Rewards programs are a great way to make traveling easier, cheaper and more comfortable. But sometimes, life gets in the way of our travel plans. Before you know it, you get an email from your favorite rewards program telling you that your points are about to expire.
Fortunately, keeping your rewards alive isn’t too difficult. With most rewards programs setting their expiration dates based on your last account activity, all you need to do is show your favorite airline or hotel that you’re still active in the program.
Eight ways to keep your airline miles and rewards points from expiring
Keeping your account active doesn’t have to mean planning a big vacation or spending a ton of money. By reviewing your rewards program’s requirements, you’ll find that there are several ways to reset your rewards expiration date. Here are eight great ways to keep your points before they expire.
1. Use a co-branded credit card
One of the easiest ways to keep your account active and points alive is to use a co-branded credit card. If you use your credit card for your everyday spending, you’ll earn rewards without even thinking about it. You can either open a new card to earn points or dust off an old one that you haven’t used in a while.
It doesn’t matter what kind of points you need to rescue, there’s probably a credit card associated with it. You’ll find several great travel credit cards to choose from, so sift through them all based on the type of rewards programs you’re already using. You can find hotel credit cards that reward you with free nights in your favorite hotel brands or airline credit cards that earn you free flights.
2. Refer a friend
Many rewards programs offer a referral bonus for people who join the program on your recommendation. If you’re already a member but won’t be able to travel before your points expire, referring a friend can help save your points from an untimely demise. These bonuses can range from 500 points for each referral with Choice Privileges, up to 2,000 points each time your referral stays with Marriott Bonvoy. If you have a friend who’s planning a vacation soon, send them your referral link and earn points from their travels too.
This applies to many rewards credit cards as well. It would work especially well with a general travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can transfer to several rewards programs — but more on transfers later.
3. Take a trip
Making a hotel reservation or booking a flight is a great way to keep your points alive in most rewards programs. If you’ve been putting off a weekend getaway or a trip to visit family, expiring points are a great incentive to put it on the calendar and make it happen. In most loyalty programs, you can redeem your points for your flight and hotel since these count as qualifying activities to keep your account active.
If you decide to pay for your hotel instead of using points, make sure to schedule your trip before your rewards expiration date. Most hotels won’t charge you or give you points until after your stay is over, and you want to make sure that qualifying activity counts towards your account before your rewards expire.
4. Join a dining club
Several rewards programs offer dining clubs that earn points and miles. If you don’t have any travel plans coming up but your points are about to expire, joining one of these clubs can be a great way to keep them active.
Your options are pretty great too with airline loyalty programs like American Airlines AAdvantage, Southwest Rapid Rewards and United MileagePlus along with hotel programs like Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards all rewarding you for eating out with dining clubs.
5. Rent a car
You might not have the chance to either take a flight or stay at a hotel before your points expire, but you can probably handle renting a car. Many rewards programs partner with rental car companies so you can earn rewards on your rentals. For instance, you’ll earn 500 AAdvantage miles per rental through either Avis or Budget.
If you’re already traveling with another rewards program, renting a car can be a great way to reset the account activity clock on one that you haven’t used in a while. Or, if you’re home and need points fast, you can drop your car off at the shop for some much-needed repairs or test out a vehicle you’ve always been curious to drive.
6. Transfer points
In most cases, transferring points from one program to another counts as a qualifying activity to keep your points alive. Having a card that earns transferrable points like the American Express® Gold Card can save your points in any of the Membership Rewards® travel partner’s programs, including Delta Airlines, Jet Blue, Hilton Hotels and Marriott Hotels.
Having points available that can transfer to several different programs can save you in a tough situation. Other great transferable rewards besides American Express Membership Rewards are Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou® Points. If you don’t have a credit card that earns one of these, you should consider adding one to your wallet.
7. Use an online shopping portal
Another great way to earn points quickly to use the online shopping portal through a rewards program. Most loyalty programs have an online shop that directs you to major online retailers, allowing you to earn points from your normal purchases.
This is probably the easiest way to keep your points from expiring since you don’t even have to leave your house or commit a lot of time to it like you would for a trip. Simply log into your rewards account, select the online shopping section and find something you were going to buy anyway.
You probably won’t earn any free flights by shopping this way, but you’ll at least add a qualifying activity to your rewards account, resetting the clock and rescuing your points from expiration.
8. Donate to charity
The last (and one of the best) ways to keep your points from expiring is to donate to charity. You’ll find that most rewards programs allow you to donate your points to a select number of charities. Your donation will count as a qualifying activity for your account, and you’ll help the charity help others.
American Airlines goes even further, letting you earn points when you donate to a good cause. When you make a donation of at least $25 to Stand Up to Cancer through American, you’ll earn 10 AAdvantage miles for every dollar you donate.
The bottom line
Being notified that your points are about to expire doesn’t have to cause panic. You have several different options to keep your points alive that don’t require big commitments or outrageous spending. As long as you understand how your rewards program works and the rules to keeping your account active, you should never have to worry about letting your points or miles expire.
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