I Should Have Read the Expiration Policy — Reader Mistake Story
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Serena, who squandered good rewards trying to salvage others that were already doomed. Here’s what she had to say:
A few years ago I transferred 25,000 points from Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Airlines to book a flight from Melbourne to Singapore. Because KrisFlyer used to give you a discount for booking awards online, I ended up with 3,750 miles left in my account. I received an email saying those miles would expire this August. I have no plans to travel with Singapore Airlines in the near future, so I figured I'd transfer in a smaller amount to extend the expiration date (similar to how I've extended my American Airlines and United Airlines miles in the past by using a shopping portal).
I had a few thousand Hilton points, and since I rarely stay at Hilton properties nowadays, I figured I could use them to keep my KrisFlyer miles active. It seemed worthwhile to extend the life of my KrisFlyer account for another three years even though the transfer rate was extremely poor (4,000 Hilton points for 500 KrisFlyer miles). I bet you know where this is going ... it turned out to be a total waste, because Singapore Airlines' expiration policy is different from American's or United's. Newly earned or transferred miles don't extend the life of existing miles, so my 2,750 miles were going to expire anyway.
I ended up transferring and wasting 4,000 Hilton points for no reason. I'm kicking myself for not reading the fine print prior to transferring. I'm just grateful I didn't use my more valuable Ultimate Rewards points, and I hope your readers learn from this mistake!
Loyalty programs impose a wide variety of expiration policies for travel rewards. Some never expire (like Delta SkyMiles), while others expire quickly (like Spirit miles, which lapse after just three months). Most programs give you 12-36 months to use your points or miles, and extend the expiration date so long as you have activity in your account. As Serena learned, KrisFlyer is an exception, as those miles expire after 36 months regardless of whether your account is active or dormant. Some programs also limit which activity qualifies; for example, Flying Blue only counts eligible flights and purchases with a partner bank card, so transfers won't suffice.
There are plenty of strategies you can use to keep miles from expiring, but the most important is to keep track of your balances. After all, you can't protect your rewards if you don't know the status of your account. I recommend using a tool like AwardWallet, which should give you ample warning if one of your accounts is in jeopardy, or you can simply create your own spreadsheet so long as you update it regularly. I also recommend following up on partner activity if you're relying on it to refresh your expiration date. Transactions don't always post correctly, and the results can be disastrous when they don't.
Serena's story is also a reminder to get an accurate price before you transfer points to book an award. She could have transferred 23,000 Ultimate Rewards points for her flight and saved the remaining 2,000 points instead of stranding a small balance in her KrisFlyer account. Some programs won't let you price out a specific award unless you already have the miles to pay for it; in that case, make sure you're familiar with the program rules so you can get an accurate estimate from the award chart.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Serena for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I'd like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "Reader Mistake Story" in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!