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If you’re like many travelers, you have a stash of travel rewards in your pocket with no place to go. While you wait to travel again, your travel rewards and airline miles might expire. It’s important to keep your loyalty accounts active when you’re not a frequent traveler. Here are a few things to remember about travel rewards and miles expiration rules.

Don’t forget about travel rewards and miles expiration rules. Keeping them active can help you travel to places like this Los Angeles beach once it is safe again. Photo by Johnny Jet

Do Travel Credit Card Points Expire?

Points for the most popular travel credit cards don’t expire. These programs include:

While you can keep accumulating credit card points, it’s possible to lose your balance if your card falls out of good standing or you close your account.

If you’re going to close your card account, you will need to redeem your points to get some return on your investment. You can also see if you can transfer your points to another card account within the same loyalty program. For example, you can transfer your Chase Sapphire points to your Chase Freedom family card.

If your travel credit card supports airline and hotel point transfers, you can transfer your points when you don’t want to redeem them today. You will need to watch out for any expiration dates for the airline or hotel brand.

When you have several secondary credit cards, remember to show activity on your old credit cards. You should make a purchase at least once every six months. Following this spending practice reduces the likelihood that the bank will reduce your spending limit or close your account due to account inactivity.

Tip: You can get a free weekly credit report through April 2021.

When Do Airline Miles Expire?

Frequent flyer miles for domestic airlines are less likely to expire versus international carriers. Your miles can remain active until you die or close your frequent flyer account.

Here are the current expiration policies for the airlines:

  • Air Canada: After 18 months of inactivity
  • Alaska Airlines: Do not expire (Must show account activity every 24 months)
  • American Airlines: After 18 months of inactivity (no mileage expirations through 12/31/2020)
  • Avianca LifeMiles: After 24 months of inactivity (no mileage expirations through 12/31/2020)
  • Avios (British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia): After 36 months of inactivity
  • Cathay Pacific: After 18 months of inactivity
  • Delta Air Lines: Do not expire
  • Emirates: 36 months from your travel date
  • Etihad: After 18 months of inactivity
  • Frontier Airlines: Must earn miles every six months (mileage expirations are temporarily suspended)
  • Hawaiian Airlines: After 18 months of inactivity
  • JetBlue: Do not expire
  • Singapore Airlines: 36 months from the month you earn them (Can get a 6-month mileage extension)
  • Southwest Airlines: Do not expire
  • United Airlines: Do not expire

For airline miles that do not expire, it’s important to log into your account at least once a year. Doing so makes sure your account information and email address remain current. Airlines might close your account if they cannot make contact with you after a series of attempts.

Another way to keep your airline account active is by using a branded airline credit card. Making purchases earns frequent flyer miles that count as qualifying activity.

Unfortunately, transferring travel miles from a Chase Sapphire, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, or Capital One Venture card won’t renew the expiration date for your miles.

When Do Hotel Points Expire?

Hotel points tend to have the strictest expiration policies of the different travel rewards programs. The good news is that hotels have been extending point expiration dates as most hotel rooms stay empty.

  • Choice Privileges: After 18 months of inactivity (no points expire through 12/31/2020)
  • Hilton Honors: After 12 months of inactivity (no points expire through 12/31/2021)
  • IHG Rewards Club: After 12 months of inactivity (no points expire through 12/31/2020)
  • Marriott Bonvoy: After 24 months of inactivity (no points expire through 2/1/2021)
  • Radisson Rewards: After 24 months of inactivity (points expiring between 3/1/2020 and 3/30/2021 now expire on 3/21/2021)
  • World of Hyatt: After 24 months of inactivity (no points expire through 12/31/2020)

Hotels are also extended elite status levels into 2021 and easing the requirements to qualify for advanced loyalty tiers. The points expiration pauses may extend into 2021 as we get closer to the new year.

For now, you might look for ways to either earn or redeem a few points to show account activity.

Like airline miles, making purchases on a hotel credit card lets you earn hotel points to show account activity. Many hotel credit cards with an annual fee also provide accelerated “gold” or “platinum” loyalty status. This status lets you enjoy some exclusive perks when you book a stay.

Don’t forget about your other hotel credit card benefits like the hotel night certificates. These certificates typically expire 12 months after you receive it. But the certificate may have a temporary extension giving you several more months to redeem your free night.

Ways to Prevent Travel Miles from Expiring

There are several ways to keep your travel rewards from expiring. The expiration and point renewal options vary by the loyalty program. Some programs make it easier to avoid point expirations than others.

Use a Branded Credit Card

Making purchases on a co-brand airline or hotel credit card can extend your points balance indefinitely. Most US airlines now offer credit cards without an annual fee. Even if your miles don’t expire, if you don’t have a credit card, occasional purchases can’t hurt your status.

Sign Up for Dining Rewards

Many loyalty programs offer a dining rewards program. By dining or getting take-out at a participating restaurant, you can earn loyalty points by paying with a linked credit card or debit card.

Use Online Shopping Portals

It’s common for airlines to offer online shopping portals. Chase Ultimate Rewards has a shopping portal, for instance. Instead of going directly to your favorite online store, visit your frequent flyer account first, and activate a shopping session. Most online stores award up to 5 miles per $1 on your pre-tax purchase amount.

Redeem Miles for Magazines and Newspapers

Before the pandemic, travel programs offered several non-travel ways to redeem your points. These redemptions don’t have a high redemption value but can require fewer points than an award night or flight.

It’s possible to redeem your points for magazines and newspapers with most loyalty programs. However, merchandise and gift card rewards may not be an option for the near future.

Summary of Travel Rewards and Miles Expiration Rules

While it’s uncommon for credit card points to expire due to account inactivity, this practice is common for airlines and hotels. Many carriers are suspending point expirations for 2020 but you should track your points balance and look for ways to show account activity for extra peace of mind while you stay home.

FAQs

Do credit card points expire?

Most credit card points for US banks do not expire as long as your account is current and you don’t request an account closure. Make sure you make the minimum monthly payment to avoid account closure. Using your card for a purchase at least once every six months is an easy way to show activity and earn points.

Do airline miles expire?

With the exception of American Airlines, miles don’t expire for the largest US airlines. Frequent flyer miles for international airlines are more likely to expire between 18 months and 36 months without account activity. The point expiration terms and conditions vary by airline.

Having an airline credit card can prevent miles from expiring for most airlines with an expiration policy.

Do hotel points expire?

Hotel points usually expire between 12 and 24 months of account inactivity. Earning or redeeming points redeems your balance. As hotels are mostly empty in 2020, the loyalty programs are suspending point expirations for the rest of 2020. Some brands have paused expirations into 2021.

In addition to pausing point expirations, hotels are extending elite status benefits from 2020 into 2021 so travelers can enjoy the benefits they work for. Like airlines, a hotel credit card can prevent point expirations with periodic card purchases to earn hotel points.

Hopefully, these tips with help clear up any confusion regarding travel rewards and miles expiration rules for 2020.

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Josh Patoka
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