The points and miles of loyalty programs are valuable currencies redeemable for future travel, gift cards, cash back, and more. There are spenders and savers—even hoarders—when it comes to travel rewards. But savers beware: Unlike bank accounts, points and mileage accounts can drop to zero after periods of inactivity, erasing those hard-earned rewards—forever.
Truth is, every loyalty program has a different policy for points and miles expiration, with some offering no-expiration policies. Others expire after certain periods of account inactivity but can be maintained if even a single mile is added or subtracted from the account. Meanwhile, points and miles of a few programs may expire outright after a year or more.
Here is what you need to know to keep your points and miles balances from expiring and avoid the shock of a zero balance.
Credit card points do not expire
Points earned in credit card loyalty programs, whether from welcome bonuses, spending, or promotions, do not expire if your credit card account is open, active, and in good standing. However, if you cancel your account, you will lose any unredeemed points. This applies to:
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Capital One Rewards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou Points
Hotels points expire without activity
Many hotel loyalty programs paused points expirations during the height of COVID, but now rules are back in place. Most hotel points expire after 24 months of inactivity but can be extended with any type of account activity. This goes for:
- Hilton Honors
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
Note that Lifetime Elite members in Marriott Bonvoy do not have to worry about checking their balances because they are exempt from expiration .
Popular hotel loyalty program IHG One Rewards has a stricter expiration policy than its competitors. Points expire 12 months from last activity but can be extended with activity. However, points in elite member accounts do not expire. So, if you have the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which comes with automatic IHG Platinum Elite status, your points will not expire if you maintain elite status with the card.
Most domestic frequent flier miles do not expire
Less than four years ago, the frequent flier programs of just two airlines had no-expiration policies: Delta and JetBlue. But now more programs have followed suit, ensuring miles will not expire (if the programs still exist, of course). These programs now include:
- Delta SkyMiles
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Also on this list is Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan. However, accounts will be locked after two years of inactivity. If such time lapses, you will have to contact Alaska Airlines to reactivate your account, but rest assured the miles will still be there.
Frequent flier miles that expire due to inactivity
American Airlines AAdvantage program is the sole domestic airline loyalty program in which miles expire. To keep your AA miles, you’ll need account activity at least once every 24 months.
Most international airline loyalty programs also have mileage expiration policies. Below are some, including the number of months after which miles expire if there is no account activity.
- AeroMéxico Club Premier – 24 months
- Air Canada Aeroplan – 18 months
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue – 24 months
- British Airways Executive Club – 36 months
- Iberia Plus – 36 months
- Qantas Frequent Flyer – 18 months
- Qatar Airways Privilege Club – 36 months
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles – 36 months
- Frequent flier miles that expire outright
Frequent flier miles that expire outright
Regardless of account activity, miles in some programs will expire completely in 36 months. Be sure to use your points within three years in the following programs to avoid disappointment:
- ANA Mileage Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Lufthansa Miles & More
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
How to avoid points and mileage expiration?
For programs requiring activity every 12, 24, or 36 months, activity can be as simple as the addition or subtraction of a single point, but a transaction must post to the account. If you aren’t currently banking miles or points in an account through credit card spending or travel, you have several options to keep your account active. To start, simply transfer points between accounts (e.g., transfer Amex Membership Rewards into a partner frequent flier program, or transfer Hilton points from one Hilton account to the next). Also, consider ordering a magazine subscription with miles. You can typically get a subscription for just a few hundred miles. Finally, shop through an airline’s shopping portal to earn extra miles, which also count as account activity.
On a broader scale, it’s wise to follow a few other rules to keep your points and miles from expiring. First, don’t transfer your credit card points to airline and hotel partners until you are ready to book an award. Next, don’t hoard points and miles. They don’t collect interest, and, in many cases, they devalue over time as inflation impacts loyalty programs. Don’t be afraid to spend them. Furthermore, check the current balances of your points and mileage accounts and mark the mileage expiration dates on your calendar (which will be clearly stated in your points summary). This way you are aware if you need to carry out some activity to keep the points and miles safe.