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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Sarah, who nearly let 80,000 Rapid Rewards points expire:

A couple years back, my family earned the Southwest Companion Pass by opening the necessary cards and meeting the spending requirements. Since then, I have been raking in even more points through hotel stays, surveys, rental cars and the purchase of a few big ticket items through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. As a result, my family of four has been able to take over 10 trips completely free of charge the past few years.

Unfortunately, since we have been caught up in all this blissful award travel, I neglected the fact that the points in my children’s personal Rapid Rewards accounts were expiring. They had each amassed about 40,000 points from flights over their young lives (prior to our award travel days), and those were scheduled to disappear into the ether quickly. Since their flights the past two years had been covered with points or the Companion Pass, none of their travel had been “qualifying travel.”

The only way to keep the accounts active at the last moment was to spend real money on a ticket for each of them (or as I later learned from TPG, to purchase Rapids Rewards points for them). In retrospect, I should have been spending down their points balances before I used my own points to purchase their tickets. My Southwest credit card spending keeps my account active, so their accounts were the ones that needed activity to avoid losing the points.

Children can generally start earning flight rewards as soon as they’re old enough to fly — if they have their own ticket, then they should be eligible. Signing your kids up to earn rewards is a no-brainer, since otherwise you don’t get that return on their tickets. However, it means you’ll have to track their rewards in addition to your own. Children need their own accounts to accrue miles and elite credits, but some airlines allow you to pool rewards into a family account so you don’t have to worry about keeping them active separately. When pooling isn’t an option, you’ll need to devote a little extra attention to managing your kids’ accounts until they’re able to do it themselves.

Southwest Rapid Rewards has a fairly benign points expiration policy, since you get 24 months from the date of the last qualifying activity. Unlike many other airlines, however, Southwest does not count award redemptions as qualifying activity, so booking a flight with points won’t keep your account from expiring. Also, keep in mind that rewards aren’t counted until you actually fly, so buying airfare won’t keep your account active if you don’t fly until after the expiration date. The easiest way to keep your account active is to transfer points instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards. If that’s not an option, buying Rapid Rewards points is a decent backup plan.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Sarah 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 info@thepointsguy.com, 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. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image by Owen CL on Unsplash.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.