Don't Lose Miles and Points You've Already Earned

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Have you ever caught yourself day-dreaming about a vacation paid for with miles and points? I know I have. After all, loyalty rewards are meant to be just that – rewarding. But as tempting as it may be to think about how you’re going to cash in miles and points you’ve spent months racking up, losing track of their expiration dates can turn your travel plans into a nightmare. Here are the top ways you can reset the clock with qualifying account activity.

Convert Other Rewards Points Into Miles

Keep your loyalty accounts active by converting points earned from loyalty cards into miles. For example, American Express Membership Rewards allows customers to turn 1,000 points into 1,000 Aeroplan miles (Air Canada’s loyalty program). Similarly, Marriott Rewards gives customers the option of exchanging 8,000 points for 2,000 United MileagePlus miles or 10,000 points for 2,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards miles.

Buy Points or Miles

The quickest and easiest solution when facing an expiry deadline is to buy miles and points, a feature that many loyalty programs offer. It’s a simple way to reach an award goal and turn that vacation from fantasy to reality, reaping the benefits of your hard-earned rewards (before losing them...). Yes, there is a small outlay of cash involved but the benefits are more than worth it. Keep watch for promotions in your favourite program to stretch your dollar way farther and earn a premium of 10%, 25% or even 50% in bonus points which doubles, even triples, your rewards.

Earn Through a Partner

While simply using the miles and points you’ve earned to book a flight or pay for a hotel stay is one way to make sure your account is active, you can also earn points by shopping with a loyalty program’s partners. American Airlines loyalty program members earn miles every time they shop with one of the 850 retailers the airline is partnered with.

The earnings aren’t just limited to retailers either. Members can also earn up to five miles for every one dollar they spend with an AAdvantage Dining Program credit card.

If you enjoy shopping at a store your loyalty program hasn’t partnered with consider a co-branded credit card to make sure you never leave any miles or points on the table. Owners of a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express earn 25,000 Starpoints after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Donate Points or Miles

Rather than spending extra money to avoid an inactive account you can also donate some of your points. Nearly every airline or hotel loyalty program will let you donate your miles or points to charities – making it an easy way to keep an account from expiring. In addition to permitting donations, some airlines or hotels will also join in on the fun by matching miles and points donations from members. United Airlines, for example, has pledged to match up to four million miles donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation by MileagePlus members.

Knowing that very few travel brands promise to never let your points expire, I’ve assembled a list of everything you need to know about the expiration dates of your miles and points for major airlines and hotels.

Airlines

Air Canada: All of the miles in your Aeroplan account expire if you don’t take any account action within 12 months. This includes accumulating, redeeming, donating, or transferring miles; staying at partner hotels; or buying gas at select stations. Air Canada Altitude members are exempt from the 12-month expiration policy.

Alaskan Air: As long as you earn or spend at least one mile every 24 months you’ll keep all of the miles you’ve earned.

American: American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire if account has been inactive for 18 months. Avoid this expiration deadline by earning miles at any one of American’s retail partners, including DirecTV and rental car companies such as Avis, Budget and Hertz. You can also spend miles on gift cards at popular retailers, such as Macy’s or Sears, to generate account activity.

Avianca: Any account activity extends the expiration date of 24 months on Avianca miles.

Frontier: Travelers have to use a Frontier credit card, earn miles or redeem miles at least once every six months in order to ensure the miles they accumulated don’t expire.

Southwest: Rapid Rewards points don’t expire if you earn or spend points at least once every 24 months.

Spirit: Spirit Airlines’ FREE SPIRIT frequent flier program miles expire after three months. Reset the clock on your miles balance by making at least once purchase a month with the Spirit World MasterCard®, buying more miles or flying with either Spirit or one of their partners.

United: Miles expire 18 months from your last account activity date. If you accidentally let your miles expire there is a $200 fee to reinstate them.

Virgin America: Retain your Virgin America Elevate miles by earning or redeeming points at least once every 18 months.

Hotels

Choice Privileges: Use your account once every 18 months to avoid automatically losing all of your points due to an inactive account. Choice Privileges points expire on December 31 two years after they’re earned and subsequently placed in your account.

Club Carlson: Gold Points – which can be used at Radisson hotels – do not expire if you earn or redeem points within a 24-month period.

Hilton: Hilton HHonors points remain active if a member stays at one of Hilton Worldwide's hotels, or earns or redeems HHonors points within 12 months.

Hyatt: Hyatt Gold Passport Points must be earned or redeemed once every 12 months in order to avoid having an account – and the all points associated with it – be deleted.

La Quinta Returns: La Quinta Returns points will not expire if you earn or redeem points at least once every 18 months.

Le Club Accorhotels: Members must stay in a participating Accor hotel at least once every 12 months to ensure their points remain valid.

Marriott/Ritz-Carlton: Earn or redeem points at least once every two years to keep your membership account and points active.

Starwood: Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Lifetime Gold and Lifetime Platinum status holders are both required to stay at a SPG hotel or earn, redeem, purchase or transfer any Starpoints during a 12-month period.

Wyndham Rewards: Wyndham rewards expire either four years after they are deposited into your account or if your account is inactive for an 18-month period.