’s an overview of the airlines that have formally announced extensions to expiration dates for their respective currencies:

Airline Eligible miles to be extended Expiration extended to or expiration paused until
Aeroplan All Miles are now valid for 18 months from the last activity; expired miles can be reinstated by flying with Air Canada or opening a cobranded Aeroplan credit card within six months of expiration.

Further, expired Aeroplan miles will be reinstated for free if you purchased a flight set to depart January 2020 or later and had to cancel.

American Airlines All Expiration paused until 30 June 2021
ANA Miles set to expire between 31 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 Expiration extended until 30 September 2021
Avianca LifeMiles All Expiration paused until 31 July 2021
Emirates Miles set to expire in 2020 Expiration extended until 31 March 2021
Flying Blue All Expiration paused until the end of 2021
Frontier Airlines Miles expiring 1 March 2020, or later Expiration paused until further notice
Hawaiian Airlines N/A Miles will expire after 18 months of inactivity
JAL Miles set to expire between 1 January and 31 March 2021 Miles expiration extended until 31 January 2022
Korean Airlines Miles set to expire by the end of 2021 Expiration extended to the end of 2022
Singapore Airlines Miles set to expire between 1 January and 30 June 2021 (including previously extended miles) Expiration extended by six months

Hotel point extensions

Further, most of the major hotel companies are extending expiration dates for their loyalty points. Here’s an overview

Hotel Expiration extended to or expiration paused until
Accor Live Limitless Expiration paused until 15 December 2020 for Classic members and 30 April 2021 for Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond elite members
Choice Privileges Expiration paused for elite members until 31 December 2020
Hilton Honors Expiration paused until 31 December 2020
World of Hyatt Expiration paused until 30 June 2021
IHG Rewards Club Expiration paused until 30 June 2020
Marriott Bonvoy Expiration paused until 1 August 2021
Radisson Rewards Points set to expire between 1 March 2020, and 30 December 2021, now expire on 31 December 2021
Wyndham Rewards Expiration paused until 30 June 2021

Again, these are only temporary adjustments in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Unless more changes are announced at a future date, your points or miles may still expire when the extensions are up.

How to keep your miles and points from expiring

Keep your miles active so you can redeem for more business class seats!
Keep your miles active so you can redeem for more business class seats in the future! (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Now you know when your points and miles expire, but how do you go about keeping them active? Luckily, there are several ways to do this. Here’s a list of the easiest — though feel free to tell us your preferred method of keeping your accounts active.

Try to perform these tasks at least a couple of months before your points or miles are set to expire to provide adequate time for the activity to post to your account. And be sure to pay close attention to the policies above too; some programmes (including Emirates Skywards and Singapore KrisFlyer) don’t allow extensions of any sort.

Open a credit card

Some airlines and hotel chains waive mileage expiration for those holding their cobranded travel credit cards. However, not all cobranded cards offer this benefit. It’s worth checking with the programme of your choice if the cobranded card will help in this regard.

Join the dining rewards network

Many airlines and hotel chains have their own dining programmes through the Dining Rewards Network. In short, you link any credit card in your wallet to the corresponding dining programme, and you’re awarded airline miles or hotel points when you dine at over 10,000 participating restaurants. You can keep your account active by signing up for the loyalty programme’s dining programme and going out for a meal at a partner restaurant. In some cases, you can just buy a cup of coffee!

And don’t worry: most of the time, you’ll still earn these points if you order for take-out too. Just make sure that you pay directly at the restaurant and not through a third-party app like Uber Eats or Grubhub. Using these tools may make you ineligible for the bonus points.

We’ve found that the points usually post within a week or so of purchase. Just be aware that you can’t double- or triple-dip with the same card at multiple programmes. You can belong to more than one dining rewards programme, but if you enrol the same card in multiple programmes, it will only award points to the most recent programme you linked to.

Shop through the programme’s shopping portal

Young woman shopping online in cafe with laptop. (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)
If your points or miles are set to expire, consider purchasing through an online shopping portal. (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

This may be the easiest option for most people: just shop through the loyalty programme’s shopping portal. Most major hotel chains and airlines have a site where you earn miles by starting there and then clicking through to a participating merchant before making an online purchase. Any purchase will keep your miles active — even something as inexpensive as a music download or movie rental. Just note that many vendors exclude gift card purchases, though I’ve read reports of these transactions still resulting in points or miles.

We recommend using a shopping portal on all your online purchases. It’s an easy way to rack up points on most airline programmes, giving you an easy way to stock up on miles and points for the holiday you’re daydreaming about.

Transfer miles from a credit card or hotel programme

Transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards will generally keep your miles active, too. Since any amount of miles will generally reset the expiration clock, you should transfer the minimum amount possible, though most programmes require at least 1,000 points when transferring to partners.

Don’t have a transferable points credit card? You should consider changing that fact now; these programmes provide incredible flexibility as you can transfer points to several different airlines and hotels. And in a time when airlines are on unstable financial ground, it’s advisable to diversify your points and miles as much as possible.

Further, you can also transfer points from most hotel programmes to keep your airline miles active. Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, Wyndham Rewards and others allow transfers to several airline partners. Even though many of these programmes have less-than-favourable exchange rates, they could be a good option if you need to save your miles in a pinch.

Donate to charity

One of the easiest ways to keep your points and miles active is by donating them to charity. American, United and many others offer donation programmes, and generally speaking, the minimum amount you can donate is 1,000. The points or miles are typically debited from your account immediately, extending the expiration date of your remaining account balance the second you hit the confirm button. This is perfect if your miles are expiring in the coming weeks, and you’re giving to a good cause at the same time!

Take a flight or complete a stay

We know that this option may be far out for most of us — after all, it’s not advisable to travel until the coronavirus outbreak is contained and travel is allowed. But for when it’s safe to travel again, you can keep your points and miles active by taking a flight on the applicable airline (or one of its partners) or by completing a stay with the hotel chain in question.

For most airlines and hotel programmes, earning and redeeming are considered eligible activities for keeping your account active. Do note that paid flights and hotel stays usually don’t reset your points expiration date until after the applicable points and miles post to your account (generally a few days after flying or checking out).

Bonus: Keep American miles from expiring by commenting on the AwardWallet Blog

A free way to keep your American Airlines miles from expiring is by commenting on a post on the AwardWallet blog. All you need to do is link your AAdvantage account to your AwardWallet account and use that AwardWallet account when commenting on a post on their blog. Each comment earns five American Airlines miles, and you can earn up to five per day. Just be aware that these miles take five days or more to post to your account, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Speaking of AwardWallet, this is one of our favourite methods to track the expiration dates of points and miles in many programmes, so if you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend signing up for an account and linking your various loyalty numbers.

Once you sign up,  you can view all of your points balances, status levels, expiration dates and more in one simple dashboard. This can be incredibly helpful if you’re not actively checking airline account balances during these times of travel uncertainty.

How to reinstate expired points

Of course, all of the above suggestions apply to those of you who are proactively trying to keep your account balances active. But what happens if your points or miles have already expired? This may seem like a “too bad, so sad” situation, but all hope may not be lost. A handful of airlines and hotel chains allow you to reinstate your points and miles, typically with a fee. Here’s a list of some of the most popular:

  1. Alaska: You can reinstate expired miles for a $75 fee up to one year after expiration.
  2. American: You can reinstate miles expired after 2002 for a fee that varies from $40 to $2,000, depending on the number of miles that expired.
  3. British Airways: While not a published policy, you may be able to reinstate your Avios by calling customer service.

It’s worth noting that Hilton Honors added the ability to reinstate expired points back in 2017. However, based on the programme’s current terms and conditions, it appears that this is no longer an option.

Don’t see your airline or hotel listed? Try calling the airline or hotel programme. If your points recently expired or you get a really friendly agent, there’s a chance you could get your miles reinstated for free. Make sure to ask politely and — if possible — call when phone lines aren’t busy assisting customers that need ticket changes and cancellations.

Whether incurring this out-of-pocket expense makes sense depends on the value of the points or miles you’ve lost, but for large balances in these programmes, it could very well be worth it!

Bottom line

Knowing both when your miles and points expire and how to keep them active is essential — especially if you’re not sure of the next time you plan to travel. While most airline and hotel programmes differ in their expiration policies, your account balances in almost all programmes will be at risk without some qualifying activity in a defined period.

Bookmark this page and refer to it whenever you’re questioning when your miles expire or wondering the best ways to keep them active. We’ll keep it updated with mileage extension news and more. Finally, remember: Saving your expiring miles could mean the difference between flying economy or business class on your next holiday!

Featured photo by fizkes/Shutterstock

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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