One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your miles and points do not expire – it sounds simple to keep an eye on your accounts, but realistically speaking, the more accounts you have with airlines and hotels, the bigger the hassle can be to keep up with everything. It is very important to understand what the rules are of the frequent flyer or frequent guest program you are using and know what their expiration dates and policies are – some programs are more generous than others.
Credit Card Points Expiration Dates
The points you have earned with your credit card that you can transfer to airlines and hotels never expire as long as you have the credit card account open. This includes points like American Express Membership Rewards, etc. – they won’t expire if you have the card open.
However, this does not include miles or points that you have earned with a co-branded credit card that are automatically deposited into your airline or hotel account every month, these would expire according to the frequent flyer or frequent guest program policy.
Hotel Points Expiration Dates & Policies
In general, most hotel points in your frequent guest account do not expire as long as you have some sort of activity on the account every few months. Activity includes earning or redeeming at least 1 point within a certain timeframe.
The timeframe is determined by every hotel program and some are more generous than others. If you hold elite status, your points will likely never expire as long as you have status – because essentially to get status you need to keep earning points and stays.
Airline Miles That Never Expire
When it comes to airlines, the expiration of airline miles depends on each individual airline.
Some miles from frequent flyer programs never expire – ever. This includes programs like United Airlines MileagePlus or Delta Air Lines SkyMiles.
Airline Miles That Expire After Inactivity
Most frequent flyer programs have a mileage expiration policy whereby your miles or account will expire within a certain timeframe if there is no activity on your account. Activity is generally defined as earning or redeeming at least 1 mile or point.
The actual timeframe in which you need to accomplish this, varies by the airline and program. The most common timeframes are between 12 and 18 months – however some programs are more generous and go up to 24+ months.
It is easy to extend the expiration date of these airline miles because all you need to do is earn or redeem at least 1 mile every few months. And in most cases you can book an award ticket and cancel it within 24 hours for free, and this would qualify as activity – or having a credit card and spending a few $ on it every month, for example.
Airline Miles With “Hard” Expiration Dates
Some airline frequent flyer programs are less generous and encourage you to redeem your miles by having “hard” expiration dates – this basically means that once you earn a mile or point, it will expire in some timeframe without the ability to extend the expiration date.
For example, Lufthansa Miles & More miles expire 3 years after they are earned – the only way to get around this is to either have elite status in the program or hold a co-branded credit card.
Some other frequent flyer programs are not as generous and miles will expire with a hard date regardless – there is usually no way to get around this other than by actually using your miles and points.
You Always Want to Be Earning and Redeeming
Never think of your miles and points as an investment for your future – because their value can be changed at any time. You always want to be earning and redeeming miles constantly – never save up more miles than you can reasonably redeem within a year or two. This is because airlines constantly change their programs and make miles worth less than what they are today – most programs act in good faith and provide members advance notice whereby you can lock in awards at current rates before they go up.
Do not save up millions of miles for your retirement travels, because by the time you retire, those miles will most likely be worth much less than they are today (or worse, might not even exist). You always want to be earning and redeeming miles actively.
All in All
Understanding expiration dates of miles and points is very important – some programs will email you a few months before your points are due to expire while others will not. Always set alerts on your calendar a few months before your points are set to expire and make sure to double-check the policy of each program you participate in. It can be helpful to plan out your travel year at the beginning of the year and plan what miles or points you will be using on what trip – you always want to use up the miles that expire first – and make sure you’re getting good redemption value, don’t just redeem them to redeem them!