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Points are still expiring in the pandemic -- How I just lost 48,000 of them

March 09, 2021
6 min read
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There are a couple of (largely unwritten) cardinal rules of the points and miles world. Rule No. 1 is don't rack up debt, interest or extra charges on your rewards credit cards to chase bonus points and miles. But if that is rule No. 1, then rule No. 2 is probably ... don't let your rewards expire. The value of points and miles is precisely nothing if you don't use them.

But we all make mistakes, and it just so happens that I recently violated this second golden rule in the points and miles realm. While I was busy not traveling frequently and not obsessing about every single point and mile balance on my list over the last year, I lost 48,000 hotel points.

While I knew some programs hadn't fully paused point expiration during this year-on-the-ground, I still slipped up and lost points that TPG values at $288.

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Why I lost my points

There is absolutely value to be found in the Choice Privileges program, which is why I have some Choice points. But it's not a program that I use or think about every month, especially in the past year.

In fact, it turns out I haven't redeemed (or earned) any Choice points since the fall of 2019, when we last redeemed points to stay outside of Aspen on a fall foliage trip. As we all know, a few months after that, the world changed dramatically and travel largely got put on the back burner.

Choice points expire after 18 months of no earning or redeeming activity, which is exactly the timeline that transpired from fall 2019 to March 1, 2021, for my "dearly departed" points.

Due to the pandemic, Choice Privileges suspended point expiration until the end of 2021, but — unfortunately for me — this only applies to the elite members of its program.

Choice is not the only program that has continued expiring points during the pandemic. However, it is on a pretty short list of hotel programs that are still zeroing out point balances in this moment.

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It also took an unusual approach by only extending points for elite members. In contrast, Hilton has paused point expiration for all members until Dec. 31, 2021. Marriott has paused all point expiration at least through Aug. 1, 2021, and the World of Hyatt, IHG and Wyndham Rewards programs have paused all point expiration at least until June 30, 2021. Best Western points never expire.

I noticed the points had expired about a week after it happened on March 1 and was told by Choice customer service via email inquiry there was no recourse to have them reinstated. (Read to the end for a post-publication update.)

Related: Here’s how to get your points and miles back after they expire

How to prevent your points from expiring

The trend over the last year has been away from expiration dates, even outside the limited-time pandemic pauses. For example, United and Southwest joined Delta and JetBlue on the list of airlines that no longer expire miles. American Airlines will no longer expire the miles of those under 21 years old and even Spirit Airlines no longer expires miles nearly as quickly as before.

But, while some programs don't expire your hard-earned points and miles, others obviously still do. Thankfully, there are pretty easy ways to keep your points from expiring in most programs.

Double-check the rules

While the rules can and do change over time, you can start by brushing up on what the actual point expiration guidelines are for the programs where you currently have points. This is where I definitely went wrong, as I didn't really give two thoughts to double-checking the expiration policies for my Choice Privileges points in the last year.

Related: Guide to points and miles expiration policies

Earn or redeem periodically

In most loyalty programs that do have expiration policies, you can often extend the life of your points simply by earning or redeeming once every 12-18 months or so. There are programs, such as ANA, that will expire your miles after a set period of time no matter what happens during that time frame. Often the U.S.-based programs will extend them as long as you do something such as earning miles via a shopping site, by donating a few miles or by redeeming an award.

Don't save points ... for too long

It's one thing to save up miles and points for a big trip or redemption — especially right now, when many of us didn't travel much for the last year. But saving up for some specific trip, or even earning points in a credit card's flexible points program where you'll have many eventually uses, is very different than just leaving or saving points in any one particular program for too long.

Those hotel points had likely been sitting in my account for several years, which is precisely the ripe situation for devaluation or even expiration.

Related: The 7 best ways to redeem airline miles without flying

Bottom line

My batting average at getting value out of points is still pretty solid, so I won't lose sleep or have my own blood pressure raised over losing these 48,000 points. Instead, I'd rather use this as a warning tale that, indeed, points can be lost during this period of reduced travel. And while most travel loyalty programs have their expiration programs paused for now, that's not unilaterally true.

Additionally, multiple programs are currently set to return to the regular process of expiring points this summer, so there could be lots of would-be travelers who may find that their points balances have reset to zero when the time comes to travel.

Post-publication update: The day after the story published, a member of the Choice Privileges Executive Team reached out and said they had extended my points for 18 months as a one-time courtesy after coming across my story. I did not send the story to them or request special consideration. They said they understood the reality of decreased travel during the pandemic. I asked how others in similar situations could receive the same assistance and was told that anyone facing a similar situation should call 1-888-770-6800. There is, of course, no guarantee of the same outcome, but it's worth a try.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more