This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.
Advertiser Disclosure: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. This relationship may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. All information about the Alaska Airlines Visa cards, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, United Club℠ Business Card, all Citi cards, Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, American Express® Green Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, the World of Hyatt Credit Card, the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card, and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card has been collected independently by Lonely Planet. These cards are not available through Lonely Planet.
Finding out you’ve somehow let your precious stash of hotel points or airline miles expire is a terrible feeling, especially if you’ve been saving them up for a while. Thankfully, taking small steps like paying attention to expiration policies, using a website or app to track your points and miles and keeping your accounts active can help you avoid this harrowing prospect.
A lot of it really depends on the type of rewards you’re working with. Credit card rewards points, for instance, won’t expire as long as your account remains open, while airline and hotel loyalty program policies vary greatly.
For those, if there’s no activity on your account for a certain amount of time, they’ll likely expire, with few exceptions. That said, you can complete certain activities to keep your account active, like using a co-branded credit card, redeeming rewards, earning elite status or booking a flight or hotel stay.
Here’s everything you need to know about when credit card rewards, hotel points and airline miles expire.
How to get started with travel points and airline miles
Credit card rewards: Do they expire?
While your credit card rewards won’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing, there is one caveat. Should you ever decide to close your account, any remaining points will be forfeited, so make sure you transfer or redeem them first.
Here’s how four of the top flexible rewards programs handle expiring points, plus a few redemption options and co-branded credit cards with lucrative welcome bonuses to help get you started.
The best travel credit cards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
One of the best loyalty programs on the market, Chase Ultimate Rewards lets you earn points as long as you use an associated card. While the program offers many options when it’s time to redeem them, you’ll get the best value by switching them to one of Chase’s 14 travel partners at a transfer ratio of 1:1.
In a pinch, you could also book flights, hotels, rental cars or tours through the Chase travel portal, where your redemption is worth 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or 1.5 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Otherwise, points can be used to cover certain purchases thanks to Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature, to book VIP seating at shows and sporting events or to pay for Amazon and Apple Store purchases or gift cards.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Guide: one of the best loyalty programs on the market
American Express Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards points won’t expire as long as your account is open, but you could lose out on recently earned rewards if you miss a payment.
Contact customer service to have the missing points reinstated once you pay your bill. It’s $35 per billing period and you must reactivate them within 12 months, but it’s worth it to save any points you might have otherwise lost.
If American Express closes your account because it has been inactive, you’ll have 90 days to transfer or redeem your points before they expire. If you’re thinking of closing it yourself, redeem them through the Membership Rewards portal or transfer your points to a travel partner first.
The Membership Rewards program is tied to 21 airline and hotel partners including British Airways Executive Club, Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Marriot Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and Choice Privileges. Points can also be redeemed for Apple and Amazon merchandise, Airbnb gift cards or used to cover recent charges.
- American Express® Green Card*: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first six months of account opening.
- American Express® Gold Card*: Earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account opening.
- American Express® Business Gold Card*: Earn 70,000 points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of account opening.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $8,000 within the first six months of account opening.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 120,000 points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of account opening.
American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards
Capital One Rewards
Capital One Miles won’t expire if your account stays active. The Capital One Venture and Capital One Venture X cards each let you earn an unlimited amount of rewards on purchases, and you’ll pick up the most miles by booking hotels, rental cars and flights directly through Capital One Travel.
When it’s time to redeem them, you can choose from 15 travel partners including Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Choice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards and Accor Live Limitless.
Capital One Venture X review: an excellent credit card for travel enthusiasts
Citi ThankYou Rewards
This particular loyalty program seems to be the exception to the rule, with a few of its co-branded cards enforcing expiration dates. The terms and conditions vary by card, so check the list to see if you’re looking at three years, five years, or no expiration at all.
In general, though, an active account keeps your points options open — even if it closes, you’ll have 60 days to redeem them.
ThankYou Points can be transferred to any of Citi’s 18 travel partners including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, JetBlue TrueBlue, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Accor Live Limitless, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards. Otherwise, you can redeem them for gift cards, flights and hotels via Citi Travel, statement credits, cash-back rewards or online purchases via Citi’s many shopping partners.
- Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 miles once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
Should you book travel with cash or points?
Other credit card rewards programs
Bilt Rewards, Bank of America Travel Rewards, Wells Fargo Rewards, Discover Rewards and Barclays Arrival Miles all follow the same rules, leaving your points and miles intact as long as your account is open. One notable exception is for cards that earn U.S. Bank FlexPerks, which expire five years from the end of the quarter they were accumulated in.
How to use points and miles to save money on travel
Unlike credit card rewards, hotel points usually do expire, the only exception being Best Western Rewards points. In most cases, you’ll have a 12–24 month window and can keep your account active by using a co-branded hotel credit card or earning, redeeming or buying rewards points before that date.
Best travel credit cards for hotels
To keep your Marriott Bonvoy points from expiring in 24 months, your account must be active, meaning you must earn, redeem or buy points within that timeframe.
One difference from other hotel rewards programs: While transferring points to a friend or receiving them as a gift does not count as account activity, switching them to or from any of Marriott Bonvoy’s 35 airline partners does. Also, note that your points will never expire if you maintain elite status.
10 incredible branded hotels that have boutique hotel vibes
Unless you’re actively earning or redeeming Hilton Honors points, they’ll expire in 24 months. Avoid this by booking more hotel stays (either with points or cash), or by using a Hilton co-branded credit card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card*: Earn 80,000 points after spending $2,000 within the first six months of account opening.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card*: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in your first six months of card membership and get up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 180,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of account opening.
10 amazing US hotels you can book with points
World of Hyatt
World of Hyatt points will expire if your account remains inactive for 24 months; they cannot be reinstated. Book a night at participating Hyatt or MGM Rewards properties worldwide; use a co-branded credit card; redeem points for free stays, dining, spa treatments, room upgrades or car rentals via its partner, Avis; or buy or gift points to keep your account active.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn up to 65,000 bonus points: 35,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point for the first six months from account opening or up to $15,000.
- World of Hyatt Business Credit Card: Earn up to 75,000 bonus points: 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within the first three months from account opening, plus 15,000 bonus points after spending $12,000 in the first six months from account opening.
Best credit cards for adventure travel
IHG One Rewards
If you have elite status, your IHG One Rewards points will never expire. Everyone else (including those who start with elite status but go back to Club level) has 12 months to complete activities to keep their account active.
Thanks to its nifty Points & Cash feature, you can spend less (in points or cash) when booking stays. You can also donate points, use them to shop online through IHG’s portal, or transfer them to friends or one of 41 partner airlines including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Traveling to Europe using points and miles
Other hotel loyalty programs
If you can’t manage to keep your account active, Choice Privileges points will expire in 18 months, while Accor Live Limitless gives you 12 months and Radisson Rewards lets you have 24 months. Wyndham Rewards is an outlier, with its points expiring four years from the date you check out, or after 18 months if your account remains inactive.
Best travel credit cards for foodies
Like hotel points, most airline miles do eventually expire, although the exact timeframe varies by airline. ANA (All Nippon Airways) Mileage Club miles, for instance, expire after 36 months without exception, while United MileagePlus miles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue points, Delta SkyMiles and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles don’t expire at all.
By earning elite status, redeeming miles for award flights and using co-branded credit cards, you can keep your account alive and well. Check the websites of your preferred airline’s loyalty program to view their individual expiration policies. Below, we’re focusing on five major US airlines.
The best credit cards for Global Entry
Keep your account active or your miles will expire after 24 months — that is, unless you have certain AAdvantage co-branded cards or under the age of 21.
Whatever happens, American Airlines does let you reinstate up to 500,000 AAdvantage miles by making one transaction within 24 months of their expiration date. And as long as you keep earning or redeeming miles every 24 months beyond that, they’ll be safe.
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days of account opening.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 miles after spending $4,000 within the first four months of account opening.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard®: Earn 70,000 miles after spending $7,000 within the first three months of account opening.
TSA PreCheck vs. Clear: which one is best to expedite your travels
United miles never expire, making them one of the best rewards currencies around. If you’re not redeeming them for United flights, check its robust list of Star Alliance airline partners to see if you can find better redemptions to popular destinations like New Zealand or Hawaii.
- United Gateway℠ Card: Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
- United℠ Explorer Card: Earn 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.
- United Quest℠ Card: Earn 70,000 miles and 500 premier qualifying points (PQP) after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
- United Club℠ Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- United℠ Business Card: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- United Club℠ Business Card: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Traveling to Hawaii with points and miles
You won’t ever have to worry about Delta SkyMiles expiring, and they can be used to fly with any number of SkyTeam airline partners to destinations as far away as Australia.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card*: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card*: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles after spending $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 3/27/24.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card*: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card*: Earn 100,000 Bonus Miles after spending $8,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 3/27/24.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card*: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card*: Earn 110,000 Bonus Miles after spending $12,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 3/27/24.
How to travel to Spain using points and miles
Southwest Rapid Rewards
For award redemptions closer to home, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are a great asset, giving you plenty of options for flights throughout North and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Best of all, points never expire.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening.
How to travel to Greece using points and miles
While your miles will never expire, Alaska Airlines can still technically lock your account if there’s no activity for two years. That said, you can call customer service to have it unlocked and your miles reactivated.
- Alaska Airlines Visa® Signature card: Earn 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of account opening — and earn Alaska’s $99 Companion Fare each year after you spend $6,000.
- Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card: Earn 50,000 miles, plus Alaska’s $99 Companion Fare, after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account.
How to get major perks at global events and concerts with your credit card
Keeping track of your points and miles
Sign up for a free account with AwardWallet to track how many points and miles you’ve earned across nearly 700 loyalty programs. It’s also a great way to keep tabs on upcoming expiration dates.
Get into the habit of checking in with your preferred loyalty programs every so often to make sure all your flights and hotel stays have been added to your account so you can flag any errors or track down missing rewards.
The best credit cards for airport lounge access
How to keep your account active
Spending with the travel credit card or co-branded card that’s associated with your preferred loyalty program is the easiest way to keep your account active. You could also book more flights or hotels, which would let you earn even more rewards, or redeem them to cover some or all of your next trip.
Alternatively, see if your loyalty program has an online shopping portal or dining rewards program, or if you can fill out surveys, donate or buy points and miles or simply transfer them to an airline or hotel partner.
If all else fails and you don’t have enough saved up for any significant travel, cash in your rewards for merchandise or gift cards, or see if you can use them to cover recent purchases or receive cash back.
Another tip: Instead of returning an item purchased with a rewards-earning credit card, see if it’s possible to do an exchange or opt for store credit, as making a return would result in a loss of those earned rewards points.
Best credit cards for road trips
How to reinstate expired points and miles
We touched on this earlier in the American Airlines and Alaska Airlines sections, but certain loyalty programs will allow you a little grace if your rewards expire, though you’ll likely need to pay a fee to reinstate them.
Frontier Airlines, for instance, lets you reactivate your miles by paying anywhere from $50 to $500 depending on how many have expired.
Emirates, meanwhile, lets you reinstate up to 50,000 miles annually as long as they have expired within the last six months and you pay $20 for every 1,000 miles. Note that if you have miles set to expire in the next 90 days, you can extend that date for up to 12 months by paying that same rate.
Traveling to Japan using points and miles
Don’t let your hard-earned points and miles go to waste. By staying on top of your accounts, either by checking them every so often manually or with the help of a service like AwardWallet, you’ll be able to keep your rewards accounts active and use points and miles to save money on future trips.
* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.