How to stop your points and miles from expiring

Mar 29, 2020

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Rewards points and miles can be thought of as a virtual currency — you earn them and then redeem them for something of value like a flight, upgrade or a gift voucher. But unlike traditional currencies, most loyalty points or miles expire after a specified period of time if they go unused. Issuing points is an accounting cost to any programme, so if you choose not to use your points, most programmes will want to ensure your points or miles eventually come off their balance sheet.

Fortunately, most programmes have both long expiry dates on their points or miles, frequent warnings if you are close to the expiration date and easy ways to extend that date. So if you aren’t planning any immediate travel, you still have options.

Let’s look at the two most-popular loyalty programmes in the UK, and how to make sure your points or miles don’t expire.

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First things first — timing wise, for both programmes, you should be given plenty of notice regarding any upcoming expiry. As well as the expiry date being listed in your account, you should be notified by email if the date is approaching soon, so you can take the below steps to ensure the expiry is delayed.

A few passengers walk around the near-deserted departure area at Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London on September 9, 2019, as the airline
(Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

British Airways Avios

Avios in your British Airways account will expire after three years of inactivity, meaning if you don’t earn or redeem any for 36 months they will be taken away from you forever. The best way to ensure every mile never expires is to redeem them all, but it may not be practical to redeem your entire balance at short notice, especially if you have no immediate travel plans.

Fortunately, it is very easy and quick to register some minimal earning or redeeming activity. You could book a flight using Avios, such as a popular Reward Flight Saver, or book an upgrade with Avios. Even if your travel date is after the date the Avios are set to expire, provided you make the booking (using the Avios) before the expiry date, they will be extended for another 36 months.

If you don’t want to redeem the Avios to stop them from expiring (as you may, for example, be saving every last one for a big aspirational redemption), you may be looking for the quickest, cheapest way to earn at least one Avios in order to extend the expiry.

Related: Should you save your points and miles, or redeem them as quickly as possible?

A no-cost way to do so is to credit a flight to the programme, either operated by British Airways or one of its partner airlines. While BA flights will usually credit very quickly after the flight (assuming your Executive Club number was listed on the booking), partner airlines and retroactive claims can take far longer. So if your Avios expire in a week and your flight is tomorrow, this isn’t a fool-proof way to stop the expiry.

Similarly, spending through a hotel partner platform, on a British Airways cobranded credit card or on the eStore can also take many weeks to credit the Avios — not ideal if you are panicking because they are expiring soon.

If you absolutely need to earn Avios immediately, without worrying about how long it will take, you may wish to consider purchasing (or someone else gifting to your account) a small amount of Avios. You can buy as few as 1,000 Avios for £31 directly from the British Airways website. The Avios will credit to your account as earning activity immediately and reset the expiration clock. While paying 3.1p per Avios is well below TPG U.K.’s current valuation of Avios, it makes sense to ‘invest’ £31 in 1,000 Avios if that is the only way to stop, say 100,000 Avios from expiring.

Related: Can I transfer my points and miles to someone else?

Image courtesy of British Airways
(Photo courtesy of British Airways)

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Flying Club has the same expiry conditions as Executive Club — your points will expire after 36 months of inactivity.

You can still purchase a small amount of Flying Club miles in the same way you can purchase Avios, however, the pricing structure works differently. Flying Club miles are a much cheaper £15 per 1,000 miles to purchase, however, there is a pesky £15 processing fee for each transaction. So, to purchase 1,000 miles to immediately reset your expiry date will cost £30 (3p per mile), however, if you purchase, say 5,000 miles, this price is £90, which reduces the price down to a much more reasonable 1.8p per Flying Club mile.

There are also frequent bonuses available on purchased miles, which can reduce the price even further — just remember exactly when your expiry date is if you are waiting for the next bonus offer.

So if you are purchasing a small amount of Flying Club miles purely to keep your existing balance active, have a look at the different value proposition of buying a slightly higher quantity.

If you have any Membership Rewards points from American Express U.K., you could also transfer these points to Flying Club or Avios and this will count as ‘earn’ activity to reset the expiration date.

Photo by James Oates/speedbirduk
Photo by James Oates/speedbirduk

Bottom line

No one wants to lose their valuable miles and points, even if they have no immediate travel plans. You should be given plenty of warning if they are about to expire, and even if you can’t redeem them at the last minute, there are various easy options to keep your balance alive.

Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy

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