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How to keep your points and miles from expiring

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information. 

Although more and more programs have been moving away from points expiration, it’s still one of the unfortunate pitfalls of the travel rewards game we love. After all, who wants to let (nearly) free travel go to waste?

Fortunately, many ways to keep your accounts active don’t require hopping on an airplane or going on a mattress run. You can often reset the expiration date on the various hotel and airline currencies from the comfort of your desk or couch.

Some airline and hotel programs have even eliminated points expiration. Delta and JetBlue have been this way for years, while Southwest and United axed their respective points expiration policies several years ago. More recently, Alaska and Hawaiian have done away with their mileage expiration policies.

If you’re wondering whether or not your miles expire or how to keep them active, you’re in the right place. We’ll show you when the most popular airline miles and hotel points expire and highlight ways to keep them from expiring.

When do points and miles expire?

Loyalty program currencies normally expire after one to three years of inactivity. If you go 12 or 36 months without earning (or, in some cases, redeeming) points or miles in some way, you may lose any accumulated balance. Some programs vary from this rule by imposing either more restrictive expiration policies or more lenient ones.

Airline miles expiration

Airline Expiration term
Aeromexico 24 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Air Canada (Aeroplan) 18 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles do not expire, but accounts that have been inactive for more than two years will be locked. You must contact Alaska to verify your identity and reactivate your account.
American Airlines 24 months from last activity; can extend with activity.

Miles do not expire for members under 21 and some primary AAdvantage credit card holders.

ANA 36 months from earning; no way to extend.
Asiana Airlines 10 years (12 years for some elite members) from earning; no way to extend.
British Airways 36 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles) 18 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Delta Air Lines No expiration.
Emirates Three years from earning; no way to extend.
Etihad Airways 18 months from last activity; can extend 18 additional months with activity.

Platinum members are exempt from mileage expiration.

EVA Air 36 months from earning; no way to extend.
Flying Blue (Air France-KLM) 24 months from last activity; can extend with flight or Air France-KLM World Elite Mastercard® activity.

Note: Transferring credit card or hotel points to Flying Blue will not extend mileage expiration.

Frontier Airlines Six months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Hawaiian Airlines No expiration.
Iberia 36 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
JAL 36 months from earning; no way to extend.
JetBlue No expiration.
Korean Air 10 years from earning; no way to extend.
Lufthansa (Miles & More) 36 months from earning; no option to extend.

No expiration if you’ve held a Lufthansa cobranded credit card for three or more months and make at least one purchase per month. Expiration is waived if you have Lufthansa elite status.

Malaysia Airlines 36 months from last activity; no way to extend.
Qantas 18 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Qatar Airways 36 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Singapore Airlines 36 months from earning; no way to extend.
Southwest Airlines No expiration.
Turkish Airlines 36 months from earning; no way to extend.

You can extend the validity of miles due to expire for another three years at $10 for every 1,000 miles.

United Airlines No expiration.
Virgin Atlantic No expiration.

The information for the Air France-KLM World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

As you can see, these policies are all over the map. Some programs count any activity as eligible to extend the expiration date, while others don’t allow any extensions.

The winners here? Alaska Mileage Plan, Delta SkyMiles, HawaiianMilesJetBlue TrueBlue, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. These programs make it easy to not worry about losing your account balances due to a pause in travel.

Related: What exactly are airline miles, anyway?

Hotel points expiration

Hotel program Expiration term
Accor Live Limitless 12 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Best Western Rewards No expiration.
Choice Privileges 18 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Hilton Honors 24 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
IHG One Rewards 12 months from last activity; can extend with activity.

No expiration for elite members.

Marriott Bonvoy 24 months from last activity; can extend with activity.

No expiration for Lifetime Elite members.

Radisson Rewards and Radisson Rewards Americas 24 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
World of Hyatt 24 months from last activity; can extend with activity.
Wyndham Rewards 18 months with no activity and four years overall.

Like airlines, there’s a wide range of policies, ranging from completely flexible (Best Western points never expire) to more restrictive. However, these programs allow you to extend the validity period of your points with activity.

Related: The inside scoop on how much hotels get paid when you redeem points

How to keep your points and miles from expiring

United Boeing 787-9 Polaris business class
Keep your miles active to redeem them for business-class seats in the future. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Now you know when your points and miles expire. But how do you keep them active? Luckily, there are several ways to do this. Here’s a list of the easiest.

Try to perform these tasks at least a couple of months before your points or miles are set to expire to provide adequate time for the activity to post to your account.

Open a credit card

Some airlines and hotel chains waive mileage expiration for those holding cobranded travel credit cards.

For example, if you hold the IHG Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, you receive automatic IHG Platinum Elite status. And one of the perks of IHG elite status is that points don’t expire for current elite members.

However, not all cobranded cards offer this benefit. For example, simply having the World of Hyatt Credit Card in your wallet does not keep your points active. Even a small transaction on the card will add a point to your World of Hyatt balance and extend your expiration date at the end of your billing cycle, though.

Related: The best credit cards to reach elite status

Join the dining rewards network

Many airlines and hotel chains have dining rewards programs through the Dining Rewards Network. You can often keep your account active by linking a credit card to a hotel chain’s or airline’s dining program and earn airline miles or hotel points when you use that card for dining at over 10,000 participating restaurants.

And don’t worry: Most of the time, you’ll still earn these points if you order takeout. Just pay the restaurant directly and not through a third-party app like Uber Eats or Grubhub.

We’ve found that the points usually post within a week of purchase. You can’t double or triple dip with the same card in multiple programs, though. You can belong to more than one dining rewards program, but if you enroll the same card in multiple programs, it will only award points to the most recent program you linked.

However, you could (for example) add the Chase Sapphire Reserve to the Alaska Airlines dining program and then your American Express® Gold Card to the American Airlines dining program. If you ask the server at a participating restaurant to split your bill between those two cards, you’ll extend the expiration date of your miles in both those programs.

Related: The best credit cards for dining

Shop through the program’s shopping portal

Young woman shopping online in cafe with laptop. (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

This may be the easiest option for most people: Shop through the loyalty program’s shopping portal.

Most major hotel chains and airlines have a site where you earn miles by starting there and then clicking through to a participating merchant before making an online purchase. Any eligible purchase can keep your miles active.

We recommend using a shopping portal for all your online purchases. It’s easy to rack up points with most airline programs, giving you an easy way to stock up on points and miles for the vacation you’re daydreaming about. Use a shopping portal aggregator to ensure you get the most points for your purchases.

Related: The beginners guide to airline shopping portals

Transfer points from a credit card or hotel program

Transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards will generally keep your miles active.

Notably, this isn’t the case with Air France-KLM Flying Blue. Since any number of miles will generally reset the expiration clock, you should transfer the minimum number possible, though most programs require at least 1,000 points when transferring to partners.

Don’t have a transferable points credit card? Consider changing that now. These programs provide incredible flexibility as you can transfer points to several airlines and hotels.

You can also transfer points from most hotel programs to keep your airline miles active. Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, Wyndham Rewards and others allow transfers to several airline partners. However, note that many hotel programs have less-than-favorable exchange rates, and the transfers can take weeks to process.

Check out TPG’s list of the best rewards credit cards to find one that works for you and your spending habits. Remember, keeping your points diversified can protect you from award chart devaluations and airline insolvency and give you more award tickets.

Related: Get more from your points with these transfer bonuses

Donate to charity

One of the easiest ways to keep your points and miles active is by donating miles to charity.

American, British Airways and many others offer donation programs. Generally speaking, the minimum number you can donate is 1,000. The points or miles are typically debited from your account immediately, extending the expiration date of your remaining account balance the second you hit the confirm button. This is perfect if your miles are expiring in the coming weeks.

Related: How to donate points and miles to help Ukraine

Take a flight or complete a stay

Many program terms allow for an extension in mileage expiration with activity. In that case, you can keep your points and miles active by taking a flight on the applicable airline (or one of its partners) or completing a stay with the hotel chain.

For most airlines and hotel programs, earning and redeeming are considered eligible activities for keeping your account active. Note that paid flights and hotel stays usually don’t reset your points expiration date until after the applicable points and miles post to your account (generally a few days after flying or checking out).

How to reinstate expired points

Of course, all the above suggestions apply to those proactively trying to keep their account balances active. But what happens if your points or miles have already expired?

This may seem like a “too bad, so sad” situation, but all hope may not be lost. A handful of airlines and hotel chains allow you to reinstate your points and miles, typically with a fee.

If your airline or hotel program isn’t discussed in the article I linked above, try calling the customer support line for the program. If your points recently expired or you get a really friendly agent, there’s a chance you could get your miles reinstated for free. Make sure to ask politely and — if possible — call when phone lines aren’t busy assisting customers that need ticket changes and cancellations.

Whether it’s worth incurring this out-of-pocket expense depends on the value of the points or miles you’ve lost. However, large balances in these programs could very well be worth it.

Bottom line

It is essential to know when your points and miles expire and how to keep them active. While most airline and hotel programs differ in their expiration policies, your account balances in many programs will be at risk without some qualifying activity in a defined period.

Bookmark this page and refer to it whenever you’re questioning when your miles expire or wondering about the best ways to keep them active. We’ll keep it updated with mileage expiration news and updates.

Finally, saving your expiring miles could mean the difference between flying economy or business class on your next vacation.

Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.