If you’re like me, you’ve probably taken advantage of some pretty insane deals for travel rewards points.
In fact, in 2019, I picked up three new cards and earned the introductory bonus offer on all three. I was hoping that I could spend the points in 2020 to take my family on a trip.
But then…2020 happened.
Will they expire before I have a chance to use them?
COVID-19 made many people cautious about travel. Some still are hesitant to hop on a plane. However, if you have points that you’ve earned, you, like me, don’t want them to expire.
Here are some ways you can use your miles if you’re not yet ready for air travel.
Enjoy experiences near you
You can often find and attend local experiences with your travel points. For instance, VIP treatment at a basketball game and not have to pay for a thing. Imagine being able to enjoy a Lakers game in your private suite for free, just by cashing in your miles (granted, you’ll need quite a bit for that type of experience).
One card I recommend for this benefit is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Chase has many perks to their cards in general, but with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can get access to a bunch of different events and experiences, plus some additional ones just for Sapphire members.
Also be aware of airline-sponsored events; sometimes your points can be used to gain access to those events through these sponsorships.
The same applies when your travel miles are earned with a particular credit card company. The card company may allow you to use those points at any event they sponsor (try Googling [Card Company] + sponsored event near me).
In addition to sporting event access, some points can be used to access musical events close to you, including concerts. Some even go all out and allow you to watch a performer’s soundcheck and meet them before their performance.
Your travel points can sometimes be used for shopping. Maybe you want to treat yourself to something that you wouldn’t regularly purchase, such as an expensive pair of shoes or sunglasses.
And many cards now allow you to link to stores like Amazon.com so you can spend your points directly when checking out.
Airline programs (like United, for example) will have a shopping portal, too. This allows you to use your miles to buy goods and services through the portal instead of exchanging them for flights. Alternatively, you can use a credit card that will allow you to use points as a statement credit.
For example, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card gets you unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, so no need to worry about keeping track of rotating categories. You also don’t have to worry about your points expiring, since the cash back you earn with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card never expires.
And you can redeem your cash back for a check, gift cards to go shopping, or a statement credit. This makes shopping with your points incredibly easy.
Donate them to charity
Another option is to use your points to support a charity you already donate to regularly. Instead of using cash, you could just use your points.
One card to consider for their sizable rewards program is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. You can earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstore, and 1.5% on all other purchases. If you earn big in those categories, cash out your points and write a check to the charity of your choosing.
Most airlines have a list of charities that you can support with your miles, and you can simply click on the name of the charity to donate your rewards to them.
This is a good option when you don’t want to use your points for travel, but it has a drawback since the exchange rate is lower. Under ordinary circumstances, the charity will get more if you use your travel points for a ticket and give the equivalent amount of cash to them.
Are credit card companies issuing extensions?
The short answer is yes. Most, if not all, airlines made sure frequent flyer miles that were earned in 2019 and 2020 didn’t expire and instead rolled into 2021. And hotel points programs are doing the same thing. So the points you may have earned through a branded travel rewards card should be safe for the time being.
But what about non-travel rewards cards? What if you have a cash back credit card or a card that just earns points?
The good news is that as long as you keep your account current and active, most credit card companies will not allow your earned points to expire.
Here’s a list of the airlines and hotels that we know have made a statement on whether they’re extending miles or points. You’ll notice that some programs do not allow points to expire.
Program type Program Extension offered? Extension offered until
Airline miles Aeroplan (Air Canada) Yes January 31, 2022
Airline miles Alaska Air Mileage Plan Yes December 31, 2021
Airline miles All Nippon Airways Yes; extension request required September 30, 2021
Airline miles American Airlines AAdvantage Yes July 31, 2021
Airline miles Avianca LifeMiles Yes; elite tiers expanded January 31, 2022
Airline miles British Airways Executive Club Yes for points expiring July 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021 12-month extension for all expiring points
Airline miles Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Points earned before January 1, 2020, don't expire for three years n/a
Airline miles Delta SkyMiles Miles do not expire; one-year extension to use priority boarding and drink benefits n/a
Airline miles Emirates Skywards Yes December 31, 2021
Airline miles Etihad Guest No; Platinum miles never expire n/a
Airline miles Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) Yes December 31, 2021
Airline miles Frontier Miles Yes TBD; Company has said "until further notice"
Airline miles Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles Miles no longer expire n/a
Airline miles Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Yes January 31, 2022, but only available to those who registered for an extension
Airline miles JetBlue TrueBlue Points do not expire n/a
Airline miles Korean Air SKYPASS Yes December 31, 2021
Airline miles LATAM Pass Miles Yes Extended by 90 days
Airline miles Malaysia Enrich Yes December 31, 2021
Airline miles Miles & More (Lufthansa et al.) No n/a
Airline miles Qantas Points No Must earn new points every 18 months to keep points account active
Airline miles Qatar Qmiles No; points don't expire for three years n/a
Airline miles Singapore KrisFlyer Yes No expirations until April 2022
Airline miles Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards No n/a
Airline miles Turkish Miles & Smiles No; extend expiration of points for three years for a $10 fee n/a
Airline miles United Airlines MileagePlus Miles do not expire n/a
Airline miles Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles do not expire n/a
Hotel points Accor Live Limitless Yes Expiration paused through December 31, 2021
Hotel points Best Western Rewards Points do not expire n/a
Hotel points Choice Privileges Yes Expiration paused through December 31, 2021
Hotel points Hilton Honors Yes Expiration paused through December 31, 2021
Hotel points IHG Rewards Club Yes Expiration paused through December 31, 2021
Hotel points Marriott Bonvoy Yes Expiration paused through March 31, 2022
Hotel points Melia Rewards Yes Expiration paused through September 30, 2021
Hotel points Radisson Rewards Yes December 31, 2021
Hotel points World of Hyatt Yes Expiration paused through December 31, 2021
Hotel points Wyndham Rewards Yes Expiration paused through December 31, 2021
How to tell if your points are expiring
The most common type of points that do expire are airline miles and hotel points. Remember that when you open a branded credit card, your rewards are tied directly to an airline program.
Each airline program has different tier levels with varying expiration dates, so the best way to tell if your points are expiring is to go into your account and review your point totals. If you’re ever unsure, just call the airline or hotel program in question and ask them.
While most airlines have paused the expiration of points due to COVID-19, the downside to these programs is that miles may eventually expire. That’s why I recommend looking at something like the Citi Premier® Card, which gives you points you can use for almost anything, including travel.
Right now, the Citi Premier® Card is offering 80,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Are there ways that my points can expire?
Yes, there are specific ways you can forfeit your points. Each program is going to be different, so you’ll need to read the terms and conditions of your particular program/account, but here are some general things to avoid if you want to keep your points:
- Missing a payment. If you miss a payment (or several payments), it could send your account into default, and you could lose any points and promotional APRs you’ve earned.
- You break specific program guidelines. This is pretty rare, but if you commit fraud or get caught somehow selling points (or anything of the like), you can lose your points.
- Your program is canceled. Again, this is rare (and companies will need to notify you in advance), but you can lose points if your program expires. For example, a credit card company stops using a particular program.
- Your card is closed. If you stop using your card and it’s closed due to inactivity, if you die, or your credit tanks and the company closes your credit card, you can lose your points.
If you’re managing your credit card responsibly, you shouldn’t run into any of these issues, but it’s helpful to be aware. Most of these reasons relate to not being able to manage your credit card or your debt.
How do I keep track of all my rewards?
If you have several different credit cards with points or travel rewards programs attached to them, it can get pretty crazy trying to manage it all.
Personally, I’ve set up my own little Google Sheet where I track all of my cards, the points I’ve earned (and if I still need to spend anything to earn the bonus offer), as well as if and when those points expire.
That can be time-consuming, though, so I would recommend looking into something like AwardWallet or TripIt Pro.
These programs will allow you to link your credit card rewards program to a centralized dashboard, and they’ll help you track your points/miles and make sure you know if and when anything is set to expire.
There is a small fee for each program, but it could be worth the cost if you have many cards with rewards programs.
Hopefully, you’re in a program where your miles aren’t going to expire. But if they are, the first thing I would do is call the program customer service to see if they’ll grant you an extension. When all else fails, I’ve given you some options to consider instead of traveling.
And to future-proof this problem, I always recommend getting a high-value travel rewards card where you’ll earn points that don’t expire and have flexible redemption options.