This page was originally published in late 2023 and these policies were confirmed accurate as of the publish date. Individual card details have since been updated.

Key takeaways

  • While most credit card rewards programs have points that never expire, hotel and airline rewards tend to expire after 12 to 36 months.
  • There are other ways to lose your credit card rewards outside of standard expiration, including account inactivity, becoming delinquent on your account and returning a purchase.
  • To keep your rewards from expiring, consider tips like transferring your rewards or earning elite status that waives rewards expiration, if you're able.

Many credit cards come with a major incentive to keep swiping: their lucrative rewards programs. These programs come from many different types of rewards credit cards, so it’s easy to find one that works for your spending habits. If you spend heavily on travel, gas, dining or groceries, you might consider a bonus category card with a rewards structure that suits your lifestyle. Or, you can look into flat-rate cash back cards that offer the same rewards rate on all your spending.

Still, all credit cards and their rewards programs come with fine print that requires your attention — which typically includes whether or not your rewards will expire. Most credit card rewards programs allow you to keep your rewards indefinitely. As long as you hold up your end of the credit card agreement and pay your bill on time every month, you shouldn’t lose any rewards.

However, credit cards that are co-branded with airlines or hotels don’t usually follow the policies of the card issuer. Instead, those cards earn hotel or airline rewards, so they abide by those hotel or airline loyalty programs’ rules. Most hotel and airline loyalty programs have expiration dates for rewards, which typically occur after one to three years of account inactivity. Of course, some airline or hotel rewards never expire.

There are many ways to keep your hard-earned credit card, hotel and airline rewards from expiring. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about which loyalty programs allow rewards to expire, how to keep your rewards from expiring, what to do if you lose your rewards and more.

Do credit card rewards expire?

Rewards don’t expire for most major credit card issuers — with the exception of Citi. This table will show which credit card rewards programs generally expire and when. However, you should still read your cardmember agreement and your card’s terms and conditions to understand the specifics for your individual card.

Credit card rewards program Do rewards expire? When will rewards expire?
American Express Membership Rewards No N/A
Bank of America travel rewards (and cash rewards) No N/A
Capital One miles (and cash rewards) No N/A
Chase Ultimate Rewards No N/A
Citi ThankYou Points Yes — rewards may expire depending on the card. ThankYou points received directly from the ThankYou Rewards program will expire 3 years from when they were awarded, unless otherwise noted. Shared ThankYou points will expire after 90 days. If terminated by Citi with 30 days of written notice, rewards expire in 90 days.
Discover rewards and miles No N/A
Wells Fargo Rewards No N/A

Do airline rewards expire?

Airline rewards typically expire after 36 months of inactivity. Yet several programs have adopted a more generous no-expiration policy. While this can provide members with peace of mind, it can also lead to rewards devaluations. Loyalty rewards are like any other currency: When there are too many in circulation, it can lead to inflation. In the loyalty program world, inflation is combated with program devaluations.

Understanding how each airline program’s rewards expiration policy works is key to getting as much value out of your rewards as possible.

Airline rewards program Do rewards expire? When will rewards expire?
Air Canada Aeroplan Yes
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan No
  • Rewards don’t expire, but Mileage Plan accounts that are inactive for 2 years or more will be deactivated and must be reactivated to reinstate miles (see terms)
American Airlines AAdvantage Yes (exceptions apply)
  • After 24 months of inactivity
  • Members under 21 and primary AAdvantage credit card members are exempt from policy (see terms)
ANA Mileage Club Yes
  • After 36 months after earning for Group 1 members
  • Varies depending on campaign for Groups 2 through 4 (see terms)
British Airways Executive Club (Avios) Yes
Cathay Pacific Yes
Delta SkyMiles No
  • Miles do not expire, but account deactivation (due to inactivity, violation of terms, or death) could result in loss of miles (see terms)
Emirates Skywards Yes (exceptions apply)
  • After 3 years from earning
  • Standard or adjusted expiration dates may apply
  • Extension or reinstatement of miles for up to 12 months is possible
  • Platinum members miles typically do not expire as long as you retain status (see terms)
Etihad Guest Yes
Air France/KLM Flying Blue Yes
Frontier Miles Yes
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles No
Iberia Plus (Avios) Yes
JetBlue TrueBlue No
Qantas Frequent Flyer Yes
Qatar Airways Privilege Club (Avios) Yes (exceptions apply)
  • After 36 months of inactivity
  • Platinum members’ miles do not expire as long as they retain status (see terms)
Singapore KrisFlyer Yes (exceptions apply)
  • After 3 years from earning or 1 year from earning if won in a contest
  • Miles do not expire for PPS Club members
  • Miles set to expire can be extended for either 6 months or 1 year by paying a fee (see terms)
Southwest Rapid Rewards No
United MileagePlus No
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club No

Do hotel rewards expire?

Most hotel rewards expire after 12 to 24 months of inactivity, which is a shorter time frame than most airline rewards’ expiration dates. Keep a closer eye on hotel rewards, especially if you don’t have a hotel credit card you can use to keep your account active.

Hotel loyalty program Do rewards expire? When will rewards expire?
Best Western Rewards No
Choice Privileges Yes
Hilton Honors Yes
IHG One Rewards Yes (exceptions apply)
  • After 12 months of inactivity for Club members
  • Rewards don’t expire for Elite status members and eligible credit card holders (see terms)
Marriott Bonvoy Yes
Radisson Rewards Americas Yes
World of Hyatt Yes (exceptions apply)
  • After 24 months of inactivity in most cases
  • Tier expiration dates may vary (see terms)
Wyndham Rewards Yes
  • After 18 months of inactivity or 4 years after the checkout date of an eligible hotel stay (see terms)

Other ways you may lose your rewards

While rewards for most issuer credit card loyalty programs don’t expire, there are other ways you may lose your rewards. This can happen due to:

  • Account inactivity. If you stop using your credit card or program account for an extended period of time, your account may be closed. The period of time before closure varies depending on the card issuer or program. If your card is closed due to inactivity, you may be able to collect your rewards if your issuer allows for a grace period. Grace periods typically range anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Some programs allow you to reactivate your account and reinstate your rewards, so it’s worth it to ask.
  • Returning purchases made with a credit card. If you return a purchase that earned you rewards, your card issuer will likely take back the rewards earned on that purchase. If you need to return an item but want to keep the rewards you earned, see if you can exchange the item or receive store credit.
  • Closing your account. If you choose to close your credit card or rewards program account, try to use or transfer your rewards before you do so. If that isn’t possible, you may have a grace period after closing the account to use your rewards, though some programs terminate your rewards immediately.
  • Falling out of good standing. Most issuers and rewards programs require that your account be in good standing in order to keep your rewards. You must follow the rules of the program to maintain your rewards, as well. If you become delinquent on your account, your rewards may be taken away or you may not have access to them until the account is current.
  • Rewards program cancellation. If a rewards program is canceled, your rewards will disappear with it. However, you may get a grace period for using your rewards after a program has been canceled. You may also be able to transfer rewards to another loyalty program or redeem credit card rewards for a statement credit.
  • Death. If the cardholder connected to the account dies, that account may lose its rewards unless the executor of the estate makes contact with the credit card issuer or loyalty program and can show proof of death. In general, rewards are meant for the person who earned them, and transferring them to someone else after death can get complicated.

These situations typically apply to airline and hotel loyalty programs, too. Carefully read your credit card or rewards program’s terms and conditions for more information.

How to keep rewards from expiring

If you are a part of a credit card, hotel or airline rewards program where your rewards expire, you have a few options for keeping them longer. You can start by making sure to:

  • Keep your account active. The easiest way to keep your rewards from expiring is to keep earning and redeeming them. These two activities will keep your accounts active and ensure you don’t lose your hard-earned rewards.
  • Choose a credit card with flexible, transferable rewards. If you can’t commit to a co-branded credit card, opt for a credit card that earns flexible rewards instead. With programs like American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer the rewards you earn to an airline or hotel loyalty account to keep those rewards from expiring. The transferred rewards then fall under the policy of the new loyalty program, thus extending their shelf life.
  • Get a credit card or earn elite status that waives rewards expiration policies. Some rewards programs waive rewards expiration policies for eligible credit card holders. For example, the IHG One Rewards program waives points expiration for Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Elite members as long as an Elite status is maintained. You can also avoid losing your rewards if you have an eligible credit card in this program, like the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card*, which comes with Platinum Elite status.
  • Redeem airline rewards for cheap, non-travel redemptions. Redeeming airline rewards for travel gives you the best value and keeps your account active. But if you’re trying to keep your airline rewards from expiring, then redeeming them for cheaper non-travel rewards — like magazines or digital purchases — could make sense.
  • Transfer rewards to someone else. You can often keep your rewards from expiring by transferring them to someone else. However, it’s important to note that some programs charge you a fee for rewards transfers.
  • Make purchases through a shopping portal. Using a shopping portal is something you should do regardless of whether you have rewards expiring, because it’s easy and rewarding. You can use the shopping portal of your issuer, airline or hotel to search for items or brands you’re interested in, then make purchases that earn rewards.
  • Use dining rewards programs. Dining rewards programs are a great way to keep earning rewards without thinking about it. Most major airline and hotel programs have an affiliated dining rewards program, and many issuers have a dining program, too. Join a program and earn rewards any time you make an eligible purchase at a participating restaurant. These rewards are in addition to the ones you earn from your credit card.
  • Donate rewards to charity. If your rewards are about to expire, donating them to charity is a good way to ensure they don’t go to waste. You’ll donate them to a good cause and feel better knowing at least someone got to use them. Sometimes, donating a small number of rewards can also help you keep your remaining balance active.

Can you reinstate expired rewards?

If you’ve slipped up and let your rewards expire, all is not lost. Some loyalty programs allow you to reinstate expired rewards, usually for a fee. Loyalty programs that allow this include:

  • American Express Membership Rewards. There are certain situations in which you may lose your points and are able to get them reinstated. For example, if you make a late payment, you may lose the points you earned during that billing period. After you pay at least the minimum amount due, you can request your points to be reinstated for a $35 fee. You can only request lost points from the past 12 months. See Amex’s terms and conditions for more information.
  • Alaska Mileage Plan. If your account has been inactive for two or more years, it will be locked. Contact customer service to reactivate your account and reinstate miles.
  • American AAdvantage. You can make one transaction to reactivate miles that have expired within the past 24 months on up to 500,000 miles). See additional terms that may apply.
  • Emirates Skywards. You can reactivate miles from the past 6 months for a fee of $20 per 1,000 miles, and you can reinstate up to 50,000 miles per year. Always do the math to see if the value of the miles is worth the fee for you.
  • Frontier Miles. You can reinstate expired miles for a fee.

The bottom line

While most credit card rewards don’t expire, most airline and hotel rewards expire after a specific period of inactivity. Only a few rewards currencies don’t expire at all. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a rewards credit card that you feel comfortable tracking closely and then acquire rewards with a specific goal in mind. This will help give you a time frame for using the rewards you earn and ensure you’re putting them toward something you really want.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about rewards points

  • No. American Express Membership Rewards do not expire as long as your account is active and in good standing.
  • No. Chase Ultimate Rewards points do not expire provided you keep your credit card open and in good standing.
  • Yes. Airline miles expire if your account has been inactive for 12 to 36 months, depending on the program. Earning or redeeming miles is usually the easiest way to keep your account active.
  • Yes. Points earned through hotel loyalty programs usually expire after 12 to 24 months of inactivity. Read your loyalty program’s terms and conditions for specific rules.
  • Yes, some credit card and loyalty programs allow you to reinstate expired points and miles. Reinstatement fees and other specific terms and conditions typically apply.

*Information about the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.