How to Keep Your Points and Miles From Expiring
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Expiring points and miles are an unfortunate reality of the travel rewards game that we love. After all, who wants to let (nearly) free travel go to waste? Fortunately there are many ways to keep your accounts active that don’t require hopping on an airplane or taking 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. In this article, we’ll show you when the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire and highlight ways to keep them from expiring.
When Do Popular Points and Miles Expire?
Most loyalty program currencies expire after a certain period of inactivity, most commonly two or three years. This means that if you go 24 or 36 months without earning (or in some cases, redeeming) points or miles in some way, you’ll lose any accumulated balance. That being said, some programs vary from this rule by imposing either more restrictive expiration policies or more lenient ones. To hep make this easier, below you’ll find a chart that shows how the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire.
Airline Mile Expiration
|Aeromexico||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Air Canada (Aeroplan)||12 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|
|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|
|Emirates||3 years from earning, no way to extend|
|Etihad||24 months from earning, no way to extend|
|Flying Blue: Air France/KLM||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Hawaiian Airlines||18 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Iberia||36 months from last activity (not including this year’s 90,000 Avios promotion), can extend with activity|
|JAL||36 months from earning, no way to extend|
|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 have a co-branded credit card or elite status.|
|Qantas||18 months with no activity, can extend with activity|
|Singapore Airlines||36 months from earning, no way to extend|
|Southwest||24 months with no activity, can extend with activity|
|United Airlines||18 months with no activity, can extend with activity|
|Virgin Atlantic||36 months with no activity, can extend with activity|
As you can see, these policies are all over the map. Some programs count any activity as eligible to extend the expiration date, while others don’t allow any extensions. The winners here? Delta SkyMiles and JetBlue TrueBlue. Both programs removed their expiration policies within the last several years, so you don’t need to worry about losing your account balances in either one.
Hotel Points Expiration
|Hotel Program||Expiration Term|
|Best Western Rewards||No expiration|
|Choice Privileges||18 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Club Carlson||24 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||12 months from last activity; can extend with activity. No expiration for elite members.|
|Le Club Accorhotels||No expiration with activity once per year|
|Marriott/Ritz-Carlton/Starwood||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity. No expiration for Lifetime Elite members.|
|Wyndham Rewards||18 months with no activity, and 4 years overall|
Here again there’s a wide range of policies, ranging from completely flexible (Best Western points never expire) to more restrictive. However, all of these programs at least allow you to extend the validity period of your points with activity, unlike some of the airline programs discussed above.
How To Keep Your Miles And Points Active
So, now you know when your points and miles expire, but how do you keep them active? Luckily, there are several ways to do this. Here’s a list of the easiest — but feel free to tell us your preferred method of keeping your accounts active in the comments. If possible, 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; some programs (including Emirates Skywards and Singapore KrisFlyer) don’t allow extensions of any sort.
Take a Flight or Complete a Stay
The traditional way to keep your points and miles active is by taking a flight on applicable airline (or one of its partners) or by completing a stay with the hotel chain in question. While this isn’t practical for everyone, if you have travel coming up, it’s an easy way to kill two birds with one stone; you get to your destination and extend the validity period of your points or miles. For most airlines and hotel programs, you can book a paid flight/room or book an award ticket/stay to keep your accounts active, because both earning and redeeming are considered activity for the majority of programs. Just note that paid flights or hotel stays generally don’t count until after the applicable points and miles post to your account (generally 2-3 days after flying or checking out).
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 point donation programs, 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 next day or two, and you’re giving to a good cause at the same time!
Open a Credit Card
Some airlines and hotel chains waive mileage expiration for those holding their cobranded credit cards. One example of this is United Airlines: if you have a United Explorer Card or United MileagePlus Club Card, your miles never expire while your United credit card is open and in good standing. This also could be due to the automatic elite status the card confers; the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, for example, provides automatic IHG Platinum status, and one of the perks of this tier of elite status is that your points will never expire.
However, not all cobranded cards offer this benefit. For example, the Citi AAdvantage / Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard does not keep your miles active by simply having the card in your wallet. However, a $1 transaction on the card will add a mile to your AAdvantage balance and extend your expiration date at the end of your billing cycle.
Join the Dining Rewards Network
Many airlines and hotel chains have their own dining programs through the Dining Rewards Network. In short, you link any credit card in your wallet to the corresponding dining program, and you’re awarded airline miles or hotel points when you make a purchase at over 10,000 participating restaurants. You can keep your account active by signing up for the loyalty program’s dining program and going out for a meal at a partner restaurant. In some case you can just buy a cup of coffee!
We’ve found that the points usually post within a week of purchase, though be aware that you can’t double- or triple-dip with the same card at multiple programs. However, you could (for example) add the Chase Sapphire Reserve to the Alaska Airlines dining program and then your American Express® Gold Card to the American Airlines dining program. If you ask the waiter at a participating restaurant to split your bill between those two cards, you’ll extend the expiration date of your miles in both those programs.
Make a Purchase Through the Program’s Shopping Portal
This may be the easiest option for most people: just make a purchase through the loyalty program’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.
Transfer Miles From a Credit Card or Hotel Program
Transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards will 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 programs require at least 1,000 points when transferring to partners.
Don’t have a transferable points credit card? First of all, you should consider changing that fact now, as these programs provide incredible flexibility. However, you can also transfer points from most hotel programs to keep your airline miles active. Marriott Rewards, Hilton HHonors, Wyndham Rewards and others allow transfers to several airline partners. Even though many of these programs have less-than-favorable exchange rates, they could be a good option if you need to save your miles in a pinch.
Bonus Option for American: Comment on the AwardWallet Blog
I’m terming this final strategy a “bonus” one since it only applies to a single program. A free way to keep your American Airlines miles active is 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, up to five per day. Just be aware that these miles take 5 days to post to your account, so don’t wait until the last minute!
Speaking of AwardWallet, this is one of our favorite methods to track the expiration dates of points and miles in many programs, so if you haven’t already done so, I’d highly recommend signing up for an account and linking your various loyalty numbers.
What if My Points or Miles Have Expired?
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 depending on the program, all hope may not be lost. A handful of airlines and hotel chains allow you to reinstate your points or miles, typically with a fee. Here’s a list of some of the most popular:
- Alaska: You can reinstate expired miles for a $75 fee up to one year after expiration.
- 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.
- British Airways: While not a published policy, you may be able to reinstate your Avios by calling customer service, though it may take reaching a UK-based agent for the request to be processed.
- United: You can reinstate expired miles by either buying them back or completing a reinstatement challenge by paying a $100 fee and then taking a United flight or opening a United cobranded card within 90 days.
It’s worth noting that Hilton Honors added the ability to reinstate expired points back in 2017, but based on the current terms & conditions of the program, it appears that this is no longer an option.
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 programs, it could very well be worth it!
Knowing both when your miles and points expire and how to keep them active is essential. While most airline and hotel programs differ in their expiration policies, your account balances in almost every one will be at risk without some qualifying activity in a defined period of time. Bookmark this page and refer to it whenever you’re questioning when your miles expire or wondering the best ways to keep them active. Remember: saving your expiring miles could mean the difference between flying economy or business class on your next vacation!
Featured image from John Rowley via Getty Images.
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