How to keep your points and miles from expiring
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While more and more programs have been moving away from having points that expire, it is still one of the unfortunate pitfalls of the travel rewards game that we love. After all, who wants to let (nearly) free travel go to waste? But during such uncertain times for the travel industry, you may be wondering how to keep miles and points from expiring if you’re not planning to fly or stay at a hotel anytime soon.
While some airlines and hotel companies have extended points validity or even paused point expiration during the coronavirus outbreak, others have been remarkably silent on the issue. Plus, some companies that have extended points validity have only done so for a couple of months — likely before many plan to resume traveling again.
Fortunately, there are many ways to keep your accounts active that don’t require hopping on an airplane or going on a mattress run. In fact, more often than not, you can reset the expiration date on the various hotel and airline currencies from the comfort of your desk or couch, even during times when we are traveling more than right now.
Even better, some airline and hotel programs have gotten rid of points expiration completely. Delta and JetBlue have been this way for years, while Southwest and United axed their respective points expiration policies in 2019.
So, if you’re wondering whether or not your miles expire or want to know how to keep them active, you’re in the right place. Here, we’ll show you when the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire and highlight ways to keep them from expiring. We’ll start by looking at coronavirus-related expiration extensions, and then dive into standard points expiration policies for all the major airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Let’s get started!
Airlines and hotels that have extended points validity due to coronavirus
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on the travel industry. Many major airlines have cut capacity due to decreased demand and travel restrictions, and hotels have seen dwindling occupancy rates. Many people won’t travel for the foreseeable future, meaning that points and miles may be left to expire.
Airlines and hotels know this, though, and some have opted to delay or pause points expiration during this time of travel uncertainty. Here’s a look at all of the airline and hotel programs that have extended mile and point validity during the coronavirus outbreak.
Do note that we’ve only included programs that have extended mile and point validity for all customers worldwide. Some companies have extended points on a region-by-region basis and are not shown here.
Airline mile extensions
Here’s an overview of the airlines that have formally announced extensions to expiration dates for their respective currencies:
|Airline||Eligible miles to be extended||Expiration extended to or expiration paused until|
|Aeroplan||All||Miles are now valid for 18 months from last activity; expired miles can be reinstated by flying with Air Canada or opening a cobranded Aeroplan credit card within six months of expiration.
Further, expired Aeroplan miles will be reinstated for free if you purchased a flight set to depart Jan. 2020 or later and had to cancel.
|American Airlines||All||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|ANA||Miles set to expire between March 31, 2020, and February 28, 2021||Expiration extended until March 31, 2021|
|Avianca LifeMiles||All||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|Emirates||Miles set to expire in 2020||Expiration extended until December 31, 2020|
|Flying Blue||All||Miles will not expire in 2020|
|Frontier Airlines||Miles expiring March 1, 2020, or later||Expiration paused until further notice|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Miles set to expire between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020||Expiration paused until January 1, 2021|
|JAL||Miles set to expire between February 29 and September 30, 2020||Expiration extended by one year|
|Korean Airlines||Miles set to expire on January 1, 2021||Expiration extended by one year|
|Spirit Airlines||All||Expiration paused until September 30, 2020|
Hotel point extensions
Further, most of the major hotel companies are extending expiration dates for their loyalty points. Here’s an overview
|Hotel||Expiration extended to or expiration paused until|
|Choice Privileges||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|Hilton Honors||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|World of Hyatt||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|IHG Rewards Club||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Expiration paused until December 31, 2020|
|Radisson Rewards||Points set to expire between March 1, 2020, and March 30, 2021, now expire on March 31, 2021.|
|Wyndham Rewards||Expiration paused until September 30, 2020|
Again, these are only temporary adjustments in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Unless more changes are announced at a future date, your points or miles may still expire when the extensions are up.
When do popular points and miles expire?
During normal times, most loyalty program currencies expire after a certain period of inactivity, most commonly two or three years. This means that if you go 24 or 36 months without earning (or in some cases, redeeming) points or miles in some way, you’ll lose any accumulated balance. Some programs vary from this rule by imposing either more restrictive expiration policies or more lenient ones.
To help make this easier, below you’ll find a chart that shows how the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire.
Airline mile expiration
|Aeromexico||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Air Canada (Aeroplan)||18 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Alaska Airlines||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Alitalia||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|American Airlines||18 months from last activity, can extend with activity
Miles do not expire for members under 21
|ANA||36 months from earning, no way to extend|
|British Airways||36 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)||36 months from earning, no way to extend|
|Emirates||3 years from earning, no way to extend|
|Etihad||24 months from earning, no way to extend
18 months from last activity starting July 31, 2020
|Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Frontier Airlines||180 days from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Hawaiian Airlines||18 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Iberia||36 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|JAL||36 months from earning, no way to extend|
|Korean Air||10 years from earning, no way to extend|
|Lufthansa (Miles & More)||36 months from earning, no option to extend. No expiration if you’ve held a Lufthansa co-branded credit card for three or more months and make at least one purchase per month. Expiration is also waived if you have Lufthansa elite status.|
|Qantas||18 months with no activity, can extend with activity|
|Qatar Airways||36 months from earning, can extend by paying a fee|
|Singapore Airlines||36 months from earning, no way to extend|
|United Airlines||No expiration|
|Virgin Atlantic||36 months with no activity, can extend with activity|
As you can see, these policies are all over the map. Some programs count any activity as eligible to extend the expiration date, while others don’t allow any extensions no matter what. The winners here? Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Southwest Rapid Rewards and United Airlines. These programs make it easy to now worry about losing your account balances due to taking a pause in travel.
Hotel points expiration
|Hotel Program||Expiration Term|
|Accor Live Limitless||No expiration with activity once per year|
|Best Western Rewards||No expiration|
|Choice Privileges||18 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Hilton||12 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Hyatt||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|IHG Rewards Club||12 months from last activity; can extend with activity. No expiration for elite members.|
|Marriott Bonvoy||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity. No expiration for Lifetime Elite members.|
|Radisson Rewards||24 months from last activity, can extend with activity|
|Wyndham Rewards||18 months with no activity, and 4 years overall|
Like airlines, there’s a wide range of policies, ranging from completely flexible (Best Western points never expire) to more restrictive. However, all of these programs at least allow you to extend the validity period of your points with activity, unlike some of the airline programs discussed above.
How to keep your miles and points active
Now you know when your points and miles expire, but how do you go about keeping them active? Luckily, there are several ways to do this. Here’s a list of the easiest — though feel free to tell us your preferred method of keeping your accounts active in the comments.
Try to perform these tasks at least a couple of months before your points or miles are set to expire to provide adequate time for the activity to post to your account. And be sure to pay close attention to the policies above too; some programs (including Emirates Skywards and Singapore KrisFlyer) don’t allow extensions of any sort.
Open a credit card
Some airlines and hotel chains waive mileage expiration for those holding their cobranded travel credit cards. For example, if you hold an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, your Alaska Airlines miles won’t expire if your account is open and in good standing. This also could be due to the automatic elite status the card confers; the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, for example, provides automatic IHG Platinum status, and one of the perks of this tier of elite status is that your points will never expire.
However, not all cobranded cards offer this benefit. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® does not keep your miles active by simply having the card in your wallet. However, a $1 transaction on the card will add a mile to your AAdvantage balance and extend your expiration date at the end of your billing cycle.
The information for the Alaska Airlines Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Join the dining rewards network
Many airlines and hotel chains have their own dining programs through the Dining Rewards Network. In short, you link any credit card in your wallet to the corresponding dining program, and you’re awarded airline miles or hotel points when you make a purchase at over 10,000 participating restaurants. You can keep your account active by signing up for the loyalty program’s dining program and going out for a meal at a partner restaurant. In some cases, you can just buy a cup of coffee!
And don’t worry: most of the time, you’ll still earn these points if you order for take-out too. Just make sure that you pay directly at the restaurant and not through a third-party app like Uber Eats or Grubhub. Using these tools may make you ineligible for the bonus points.
We’ve found that the points usually post within a week or so of purchase. Just be aware that you can’t double- or triple-dip with the same card at multiple programs. You can belong to more than one dining rewards program, but if you enroll the same card in multiple programs, it will only award points to the most recent program you linked to.
However, you could (for example) add the Chase Sapphire Reserve to the Alaska Airlines dining program and then your American Express® Gold Card to the American Airlines dining program. If you ask the waiter at a participating restaurant to split your bill between those two cards, you’ll extend the expiration date of your miles in both those programs.
Make a purchase through the program’s shopping portal
This may be the easiest option for most people: just make a purchase through the loyalty program’s shopping portal. Most major hotel chains and airlines have a site where you earn miles by starting there and then clicking through to a participating merchant before making an online purchase. Any purchase will keep your miles active — even something as inexpensive as a music download or movie rental. Just note that many vendors exclude gift card purchases, though I’ve read reports of these transactions still resulting in points or miles.
We recommend using a shopping portal on all your online purchases. It’s an easy way to rack up points on most airline programs, giving you an easy way to stock up on miles and points for the vacation you’re daydreaming about. Make sure to use a tool like CashBackMonitor.com to ensure you’re getting the most points for your purchases too.
Transfer miles from a credit card or hotel program
Transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards will generally keep your miles active, too. Since any amount of miles will generally reset the expiration clock, you should transfer the minimum amount possible, though most programs require at least 1,000 points when transferring to partners.
Don’t have a transferable points credit card? You should consider changing that fact now; these programs provide incredible flexibility as you can transfer points to several different airlines and hotels. And in a time when airlines are on unstable financial ground, it’s advisable to diversify your points and miles as much as possible.
Further, you can also transfer points from most hotel programs to keep your airline miles active. Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, Wyndham Rewards and others allow transfers to several airline partners. Even though many of these programs have less-than-favorable exchange rates, they could be a good option if you need to save your miles in a pinch.
Check out TPG’s lists of best credit cards and rewards credit cards to find the card that works for you and your spending habits. Remember, keeping your points diversified can protect you from award chart devaluations and airline insolvency, and this gives you more award tickets to choose from.
Donate to charity
One of the easiest ways to keep your points and miles active is by donating them to charity. American, United and many others offer donation programs, and generally speaking, the minimum amount you can donate is 1,000. The points or miles are typically debited from your account immediately, extending the expiration date of your remaining account balance the second you hit the confirm button. This is perfect if your miles are expiring in the coming weeks, and you’re giving to a good cause at the same time!
Take a flight or complete a stay
We know that this option may be far out for most of us — after all, it’s not advisable to travel until the coronavirus outbreak is contained. But for when it’s safe to travel again, you can keep your points and miles active by taking a flight on the applicable airline (or one of its partners) or by completing a stay with the hotel chain in question.
For most airlines and hotel programs, you can book a paid flight/room or book an award ticket/stay to keep your accounts active, because both earning and redeeming are considered activity for the majority of programs. Do note that paid flights and hotel stays usually don’t reset your points expiration date until after the applicable points and miles post to your account (generally a few days after flying or checking out).
Bonus option for American: Comment on the AwardWallet Blog
A free way to keep your American Airlines miles active is commenting on a post on the AwardWallet blog. All you need to do is link your AAdvantage account to your AwardWallet account, and use that AwardWallet account when commenting on a post on their blog. Each comment earns five American Airlines miles, and you can earn up to five per day. Just be aware that these miles take five days or more to post to your account, so don’t wait until the last minute.
Speaking of AwardWallet, this is one of our favorite methods to track the expiration dates of points and miles in many programs, so if you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend signing up for an account and linking your various loyalty numbers.
Once you sign up, you can view all of your points balances, status levels, expiration dates and more in one simple dashboard. This can be incredibly helpful if you’re not actively checking airline account balances during these times of travel uncertainty.
What if my points or miles have expired?
Of course, all of the above suggestions apply to those of you who are proactively trying to keep your account balances active, but what happens if your points or miles have already expired? This may seem like a “too bad, so sad” situation, but depending on the program, all hope may not be lost. A handful of airlines and hotel chains allow you to reinstate your points or miles, typically with a fee. Here’s a list of some of the most popular:
- Alaska: You can reinstate expired miles for a $75 fee up to one year after expiration.
- American: You can reinstate miles expired after 2002 for a fee that varies from $40 to $2,000, depending on the number of miles that expired.
- British Airways: While not a published policy, you may be able to reinstate your Avios by calling customer service, though it may take reaching a U.K.-based agent for the request to be processed.
It’s worth noting that Hilton Honors added the ability to reinstate expired points back in 2017, but based on the current terms and conditions of the program, it appears that this is no longer an option.
Don’t see your airline or hotel listed? Try calling the airline or hotel program where your points expired. If your miles recently expired or you get a really friendly agent, there’s a chance you could get your miles reinstated for free. Make sure to ask politely and — if possible — call when phone lines aren’t busy assisting customers that need ticket changes and cancellations.
Whether incurring this out-of-pocket expense makes sense depends on the value of the points or miles you’ve lost, but for large balances in these programs, it could very well be worth it!
Knowing both when your miles and points expire and how to keep them active is essential — especially if you’re not sure of the next time you plan to travel. While most airline and hotel programs differ in their expiration policies, your account balances in almost all programs will be at risk without some qualifying activity in a defined period.
Bookmark this page and refer to it whenever you’re questioning when your miles expire or wondering the best ways to keep them active. We’ll keep it updated with mileage extension news and more. Finally, remember: Saving your expiring miles could mean the difference between flying economy or business class on your next vacation!
Featured photo by John Rowley/Getty Images
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