Published in: Credit Cards | Dec. 18, 2019

7 Ways to Prevent Your Miles and Points from Expiring

By:  Lyle Daly

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

Have miles or points that are about to expire? Here's what you can do.

If you're part of an airline or hotel loyalty program, you need to know the expiration policy on your rewards. Your miles or points on most programs will expire if you go a certain amount of time without any account activity. Although 18 to 36 months is a common time frame, some programs have rewards that expire in as little as 12 months.

The last thing you want is for your hard-earned rewards expire before you get the chance to use them, especially if you have a large balance. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to get your account active again and keep those rewards from expiring.

Note that expiration rules vary from program to program. Make sure you check your program's rules to ensure that the method you choose will work.

A man checking in to a hotel.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Book airfare or a hotel stay

The simplest option is to make a booking with that airline or hotel. This works whether you pay in cash or points, because both earning and redeeming rewards counts as account activity. If you book in cash, you'll be earning points. If you book an award airline ticket or hotel stay, then you're redeeming rewards.

Remember that it's not the travel dates that matter -- it's the date you make your travel purchases. If your hotel points are expiring this week, you could prevent that by booking a stay nine months in the future.

2. Get a credit card with the loyalty program

Most loyalty programs have one or more credit cards that earn points. Your rewards won't expire with certain programs as long as you're a cardholder. And for the other programs, you could use the credit card to earn rewards on everyday spending. Any points you earn will count as account activity and keep your previous rewards from expiring.

3. Use the program's shopping portal

One of the smarter ways to maximize your rewards is by using a loyalty program's shopping portal. To do so, you log in to your account, go to the shopping portal, and then pick a store. By navigating to that store through the shopping portal, you'll earn points on your purchases. Depending on the store, this could be one point per $1 spent, but you might be able to earn more -- some stores offer more than five or even more than 10 points per $1.

4. Transfer points from another loyalty program

Many loyalty programs have partner programs and allow you to transfer your rewards to any of those partners. If you have rewards in both programs, a transfer would be an easy way to restart the expiration clock.

This is another reason to have at least one credit card that earns transferable points. These travel rewards cards enable you to send points to the loyalty programs of any transfer partners when your rewards are close to expiration. 

There is almost always a minimum number of points -- usually 1,000 -- you'll need to transfer.

5. Purchase miles or points

It's usually not a great idea to buy airline miles or hotel points, but there are a few exceptions. One such exception is when purchasing more rewards could prevent them from expiring.

Just as with transfers, there's a minimum number of miles/points you'll need to purchase. The standard minimum is 1,000. Depending on the program and the current offers, you may need to pay anywhere from $0.015 to over $0.03 per mile. Even if it costs you $30, that's a small price to pay to keep your rewards active.

6. Donate your rewards

This option requires you to sacrifice some of those points that you're trying to save, but at least it will go toward a good cause. When you donate your rewards, it typically counts as a redemption. That means it can postpone your point expiration date.

7. Dine at a restaurant in the Rewards Network

All the major U.S. airlines and several popular hotel chains are part of the Rewards Network program, which lets you earn extra points by dining at participating restaurants. Here's what you do:

  • Register for the program with a credit or debit card and the loyalty program you'd like to earn points in.
  • Eat out at a participating restaurant and pay with the credit or debit card you registered.

It doesn't take much to save your rewards

There's no need to panic if your miles or points are about to expire. You have plenty of methods at your disposal to extend that expiration date and give yourself all the time you need. Just make sure that you review all your loyalty program policies so that you know when your rewards will expire and can plan accordingly.

Don't pay credit card interest until 2021

The Ascent just released a free credit card guide that could help you pay off credit card debt once and for all. Inside, you'll uncover a simple debt-cutting strategy that could save you $1,863 in interest charges paying off $10,000 of debt. Best yet, you can get started in just three minutes!

Find the right card for you

Travel