The American Express Membership Rewards program is one of the most popular credit card rewards programs out there, closely competing with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. That’s because Amex points are easy to earn and flexible to use.

You can earn points with any eligible American Express card, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card or The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. You’ll earn points on all purchases you make with your card, along with bonus points for select category purchases (which vary depending on the card). Then, you can redeem points for gift cards, statement credits, travel, merchandise, transfers to Amex airline and hotel partners and more.

Before you apply for a card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points, you may be wondering: Do American Express points expire?

Can you lose American Express points?

American Express Membership Rewards points do not have an expiration date, and there are no limitations on how many points you can earn. However, there are certain situations where you may forfeit your points, as outlined in the Membership Rewards program’s terms and conditions:

Your account is canceled

If you cancel an Amex consumer card or checking account and you do not have at least one other eligible, linked Amex card, you will lose all of the points you’ve earned. However, there is one exception to this: If you cancel an Amex corporate card, you may be able to redeem your points for up to 30 days after your account is canceled.

On the other hand, American Express holds the right to cancel your card or checking account for any reason, including inactivity, death, insolvency or bankruptcy. If an account was canceled in error, you will not lose your points. But if your card is canceled due to inactivity, you must use your points within 90 days if you don’t want to forfeit them.

You made a late payment

If you don’t pay at least the minimum amount due on your credit card statement, you will lose all of the Amex points you earned with that Amex card during that billing period. However, it is possible to retrieve points you lose this way. To do this, you must:

  1. Pay any amounts that you owe.
  2. Contact Amex to request your lost points within 12 months after the relevant billing period.
  3. For each account and billing period that you request your lost points, you must pay a $35 fee.

As a best practice—not only to retain your Amex points, but also to keep your credit in good shape and avoid penalty fees—make sure to pay your credit card bills in full and on time.

You misused the Membership Rewards program

If American Express believes you have engaged, or attempted to engage, in “abuse, misuse or gaming in connection with earning or using points,” it may suspend or take away your points or else cancel your account.

You have a negative points balance

You may have a negative points balance if you:

  • Have your points taken away due to misuse
  • Return a purchase and don’t have enough points in your account to cover the points reversal
  • Are incorrectly given a points incentive award and don’t have enough points in your account to cover the points reversal

In these cases, any points that you earn going forward will first be applied to your points balance. Once you achieve a positive balance, you can resume using your points.

Your corporate card is suspended

If your Amex corporate card is suspended for any reason — such as insolvency or bankruptcy — Amex will also suspend your ability to use your Amex points. You will regain access to your points once your suspension is lifted.

Don’t lose your points—what to do before you close an Amex account

If you want to close a credit card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points, you should make sure you have another card that earns points within this program first. That’s because, per American Express’ terms and conditions, you will forfeit your unused American Express points if you close your card account and don’t have another credit card that earns the same type of rewards.

For that reason, many consumers apply for an American Express Membership Rewards card with no annual fee before closing a premium card like the Amex Platinum Card or Amex Gold Card. For example, if you open a no-annual-fee card like the Blue Business Plus Credit Card or Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express first, then you can maintain your points balance after closing your other credit card account.

A final note: Make sure you do not forfeit your American Express Membership Rewards points before you get a chance to use them. According to recent valuations from Bankrate, each point you earn within this program is worth approximately 2.0 cents when redeemed for transfer partner travel, so these points are considerably more valuable than many other rewards currencies you can earn with a credit card.

The bottom line

Although American Express Membership Rewards points do not expire, there are certain situations where you may lose the points you’ve accumulated. Make sure these situations don’t apply to you by paying your bill on time and in full, keeping your account active and following Amex’s terms and conditions.