“More travel for less money” is one of the guiding principles of my life. Through airline frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, accumulated points allow travelers to fly in luxury and stay at five star hotels for free.

Many points expire after a certain period of inactivity and, with travel ground to a halt, you may be wondering how to save your points from being wiped away. While some programs have paused the expiration of miles and points during the COVID-19 pandemic, others have not. Below, you’ll find a chart detailing the current policies of the most popular loyalty programs.

Airline Mileage Expiration Policies

Hotel Points Expiration Policies

While many programs have taken expiration off the table for a few months, the policies are sure to resume. Because miles and points are a valuable currency, you should never let them go to waste. Fortunately, in most cases, you don’t have to. Even if you won’t be flying on a particular airline or staying at a particular hotel brand prior to expiration, you can often restart the countdown clock using one of the following methods.

Sign-up for a credit card, or transfer miles/points from an existing one

By opening a co-branded credit card (such as the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card), you will not only restart the expiration clock each time you earn points by making purchases with the card, but you can also collect a sign-up bonus for new customers. Those sign-up bonuses, often numbering in the tens of thousands of miles or points, can be used to purchase amazing travel experiences including luxury hotel stays and first class flights.

If you don’t have a co-brand credit card, certain premium cards from issuers including American Express, Capital One, Chase and Citi Bank allow you to transfer credit card rewards points to airline and hotel programs — each of these transactions will restart your expiration timer, no matter how many or how few points you transfer.

Earn miles & points by shopping online

Many programs are associated with shopping portals — websites that provide a certain number or points or miles for shopping at major online retailers. Here is a list of those portals:

Whether you’re buying a $3 tube of toothpaste from Walmart or a $1,000 recliner from La-Z-Boy, you can earn airline miles or hotel points on the purchase — and extend your expiration date — by beginning your online shopping trip at one of these portals. It’s free and only takes a minute!

Earn miles & points by dining out

If you’re heading to a restaurant for date night or a gathering with friends, you can earn points & miles through the Dining Rewards Network. Simply link your credit card to one of the programs listed below, and you’ll earn points for every dollar spent at one of the participating restaurants.

While the biggest cities have a larger selection of participating restaurants, most communities have at least one or two good options. And, during this time of quarantine, you can earn points & miles on most takeout orders placed directly with the restaurant.

When the miles or points you’ve earned have posted to your airline or hotel rewards account, your expiration date will be automatically extended.

Redeem for a magazine subscription or donate to charity

Most rewards programs (with the exception of Accor in the list above), reset the expiration clock when members redeem points or miles from the account. Even if you do not have enough points to redeem for a free hotel stay or airline ticket, there are unique low-cost redemption options offered by many programs.

MagsForPoints allows members of the following programs to redeem rewards currencies for magazine subscriptions:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Choice Hotels
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines

Popular magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens, GQ, People, Travel + Leisure, Vanity Fair and others are available through the MagsForPoints website. Some subscriptions are available for less than 500 points!

Another unique option for redeeming points and miles is to give them to charity. You can support nonprofits like the American Red Cross, Canine Assistance, Wounded Warrior Project and others by donating a small number of points (in some programs, as few as 500). By making a donation, you’ll extend your points expiration.

Final Thoughts

Every mile and every point has value. Don’t let them expire! Check your points balances right away, and use one of these strategies to extend their life. It is important to note that points earned through credit card spending, shopping portals and dining programs do not post immediately, so make sure to complete the required activity one to two months before your expiration date.

By utilizing these strategies to save your miles from being wiped away, you’ll be one step closer to a free hotel stay or airline ticket.

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