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Can My Points or Miles Expire? What You Need to Know

Every loyalty program has a different policy for points and miles expiration, so be informed.

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Can My Points or Miles Expire? What You Need to Know
Every loyalty program has a different policy for points and miles expiration, so be informed.
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My folks asked me to update their miles and points spreadsheet last week, and they certainly weren’t happy with the results. Much to their chagrin, they had zero balances in a number of programs where they once held tens of thousands of hard-earned miles and points. They clearly hadn’t spent the miles and points, so what happened?

Simply put, the miles and points had expired—and, in many cases, rather quickly. What they had not realized is that every loyalty program has a different policy for points and miles expiration.

My folks learned the hard way, but you don’t have to. Here’s the essential information you need to know to keep your points and miles balances from expiring.

Credit card points do not expire

As long as your account is open, active, and in good standing, your points earned from the core credit cards featured on CreditCardPro do not expire. The following points have no official expiration date: American Express’ Membership Rewards®, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards®, LUXURY card points, and U.S. Bank reward points. For Citi Prestige® Card cardholders, Citibank’s ThankYou points do not expire. (However, some of Citibank’s lower-tier credit cards’ points do expire after a period of time.)

Credit card points may not expire, but most airline miles and hotel points will due to nonactivity

Miles in many frequent flyer and hotel programs will expire when there’s no activity for a period of time. Activity can be as simple as the addition or subtraction of a single point, but a transaction must post. (Pro Tip: The easiest way to keep your miles from expiring is to order a magazine subscription with miles, which will count as valid activity.) If you don’t have activity within the programs’ specified time period, your balance will reset to zero.

You’ll need activity once every:
• 12 months to keep your miles and points from expiring with Air Canada Aeroplan, HHilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).
• 18 months to keep your miles and points from expiring with American AAdvantage, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas Frequent Flyer, and United MileagePlus (and 20 months with Air France/KLM FlyingBlue).
• 24 months to keep your miles and points from expiring with Aeromexico Club Premier, Alaska MileagePlan, Alitalia, Avianca LifeMiles, Club Carlson, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, and Southwest Rapid Rewards.
• 36 months to keep your miles and points from expiring with British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

Points in two airline loyalty programs do not expire

Unlike its peers requiring activity within a specific time period, Delta SkyMiles and JetBlue TrueBlue points will not expire (as long as the programs are still in existence, of course).

Points in some airline and hotel loyalty programs expire even with activity

Regardless of account activity, miles in some programs will expire completely in 36 months. Be sure to use your points within three years in the following programs to avoid disappointment: ANA Mileage Club, Emirates Skywards, Lufthansa Miles & More, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. On the hotel side, Wyndham Rewards expire four years after they are deposited.

So what’s the best strategy to avoid points and mileage expiration?

Follow a few simple rules, and you’ll keep your points and miles as long as possible:
• Don’t transfer your credit card points to airline and hotel partners until you are ready to book an award.
• Don’t horde points and miles. They don’t collect interest and in many cases have devalued over time. Don’t be afraid to spend them!
• Check the current balances of your points and mileage accounts and mark the mileage expiration dates on your calendar (which will be clearly stated in your points summary). To avoid expiration, make a small transaction like using an airline or hotel’s shopping portal or order magazines with miles.

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 125 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, Private Clubs, and Robb Report.