Extend Points Expiration
Each airline and hotel program has its own rules about whether points expire, when they expire, and how to keep points from expiring. However, most programs have similar rules:
- Points expire after some period of account inactivity (usually 2 or 3 years).
- The clock resets after points are earned or used.
So, with most programs, the key to keeping your points alive is to make sure you earn or burn (use) points every two years or so. Luckily, most programs will send an email or letter if points are about to expire, so you should have some advanced warning.
One of the easiest ways to track point expiration dates is to use Award Wallet. While their free service doesn’t show expiration dates, Award Wallet Plus does. I use Award Wallet to track my points balances and to notify me of expiration dates. If you are a new member, you can get three free months of Award Wallet Plus. You can find more information here.
Once you have figured out when your points expire, then you must figure out how to extend them. Here are some options for keeping your points alive:
Redeem points for travel
If you have a good use for the points, then simply using some of them for a flight or hotel night will be enough to keep the rest of your points from expiring.
Redeem points for stuff
Usually, redeeming points for merchandise or gift cards is not the best use of points, but sometimes it can make sense. If you can’t find anything that you actually want for your points, then you can instead look for the cheapest possible redemption just to keep the rest of your points from expiring.
Tip: Often magazine subscriptions require very few points. Redeeming points for gift cards can also be an excellent option.
Earn points with travel
If you have a paid flight or hotel stay coming up, be strategic about how you earn points. For example, if you are flying American, but your Alaska Airlines miles are about to expire, then you can setup your ticket to credit your flight miles to Alaska. (Since they are partners). Similarly, most hotels allow you to earn miles instead of hotel points. Usually I prefer to earn hotel points, but in a situation where your airline miles are about to expire, credit your stay to the particular airline instead.
Earn points through shopping
I’ve talked before about how online shopping portals are a great way to get lots of points. Another use for shopping portals is to extend the life of your points. Even just one point earned is enough to reset the expiration clock on your points. If the rewards program in question has a shopping portal, use it for some shopping you would have done anyway. Or, simply buy something inexpensive like a 99 cent song download. Keep in mind that points earned through portals can take up to a couple of months to post.
You can sign up for Frequent Miler’s Portal Alerts to track the payouts at various stores from day to day.
Earn points through social media
Many programs try to build relationships with their customers through social media. As a result, they may offer to give you some points for “liking them on Facebook” or for “checking in on Foursquare”, etc. Additionally, a lot of companies run contests and other giveaways on social media as well.
Transfer points in or out
If you have points in a flexible points program (e.g. Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG), you may be able to transfer points into the loyalty program that you need to keep alive. Alternatively, you can sign-up for Points.com. Points.com allows you to transfer points from and to a huge number of programs. Usually the transfer rates are not very good, but transferring a small number of points can be a great way to keep points from expiring.
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