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How to keep miles from expiring

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There aren’t a lot of “mistakes” in the loyalty game, but letting your points expire is definitely one of them. Unfortunately, millions of points and miles expire every year before owners have a chance to use them. Thanks to mobile apps that keep track of loyalty account balances, this fate is easily avoidable. But what do you do when you get an expiration alert from one of these apps?

Luckily, there are many options to keep your hard-earned points and miles from expiring. Here’s everything you need to know about which loyalty points expire, how long you have to prevent that from happening and what to do if you lose your rewards.

When do points and miles expire?

Most points and miles expire after a certain period of inactivity, while a few currencies don’t expire at all. The policy varies by program, with most airlines being a bit more generous than hotel loyalty programs. Best Western Rewards are the only hotel points that do not expire. Neither do any of the following airline miles:

Airline mileage expiration policies

Airline miles typically expire within six to 36 months of inactivity. However, several programs have adopted a more generous no-expiration policy. This provides members with peace of mind, but it can also lead to 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 gets combated with program devaluations.

Being familiar with each program’s mileage expiration policy is key to ensuring you get the most value out of your miles possible.

Frequent Flyer Program Expiration Window
Air Canda Aeroplan 18 months of inactivity
Alaska Mileage Plan 24 months of inactivity
Alitalia MilleMiglia 24 months of inactivity
American AAdvantage 18 months of inactivity (those under 21 exempt)
ANA Mileage Plan 36 months from earning
British Airways Executive Club 36 months of inactivity
Cathay Pacific 36 months of inactivity
Delta Skymiles Miles don’t expire
Emirates Skywards 3 years from earning
Etihad Guest 24 months from earning
Air France/KLM Flying Blue 24 months of inactivity
Frontier Miles 180 days of inactivity
Hawaiian Airlines 18 months of inactivity
Iberia Avios 36 months of inactivity
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank 36 months of inactivity
JetBlue TrueBlue Miles don’t expire
Korean Air SkyPass 10 years from earning
Lufthansa Miles & More 36 months from earning (waived for elite members and co-branded credit cardholders)
Qantas Frequent Flyer 18 months of inactivity
Qatar Airways Privilege Club 36 months from earning
Singapore Krisflyer 36 months from earning
Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles don’t expire
United MileagePlus Miles don’t expire
Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub Miles don’t expire

Hotel point expiration policies

Most hotel points expire after 12-24 months of inactivity, which is a shorter timeframe than most airline miles. You’ll want to keep a closer eye on these points, especially if you don’t have a hotel credit card you can use to keep your account active.

Hotel loyalty program Expiration window
Accor Live Limitless 12 months (miles are extended for 365 additional days each time you earn additional miles)
Best Western Rewards Points don’t expire
Choice Privileges 18 months of inactivity
Hilton Honors 12 months of inactivity
IHG Rewards Club 12 months of inactivity
Marriott Bonvoy 24 months of inactivity
Radisson Rewards 24 months of inactivity
World of Hyatt 24 months of inactivity
Wyndham Rewards 18 months of inactivity

How to keep points from expiring

The easiest way to keep your miles 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.

Get a co-branded credit card

Getting a co-branded credit card is one of the easiest ways to keep your miles from expiring. You can earn a nice welcome bonus, get access to recurring perks and keep earning miles in a convenient and hassle-free way.

Some programs even waive mileage expiration policies for co-branded credit cardholders. Alaska Mileage Plan members who have the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card don’t have to worry about mileage expiration at all. Simply having the card exempts them from Alaska’s mileage expiration policy.

The IHG Rewards program offers similar protection through the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, albeit indirectly. Cardholders receive IHG Platinum status, which means their points never expire as long as they have elite status.

Transfer points from a flexible rewards account

If you can’t commit to a co-branded credit card, you can instead opt for a credit card that earns flexible rewards. You can then transfer these rewards to your airline or hotel loyalty account to keep them from expiring. Examples of transferable rewards programs include:

Most programs require a minimum transfer of 1,000 points, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for cheap and fast ways to top off your miles before they expire.

Redeem points and miles for travel

This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t hoard your miles. Redeeming miles for travel gives you the best value and keeps your account active. This option requires some planning since you want to make sure you’re getting a good redemption value for your miles. Plus, vacation planning takes time and the last thing you want to do is book one in a rush to avoid losing your miles and points.

Redeem points and miles for cheap non-travel awards

Normally, redeeming miles for anything other than travel is a bad value proposition. But if you’re trying to keep your points and miles from expiring, then redeeming them for cheap non-travel awards could make sense.

Many loyalty programs allow cheap redemptions for things like magazines and digital purchases. You’ll part with just a small number of points and miles in exchange for keeping a larger balance from expiring can work out well.

Transfer points and miles to someone else

You can keep your miles from expiring by transferring them to someone else. This may not be the best option since some programs charge you money for point transfers. This fee varies by program but is usually around one cent per point. Depending on how you redeem your points and miles, this might not be worth doing.

The last thing you want to do is pay a hefty fee on a point transfer if you end up redeeming them for far less value.

That said, some programs don’t charge fees for point transfers. These include:

Additionally, the Hawaiian Miles program allows free mileage transfers between Hawaiian Airlines World Elite cardholders.

Use a shopping portal

Using a shopping portal is something you should do regardless of whether you have miles expiring. It’s easy and rewarding. Simply head to your favorite shopping portal, search for the online retailer you want to shop with and then click through to earn rewards. You’ll earn at least one extra mile per $1 spent, though you’ll often get significantly more.

Sometimes shopping portals even offer spend-based bonus promotions. This happens most often during back-to-school and the holiday shopping season. It’s definitely worth working into your online shopping routine to earn maximum rewards. You’ll earn more rewards and keep your miles and points from expiring. It’s a win-win!

Register for dining rewards accounts

Dining rewards programs are a great way to keep earning miles without thinking about it. All the major airline and hotel programs have an affiliated dining rewards program. You can join a program, register your credit card, then earn miles and points any time you make a purchase at a participating restaurant. These rewards are in addition to the ones you earn from your credit card.

You can join as many dining rewards programs as you want, but you can’t register the same card with more than one program. That’s because these dining programs are all part of the same network, which does not allow registration of the same card across multiple accounts. Here’s how much you can earn on each airline’s dining program:

American AAdvantage Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 1,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $25 within 30 days
  • 1-5 miles per $1 spent

Alaska Mileage Plan Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 1,000 bonus miles after spending $30 within 30 days of joining and write a review within 30 days of your visit
  • 0.5-5 miles per $1 spent

Delta SkyMiles Dining

  • First-dine bonus: up to 3,500 bonus miles after spending a combined $90 over three visits
  • 0.5-1 miles per $1 spent

Free Spirit Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 1,000 bonus miles after spending $30 within 30 days of joining and completing a review
  • 1-5 miles per $1 spent

Hilton Honors Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 1,000 bonus points after $25 within 30 days of joining and completing a review
  • 2-8 points per $1 spent

IHG Rewards Club Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 1,000 bonus points after spending $30 within 30 days of joining and completing a review
  • 1-8 points per $1 spent

JetBlue TrueBlue Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 500 bonus miles after spending $25 within 30 days of joining and completing a review
  • 3 points per $1 spent

Marriott Eat Around Town

  • First-dine bonus: up to 3,000 bonus points after spending a combined $90 over three visits within 60 days
  • 4-6 points per $1 spent

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

  • First-dine bonus: 1,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $25 within 30 days and submitting a review
  • 0.5-3 miles per $1 spent

United MileagePlus Dining

  • First-dine bonus: up to 1,500 bonus miles after spending $25 within 30 days of joining and submitting a review
  • 0.5-5 miles per $1 spent

Donate points and miles to charity

If your points are about to expire, donating them to charity is a great 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 miles can help you keep your remaining balance active. This is worth looking into if you’ve exhausted all other options.

How to reinstate expired points and miles

If you’ve slipped up and let your points expire, all is not lost. A few programs allow you to pay to reinstate your expired points and miles. These programs include Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club.

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska Mileage Plan allows you to reinstate expired miles for a reasonable $75 fee, up to a year after expiration.

American AAdvantage

American Airlines charges between $40-$2,000 to reactivate expired miles. The exact cost varies depending on the number of miles. Buying miles back may not be worth it, as the markup is pretty substantial. Your best bet? Call American AAdvantage and see if you can get a sympathetic agent on the line who will reactivate your miles free of charge.

British Airways Executive Club

British Airways doesn’t have an official policy on mileage reactivation, but there have been reports that the airline will reinstate Avios without a fee. It’s worth calling the UK-based customer service line to see if they’ll do it—just remember to ask nicely.

The bottom line

Some miles and points expire within a certain period—usually 12-36 months. Many major airlines and one hotel chain (Best Western) offer miles and points that don’t expire. You can find out when your points expire by calling your loyalty program or logging into your account. Not all programs make it easy to check this, however. AwardWallet is a great tool that lets you track all of your points and miles expiration dates in one place.

The best thing to do with expiring points is to redeem or keep earning them. These two activities ensure your account remains active, thus preventing your points from expiring.

Written by
Ariana Arghandewal
Travel rewards writer
Ariana Arghandewal is a personal finance expert specializing in credit cards and travel rewards. She is passionate about helping people leverage credit card rewards to realize their travel goals.
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