Unlike most airline and hotel rewards, credit card points never expire — and they're often a better deal

Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • Airline miles generally expire 18 to 24 months after you last earned or used rewards in your account, though Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United rewards never expire.
  • Hotel points typically expire 12 to 24 months from your last account activity. Some brands have pushed back points expiration dates due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Credit card points like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards never expire – and you can transfer these points to various airline and hotel programs. These points also tend to be more valuable than airline miles and hotel points, because you have so many options for using them.
  • To prevent your miles and points from expiring, you can use a credit card associated with your loyalty program, or you can redeem your rewards for travel or even merchandise.
  • See Business Insider’s list of the best rewards credit cards.

It’s easy to earn points and miles by using rewards credit cards and joining hotel and airline loyalty programs, but when it comes time to redeem them, there’s often some fine print to parse. Not only do different hotel and airline rewards programs have their own award charts specifying how many points or miles you’ll need to book a hotel room or a flight, but programs also have their own expiration policies that dictate the lifespan of your hard-earned rewards.

In most cases, your points or miles will expire in 12 to 24 months from your last “account activity,” which could be anything from purchasing points or miles to taking a flight to using an airline or hotel credit card to make a purchase.

Table of Contents

Miles expiration policies, by airline

Here’s a breakdown of several major US airline’s miles expiration policies.

Expiration policyAlaska Airlines2 years (24 months) from last account activity American Airlines18 months from last account activity DeltaMiles never expire Frontier Airlines180 days or 6 months from last account activity Hawaiian Airlines18 months from last account activity JetBluePoints never expire SouthwestPoints never expire Spirit Airlines3 months from last account activity UnitedMiles never expire

Points expiration policies, by hotel

Unlike with airline loyalty programs, most hotel programs dictate that your points will expire if you don’t have any account activity within a specified timeframe – with Best Western being the notable exception.

Expiration policyPoints extension in light of COVID-19Best WesternPoints never expire N/AChoice Hotels18 months from last account activity Through May 31, 2020Hilton12 months from last account activity Through December 31, 2020Hyatt24 months from last account activity Through December 31, 2020IHG12 months from last account activity Through December 31, 2020Marriott24 months from last account activity Through February 1, 2021Radisson24 months from last account activity 6 months from original expiration date Wyndham18 months from last account activity Through September 30, 2020

Read more:
Your airline and hotel elite status could be valid through 2021, as loyalty programs adjust in light of the coronavirus

Credit card points never expire

Unlike many airline miles and hotel points, credit card points don’t expire as long as you keep your account open and in good standing (meaning you continue to pay off your balances or communicate with the bank if you need any financial assistance).

Here are the main credit card points currencies, along with the top credit card options for earning each of them:

Top credit card options for earning pointsTravel partnersAmerican Express Membership RewardsPlatinum Card® from American Express

American Express® Gold Cards

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

19 airlines, including Delta, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic

3 hotels (Choice, Hilton, and Marriott)

Capital One milesCapital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

13 airlines, including Air Canada and JetBlue

2 hotels (Accor and Wyndham)

Chase Ultimate RewardsChase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

10 airlines, including Southwest, United, and Virgin Atlantic

3 hotels (Hyatt, IHG, Marriott)

Citi ThankYou RewardsCiti Prestige® Credit Card

Citi Premier℠ Card

15 airlines, including JetBlue, Etihad, and Virgin Atlantic These transferable credit card points can be extremely valuable, not just because you have so many options for using them to book travel, but also because there are certain sweet spots you can use to your advantage. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 50% more when you book travel through Chase. Plus, you may be able to use your bank points for things beyond travel – in light of the coronavirus outbreak, Capital One added options to redeem miles from the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card for food delivery and streaming services.

Even if you’re a very frequent flyer and love your Delta or American Airlines card for earning miles and enjoying perks like a free checked bag, adding a credit card that earns Amex, Chase, Capital One, or Citi rewards to your wallet is a smart strategy. You’ll be diversifying your rewards, and those bank points will never expire.

How to keep points and miles from expiring

Since the travel rewards you earn are only as valuable as the flights or hotel stays you’re able to book with them, you won’t want to let them expire – even if you’re not sure when you’ll be able to travel again.

Here are some of the top ways to keep them alive:

Use a co-branded credit card

If your American Airlines miles are in danger of expiring, you can make a purchase with an American Airlines credit card to keep your rewards active. This will work with any airline or hotel rewards program; using a Marriott credit card will prevent your Bonvoy points from expiring as well.

Go through an online shopping portal

If you’re making a purchase online, check to see if your airline or hotel has a shopping portal. Shopping portals earn you a specified number of points or miles per dollar when you shop with participating retailers. For example, by going through the Alaska Airlines MileagePlan portal, you could earn miles for shopping with retailers like Apple and Sephora – and extend the life of your Alaska miles by two years.

Use your points or miles

Redeeming your rewards is included under the umbrella of account activity that will preserve your points. Even if you don’t want to book a travel reservation, you could redeem a small number of points or miles for merchandise, like a magazine subscription. To see your redemption options, log into your loyalty account and navigate to the rewards section.

See Business Insider’s guide to keeping your points from expiring for more ideas.

What to do if you let your points and miles expire

If you do slip up and let your points or miles expire, you may be able to pay to get those rewards reinstated. Only two airline programs publicly advertise this option (American Airlines and Alaska Airlines), but it’s still worth calling your loyalty program’s customer service to see if there are any options for you.

Related Content Module: More Credit Card Coverage

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