Take inventory of points, miles and flight credits to set future travel goals
As we come off of the busiest travel season in years, it’s a good opportunity to take inventory of what’s in your travel accounts. That means counting up your points, miles and all those flight refunds and trip credits you may have amassed during the previous two-and-a-half years when COVID-19 threw a wrench in your travel plans. While you may have just made a big redemption or used most of the credits you had, it's good to know what you'll have to work with going forward — not to mention, you'd hate to leave any credits on the table because they expired.
This exercise goes both for airlines and hotels you recently traveled with, and those you haven't.
It's is a great time of year to ask a couple of key questions:
- How many points and miles are in your various accounts?
- Do you have travel credits with any airlines?
- When do they expire?
- Are you within range of a new elite status level after any summer trips?
Taking a couple of minutes to log into your accounts could also help you answer a few other questions:
- How far along are you toward your next redemption?
- What would it take to get to the next elite status level?
- What airline credits might soon expire?
- What do you need to do to avoid having points and miles expire?
This inventory could not only help you avoid leaving any points, miles or money on the table but also help you craft your earnings strategy going forward.
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The best way to check your miles balance is to log into your account online or through the airline’s app.
Once you know how many miles you have, you should take a look at TPG’s latest valuations to see their approximate value. It's also a good time to begin perusing the airline’s website to see what you might be looking at in terms of award pricing for future trips.
Airline miles expiration
When it comes to expiring miles, the only loyalty program among the four biggest U.S. airlines in which this really comes into play is the American Airlines AAdvantage program, as miles/points on Delta, United and Southwest do not expire.
Even in the AAdvantage program, although miles are back to expiring if you have no account activity for 24 months, there are many ways you can keep your miles active — whether by flying, shopping, opening or simply having certain credit cards — as long as your account is in good standing.
Even when your miles technically expire, you can reactivate up to half a million miles within two years by making a single eligible transaction. AAdvantage miles do not expire for those under the age of 21.
Airline flight credits and expiration
With a major summer travel season behind us, there’s a good chance you used most of your flight credits — many of which travelers amassed during the first couple of years of the pandemic. But it’s a good time now to double check and make sure you used everything available. (If you're wondering whether anyone would actually leave flight credits on the table, look no further than the billions of dollars in gift card funds that go unspent.)
No, you probably didn't forget about $300 in your airline account, but here's an example of what I found doing my inventory: After I had to cancel a flight on Southwest Airlines right around New Year’s as the omicron surge threw uncertainty into the travel equation, I ended up with several hundred dollars in Southwest Flight Credit — most of which I used on a trip to Florida this summer.
I logged into my Southwest Rapid Rewards account, though, and found — lo and behold — I had about $40 left over that could be applied toward another trip.
You can generally find all credits you have available on each airline by logging into your loyalty account. However, there can be cases where the credits might not be linked to your account. This may be especially true if you got a voucher of sorts at the gate during flight disruptions.
The major U.S. airlines each have ways for you to search for and claim your credits by typing in either your information or the voucher/flight credit confirmation number.
For instance, on American’s website, there’s a banner right at the top of the home page where you can search for travel credits.
Delta has a guide to help you locate eCredits. If you don’t see credits listed when you go to your United MileagePlus account, there’s a link to this page where you can search by credit confirmation number and last name.
Travel credit expiration
Whether and when travel credits expire depends on the type of credit, as each airline has multiple types, and what type of credit you have largely depends on why you got it. There’s generally a difference between a voucher the airline gives you because you had some sort of bad service on your trip versus the credits you get because you canceled a ticket.
- American has three types of travel credit: trip credits, flight credits and travel vouchers. Trip credits and travel vouchers expire one year from the date issued unless otherwise noted; flight credits must be used on trips that start within one year from the date issued.
- Delta has multiple types of credits, but if you received credit because of a canceled trip, there’s a good chance you received eCredits. Delta eCredits must be used by Dec. 31, 2023 for travel through 2024.
- United’s future flight credits, which are likely what you received if you got credit for a canceled or changed flight, must be used by Dec. 31, 2023 for travel through 2024.
- Southwest flight credits, which you get when you cancel a nonrefundable ticket at least 10 minutes before boarding, do not expire. If you received a LUV voucher for some reason, this will have an expiration date noted on it.
Can you share flight credit?
You might think one way to ensure you make use of leftover flight credit is to share it with another traveler, like a family member who has an upcoming trip. Whether you're allowed to do this, though, depends on the airline and, again, the type of credit you're dealing with.
- American: Travel vouchers can be used to book travel for anyone; trip credits and flight credits must be used by the person who received them.
- United: You can only use future flight credits for other travelers if you received them on or before Aug. 21, 2021. If you got a travel certificate by giving up your seat voluntarily or for another reason, it can be used by anyone.
- Southwest: Flyers who received a transferrable flight credit for canceling a Wanna Get Away Plus, Anytime or Business Select ticket can transfer their credit to another Rapid Rewards member.
Hotel points and expiration
Like airline loyalty programs, it’s also a good time to see how many hotel points you have in your account, how many nights or stays you need to reach the next elite status level and think about what it would take to reach your next redemption goal.
As we approach the end of the year, some of the more major hotel loyalty programs will resume expirations. With Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors the rule will go back into effect after Dec. 31, 2022 and apply to any unused points in your account.
It’s pretty easy to keep your hotel points from expiring — whether by staying at a property, redeeming, spending with partners or with a co-branded credit card. The points that are most likely to disappear are the ones you earned with a hotel loyalty program if you haven't had a recent stay. For instance, if you're a loyal World of Hyatt customer who also stays at Marriott Bonvoy properties sometimes, but haven't in a while, you may want to double-check your Marriott Bonvoy account.
Generally, Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt points expire after 24 months with no activity. IHG One Rewards points expire after 12 months of no activity.
Now that the busy summer travel season has ended, it’s a good time to check your loyalty accounts to take inventory of how many miles and points you have and make sure you’ve used every last dollar in credits as you plan your next getaway.