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What to do if you haven’t traveled in a while and your points are expiring

If you haven't traveled lately due to the coronavirus pandemic, here's how to keep your points from expiring

Summary

Some airlines and hotels have extended their rewards expiration, but not everyone is eligible. Here’s what you need to know

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It’s likely been a while since you’ve used your airline miles, hotel points and credit card rewards to book travel. For some of us, it’s now been a whole year or more since we’ve taken a vacation. But what has happened to your rewards points while you’ve been away? Will your points and miles still be there when you’re ready to travel again? Or have they’ve all expired since it’s been so long since you’ve had activity in your account?

Expiring airline miles, hotel points and credit card rewards are a valid concern. In “normal” times most of us avid rewards collectors travel enough that we don’t need to spend time worrying if our points are going to expire from inactivity. If you’ve been grounded for a year or more, however, it’s worthwhile to do an inventory right now to make sure you don’t have any points on the verge of disappearing.

See related: When to use your rewards points and when to pay with cash

How do you know if your points have expired? 

Each different airline and hotel loyalty program has different points expiration rules. It was this way before COVID-19 – and even more so now. Pre-pandemic, a general rule of thumb was to remember that most reward points would expire if you did not earn or redeem any points for a full year. Once COVID-19 hit, expiration rules – like all airline and hotel rules – started to vary even more drastically between carriers and hotel groups. While some have extended points expirations and others have fully shifted to no-expiration policies, some hotels and airlines haven’t changed their policies at all.

Following are a few examples of how some of the U.S. operators have, or haven’t, shifted their expiration policies to accommodate COVID-19. Since airline and hotel information can change as quickly as CDC guidelines these days, you’ll want to do your own due diligence and look up the 2021 expiration rules and exemptions for the specific loyalty accounts where you have your points and miles.

Some airlines and hotel groups have extended points expiration due to COVID-19

Just like many airlines have altered their flight change policies to accommodate travelers during COVID-19, some airlines and hotel groups have extended their points expiration dates. Take note of any programs where you currently have rewards points.

  • American Airlines AAdvantage miles extended through June 30, 2021 (for miles originally expiring in June, it has been pushed back to July)
  • Flying Blue miles for Air France and KLM extended until Dec. 31, 2021
  • Frontier has extended mileage expiration until further notice
  • Hilton extended through Dec. 31, 2021
  • IHG Rewards extended through June 30, 2021
  • Marriott Bonvoy extended through Aug. 31, 2021
  • World of Hyatt extended through June 30, 2021

See related: Airline, hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus

Some airlines and hotel groups have shifted to no-expiration policies

A few airlines have shifted their policies so miles in their programs actually never expire at all. These airlines include Delta, Southwest, United and JetBlue.  In the realm of hotel groups, Best Western points have no expiry.

Don’t forget to read the fine print

When you’re researching how your rewards program is extending points expiration, don’t forget to read the fine print. A few carriers and hotel groups have extended expiration dates only for members with certain levels of elite status, or for travelers in specific age groups. For example, Choice hotel groups have extended their points expiration, but when you dive into the details, you’ll notice the extension is exclusive to elite members. Similarly, American Airlines has adopted a no expiration policy for AAdvantage miles – but only for the accounts of minors under the age of 21.

How to keep points from expiring

Some airlines and hotel groups haven’t made any special concessions for expiring rewards points during COVID-19. These are the accounts that you’re going to want to give the most attention to right now if you aren’t planning to travel anytime soon.

Per the rules of many U.S.-based account programs that do have expiry dates, you can keep your points active year-to-year by ensuring that your account has activity. Most programs consider any earning or redeeming of points as activity. Alaska Airlines, for example, has not formally extended the expiry on their points beyond their normal 24 months since COVID f-19. Other activity in your account, however, can keep your points from expiring.

If you’ve got a stash of Alaska Mileage Plan miles, but haven’t been flying, you can keep these active by making an online shopping purchase via the Mileage Plan shopping portal. Once the miles are deposited – often 6 to 8 weeks later – your mileage expiry date will be extended. If you don’t have 6-8 weeks to wait for miles to post, look for other offers typically found on the ‘redeem miles’ page of the airline’s website. Buying magazines, paying for a few points, or transferring some points to a friend often does the trick at little cost.

Will credit card rewards expire?

If you’ve earned points in a flexible rewards program like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards or Citi’s Thank You program, your points will remain active as long as your credit card account remains open.

If you have transferred points from one of your flexible card accounts to a hotel or airline travel partner, however, the transferred points will then be subject to the expiry rules of the partner’s program. Say you transferred 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to your United Mileage Plus account last year in February for a spring trip to Italy that you were planning but obviously didn’t take because of COVID-19. Because these points now reside in your United account, they will never expire per United’s own expiration rules – even if you cancel your Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Bottom line

With spring ahead of us and post-pandemic travel a little bit closer on the horizon every day, now is a good time to review your rewards points. A little bit of effort now will ensure that your points are all still there and ready to use when you are ready to use them!

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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