Never Let Points Expire!

Your travel reward points are valuable. For those of us who like to travel, a cache of airline miles or hotel points is like money in the bank. But unlike your trusty bank account, sometimes your travel points will disappear if you don’t keep a close eye on them.

Some airline and hotel reward programs have been very pro-consumer in implementing a “points never expire” policy. For example, Delta airlines points never expire.

But many points and miles can expire if you don’t take action to preserve them. Fortunately, in most cases, it is very easy to keep those points active, if you are paying attention.

True Confession: The Sadness of Lost SW Rapid Rewards

I am guilty of losing points because I wasn’t paying attention. A few years ago, I had a moderate stash of Southwest Airline Rapid Rewards points. I wasn’t ever going to be able to fly to Europe with those points, but they were nice for domestic trips.

Southwest Rapid Rewards can last forever — but “In order to keep your Rapid Rewards® account active, you must earn qualifying* Rapid Rewards points at least once every 24 months.”

Southwest Airlines doesn’t fly to my home airport. I have to drive a couple hours to get to a city served by SW. As a result, I was not keeping a good eye on my SW account. And then there came a time when I was interested in using those points to get to Chicago. It would have been a great plan, except for the fact that those points (about 30,000) had expired about 2 months earlier.

Include Expiration Info On Your Spreadsheet

Ackkkkk! A lesson learned. I’ve never let that happen again.

Now I include expiration dates/policies on the spreadsheet listing of points. I can quickly see when points are going to expire, and take action to avoid the loss.

Easy Ways to Extend Expiration Dates

For virtually all reward points, you can extend the expiration date by having some activity in the account. Points programs that expire usually have policies that require some sort of activity within a certain period of time. 18 months. 1 year. 3 years. Each is different. Check the date for your miles.  If you aren’t sure, just google “expiration date ______ points”

Then, before that date approaches, do something to generate activity.

1. Credit Card Spend

If you have a points earning credit card for the program at issue, then just charge something on that card.  Need to extend the date of American Airline Miles?  Take one of your AA credit cards.  Go to McDonalds and buy a $1 drink. Go to the Apple Music store and buy a $1 song. You will generate one point, and your expiration date is extended for another 2 years (or whatever)

2. Use a Shopping Portal

If you can’t generate points with a credit card, consider whether the points program has a shopping portal.  (Yes, I know shopping portal is another big subject.  google it if you aren’t familiar).  Buy something after going through the shopping portal.  Examples of programs that have shopping portals are:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • United Airlines

Be cautious about this, because sometimes it can take 6-8 weeks for those points to show up. So don’t wait until the last minute.

Have a Plan

If you get to within 3 months of the time your points are going to expire, you should have a plan to get more points on that account.