How Do Points and Miles Expiration Policies Work? How Do Points and Miles Expiration Policies Work?

How Do Points and Miles Expiration Policies Work?

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Keeping your points and miles from expiring is arguably the most important thing you can do after earning them. There is no point in going to all the trouble of earning points and miles and building up your balances only to see them expire because you didn’t understand the expiration policy. So read on to find out how points and miles expiration policies work and what you can do to stop your hard-earned balances from expiring.


Three Types of Points and Miles Expiration Policies

Every loyalty program has its own set of rules governing points expiration. While each program will have its nuances and unique set of criteria, expiration policies generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Points that never expire regardless of how long you have held them or activity on your account.
  • Points that will expire on a given date.
  • Points that expire unless you take specific action to stop them from doing so.

Points and Miles That Never Expire

These are the easiest programs to deal with and the simplest in which to build up large balances. Simply put, your points will not expire regardless of any activity or inactivity on your account. These types of programs offer you peace of mind of knowing that you can safely accrue points and miles without the risk of losing them. This lets you build up a balance towards a huge redemption opportunity.

Examples of programs with miles that do not expire include Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus.

However, even programs with no expiration policy can have other rules that could result in your points being lost. These rules include things like prohibited behavior or a repeated lack of response to a communication from the program. Or, in some cases, if your account is inactive for several years, some loyalty programs will terminate your entire account. Keep this in mind. Just because a program does not have an expiration policy does not mean your points are there forever.

Points and Miles That Expire Regardless of Activity

The flipside of “never expire” points and miles expiration policies is “expire no matter what”. Some loyalty program miles/points have a fixed validity — meaning miles will expire a certain amount of time after being earned. You can do nothing to extend your points' validity in these programs. Once their lifespan is over, the miles expire and are gone.

An example of this is Emirates Skywards. In this complicated program, Skywards miles are valid for three years. Earning or redeeming miles won't change the expiration date.

Reinstatement of expired miles: It will be no surprise that not everything is straightforward in the points and miles world. Several programs that have points with a fixed lifespan allow you to reinstate expired points for a fee. Remember that this reinstatement is typically limited by time. For instance, you can only reinstate points that have expired in the last year or 6 months. Another limitation is that there may be a restriction on the number of points you can reinstate at a time or per year.

Another thing to keep an eye out for: the reinstated points often have a much shorter validity. If you plan to pay cold, hard cash to reinstate some points, make sure you have a pretty quick use for them.

Points and Miles With a Validity That can be Extended

By far, the bulk of points and miles expiration policies fall into this category. Points and miles are valid for a specific period of time (generally between 18 and 36 months). During this time, you need to complete a “qualifying activity” to reset the clock on your points. If the validity period elapses without you completing the required “qualifying activity,” your miles will expire and be forfeited.

As a rule, “qualifying activity” varies, but it generally means earning or redeeming points or miles with the program.

Can You Reinstate Expired Miles?

Your mileage will vary here, depending on the program. Some programs do not allow you to reinstate expired miles at all. However, if you call the customer service number, an agent might be able to reinstate your points or miles for you free as a gesture of goodwill. So, it does not hurt to ask.

Other programs allow you to reinstate your points or miles for a fee. Beware that, in most cases, it is expensive, and there tends to be a cap on the number of points or miles you can reinstate per transaction and per calendar year. So it is best not to allow your miles to expire in the first place.

Are All “Qualifying Activity” Requirements the Same?

Programs requiring qualifying activity to extend the validity of your points each have their own criteria on what counts. Quite often, what counts in one program does not in another — and vice versa.

For instance, some programs will accept transfers from credit card points or even point purchases as qualifying activities that will reset the expiration clock on your points. Others may not accept this and insist that only points earned or redeemed directly with the program itself are what counts towards resetting your expiration clock.

If your loyalty program requires you to complete certain “Qualifying Activities”, ensure that you read all the fine print so that you are totally informed about what counts and what doesn’t count. This helps to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Do Expiration Policies Change?

Yes, airlines and hotels often update their loyalty program terms and conditions — including their points and miles expiration policies.

Bear in mind that these changes aren't always negative. In quite a few cases, the policy changes can be a generous improvement. An example of this was in August 2019, when United abolished its expiration policy entirely. After that change, United miles don't expire.

Even if the change is not a radical one (like the United example above), it may be a minor tweak like disqualifying particular activity from resetting your mileage validity clock. This could be problematic if you were counting on using this newly-disqualified method. If that was your preferred method for keeping points alive, and it no longer works, you could wind up losing points to expiration. So, it is best to stay on top of the changes to your rewards programs.

Remember, one of the easiest ways to keep track of all your points' expiration dates to keep them alive is to use AwardWallet to track your programs and notify you of impending expiration.

Photo of United logo on the side of a plane; it has one of the friendliest expiration policies for points and miles

Airline Programs Expiration Guidelines

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada Aeroplan points expire after 18 months if you have not redeemed or accumulated a single point during that period. This is one of the quickest expiration policies out there. However, it is a marked improvement on Air Canada's previous policy, which (prior to July 2020) saw your points expire after 12 months without accrual or redemption.

The following three exceptions apply to the Air Canada Aeroplan points expiration policy:

If your points have expired in the last six months, you can reinstate them free of charge by either opening an Aeroplan co-branded credit card or taking an Air Canada flight. For points that expired more than 6 months ago, you can pay 1 cent per point plus a $30 administrative fee to have them reinstated.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles technically do not expire. However, if your account has no activity for a period of two years, your account may be terminated by Alaska. If that happens, any miles in your account will be forfeited. Fortunately, all is not lost if your account is deactivated. You can reactivate your account and restore your miles free of charge for up to one year after your account deactivation by contacting Alaska’s customer care.

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire if you have no qualifying activity on your account in a 24-month period. To keep your miles active, you need to earn or redeem miles with AA or an AA partner once every 24 months. The following are exempt from AA’s points expiration policy:

Once your miles have expired, you can reactivate them for a fee. That fee depends on how many you are reactivating. You can only reactivate up to 500,000 miles that have expired in the last 24 months and are restricted to one reactivation transaction.

British Airways Executive Club

British Airways Avios will expire if you have no activity on your account for a period of 36 months. To keep your Avios alive and well, you must earn or spend at least one Avios every 36 months.

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles do not expire. However, there are some situations where Delta reserves the right to terminate your account and you would forfeit your miles. The six cases where your account can be closed by Delta include a member's request for account closure, a member passing away, or even failing to respond to repeated communication about account status.

Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards miles will expire 3 years after the miles were earned and will disappear at the end of your birthday month. So, if take a flight in January 2022 and your birthday is in March, your miles will expire at the end of March 2025. However, Emirates does say this:

If you have any Skywards Miles in your account that are due to expire in the next 3 months, you can pay to extend their validity for another 12 months beyond the date of the original expiry. Please visit the Buy Miles page for complete details.

Additionally, co-brand credit cardholders and Platinum Elite members don't need to worry about mile expiration.

You can reinstate expired Emirates Skywards miles at the cost of $20 per 1,000 miles. You can only reinstate 50,000 miles per calendar year, and you can only reinstate miles that have expired in the last 6 months. The newly-reinstated miles have a validity of 12 months.

JetBlue Airways TrueBlue

JetBlue TrueBlue points do not expire as long as your JetBlue account remains open. If your account is closed at your request — or if JetBlue closes your account for what it deems is a violation of its terms and conditions or fraud — then all points in the terminated account will be forfeited.

Lufthansa Miles & More

Lufthansa has a very straightforward mileage expiration policy. Miles & More miles expire 36 months after being earned. This is not the most generous policy, since there is no way to extend the validity of your miles. All you can do is ensure that you accrue enough miles to use before the 36month time clock expires on any batch of miles.

The only exception to the Lufthansa expiration policy is as follows:

  • Lufthansa elites with Frequent Traveller, Senator, or HON Circle Member status are exempt from the mileage expiration policy.
  • Holders of eligible co-branded credit cards are also exempt from the expiration policy after holding the car for three months and making one transaction per month.
  • If your miles are about to expire, you can pay Miles and More partner Loylogic to have the validity extended, as long as you earned one mile from a Miles and More partner.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards points never expire, letting you concentrate on building your balance towards your next award. Historically, Southwest points used to expire after 24 months of inactivity. However, this policy was abolished in October 2019.

United MileagePlus

United changed its expiration policy in August 2019. Now, United MileagePlus miles no longer expire. However, a few reasons will lead to your account being closed by United, and all the miles in it will be forfeited. For example, your account may be closed if you fail to respond to repeated communications from United about your account or engage in prohibited activities.

Photo of the entrance to the Grand Hyatt in Playa del Carmen. Those with a Hyatt credit card are not subject to points and miles expiration policies with the hotel
Entrance to the Grand Hyatt in Playa del Carmen

Hotel Programs Expiration Guidelines

Accor Live Limitless

Accor Live Limitless points will expire if you have no qualifying activity on your account in a 12-month period. According to Accor, any activity that earns at least one point will count towards extending the validity of your Accor points.

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors points expire if a member has no qualifying activity on their account for a consecutive 24-month period. Hilton classifies various activities as qualifying, including earning, redeeming, and purchasing Hilton Honors points. Any of these will reset your points expiration clock. If your points have expired, you can pay to have up to 1,000,000 points reinstated at a rate of 0.25 cents per point.

IHG One Rewards

Non-elite members' points will expire if the member doesn't have qualifying activity on their account for 12 months. To keep your points from expiring, all you need to do is earn or redeem points at least once every 12 months. The only exception to the points expiration policy is IHG One Rewards elite members with Silver Elite status and above.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy points will expire if you have no qualifying activity on your account for 24 months. To keep your account active, you need to earn, redeem or purchase Marriot Bonvoy points at least once every 24 months. Once forfeited, there is no way for members to reinstate their expired points.

Radisson Rewards

Radisson Rewards points expire if you have no activity on your account for a period of 24 months. This applies to both reward programs, Radisson Rewards Americas and Radisson Rewards. Fortunately, there are many ways to earn or redeem Radisson Rewards points, including spending on co-branded credit cards and transfers from American Express Membership Rewards for UK American Express cardholders.

World Of Hyatt

World of Hyatt points will expire if you have no qualifying activity on your account for a 24-month period. In terms of what counts as qualifying activity, earning, redeeming, and transferring points will count towards extending the validity of your points. You don’t have to worry about your points expiring if you have a Hyatt credit card.

Our Take

You put a lot of time and effort into working out how to maximize your earnings for every dollar you spend and how to maximize the returns on your points balances. Logging into your account to see a large chunk of points or miles have vanished can throw your travel goals into chaos. Staying on top of points and miles expiration policies is crucial to making the most out of every single point.

By far, the easiest way to keep track of all your point balances is to use AwardWallet. By linking your accounts, the site helps track the expiration of hundreds of different points and miles programs. If you have miles expiring soon, you'll get an email letting you know your points are at risk. This gives you the chance to take corrective action to prevent them from expiring.

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