Most of us have read in the news about frequent travelers who spend their entire working life building up a large balance of frequent flyer miles in hopes of using the miles in retirement, only to have their travel dreams crushed.
Most often, these individuals have accrued tons of miles but have neglected them for a short while. As a result, these currencies expire and your balance of miles goes to zero. Unfortunately, this happens quite a bit, and many people believe that the expiration is unavoidable.
Also, most people believe that in order to extend your miles, you have to fly on the airline again. In most cases, you’ll be able to reset the “expiration timer” simply by transferring a small number of credit card points to the airline. It’s a low-cost decision with a huge potential upside of salvaging hundreds of thousands of miles.
Let’s take a moment to introduce expiration policies and touch on why it isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Then, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty and provide a comprehensive table you can use to reference expiration policies for both airline miles and hotel points.
Table of contents
- A Complete Guide to Mileage Expiration for the Major Frequent Flyer Programs
- A Complete Guide to Points Expiration For the Major Hotel Brands
- Final Thoughts
Table of Contents
- A Complete Guide to Mileage Expiration for the Major Frequent Flyer Programs
- A Complete Guide to Points Expiration For the Major Hotel Brands
- Final Thoughts
Expiration policies are imposed by airlines and hotel brands as an accounting measure. The vast majority of travelers will never accrue enough miles for a significant redemption through flying, and as a result, most frequent flyer accounts have residual, almost negligible amounts of miles sitting in their account with no clear means of use.
When airlines give miles to customers, they incur a revenue in their books. Conversely, when customers redeem airline miles, the airline incurs a liability in their accounting. In recent years, accounting practices have evolved such that the liability is significantly larger than it was before, due to something called deferred revenue accounting.
Now that airlines are faced with a large accounting liability for the miles that could potentially be redeemed, it is a financially sensible decision to close accounts, hence expiration policies that seem unfair to the consumer.
Who knew accounting practices for loyalty programs could get so complicated?
Depending on which airlines you earn miles on, you may be able to extend your miles if you have qualifying activity on your account. Savvy consumers take advantage of this fact and get ahead of this so they’re not surprised with a zero balance the next time they log in. Many times, transferring a nominal amount of credit card points, say 1,000 points, counts as a qualifying activity.
Enough talk — let’s summarize the mileage expiration policies for all the major airlines.
A Complete Guide to Mileage Expiration for the Major Frequent Flyer Programs
|Frequent Flyer Program||Expiration Terms||Example of Qualifying Activity to Extend Miles|
|Aegean Airlines Miles+Bonus||Miles are valid for 60 months. You must credit a paid flight to extend.||Taking a cheap intra-Europe flight and crediting miles to Miles+Bonus.|
|Aer Lingus AerClub||Miles are valid for 36 months. You must collect or spend Avios to extend.||Transferring 1,000 Chase points to AerClub.|
|Aeroflot Bonus||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must travel on a qualifying flight to extend.||Taking a paid Delta flight and crediting to Aeroflot Bonus.|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must accrue points to extend.||Transferring 1,000 Amex points to Club Premier.|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Miles are valid for 18 months. You must have an activity to extend.||Transferring 1,000 Capital One miles to Aeroplan.|
|Air China PhoenixMiles||Miles are valid for 36 months from the end of the month in which it was accrued.||No way to extend.|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must take a qualifying flight or make a purchase with a co-branded card to extend.||Taking a cheap domestic SkyTeam flight or making a purchase on the Bank of America Air France/KLM World Elite Mastercard.|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||Miles are valid for 4-5 years. Each account anniversary date, points earned more than 4 years earlier will expire.||No way to extend.|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must accrue or redeem miles to extend.||Transferring 3,000 Marriott points to Mileage Plan.|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must accrue miles to extend.||Transferring 1,000 Amex points to Alitalia MilleMiglia.|
|All Nippon Airways Mileage Club||Miles are valid for 36 months.||No way to extend.|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||Miles are valid for 18 months. You must accrue or redeem miles to extend.|
*Miles do not expire for members who are under 21 years old.
|Make a purchase on a co-branded AAdvantage credit card.|
|Asiana Club||Miles are valid for 10-12 years.||No way to extend.|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Miles are valid for 12 months. You must accrue miles to extend.||Buy 1,000 LifeMiles during a big sale (125-145% bonus).|
|British Airways Executive Club||Miles are valid for 36 months. You must collect, spend, purchase, or share to extend.||Transfer 1,000 Chase points to Executive Club.|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Miles are valid for 36 months.||No way to extend.|
|China Eastern Miles||Miles are valid until the end of the 4th calendar year after they were accrued.||No way to extend.|
|China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club||Miles are valid for 36 months. You can pay 20% of the miles to extend the remaining 80% by 12 months via the SkyPearl Mileage Extension Program.||Enroll in the SkyPearl Mileage Extension Program to spend 20% of your miles and save the remaining 80% for 12 months.|
|Copa Airlines ConnectMiles||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must buy, give, or transfer ConnectMiles to extend.||Transfer 3,000 Marriott points to ConnectMiles.|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles||Miles do not expire.||Not applicable.|
|El Al Matmid||Miles are valid for 36 months.||No way to extend.|
|Emirates Skywards||Miles are valid until the end of your birth month at least 3 calendar years later. You can only pay to extend Skywards miles.||Pay $20/1,000 miles to extend Emirates Skywards miles for another 12 months.|
|Etihad Guest||Miles are valid for 18 months.||Every transaction you will make extends your balance by another 18 months. Including earning, spending, or buying miles.|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||Miles are valid for 36 months. You must have a qualifying activity to extend.||Transfer 1,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards points to Infinity MileageLands.|
|Finnair Plus||Miles are valid for 18 months. You must earn or use points to extend.||Transfer 1,000 Capital One miles to Finnair Plus.|
|Frontier Miles||Miles are valid for 180 days. You must accrue miles to extend.||Make a purchase on the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®.|
|Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must earn or use points to extend.||Taking a cheap Alaska Airlines flight and crediting to Fortune Wings Club.|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||Miles are valid for 18 months. You must earn or use points to extend.||Make a purchase on the Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard.|
|Iberia Plus||Miles are valid for 36 months. You must earn or use points to extend.||Transfer 1,000 Chase points to Iberia Plus.|
|Japan Airlines Mileage Bank||Miles are valid until the last day of the 36th month following the month of the flight/transaction date.||No way to extend.|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||Miles do not expire.||Not applicable.|
|Korean Air SKYPASS||Miles are valid for 10 years.||No way to extend.|
|LATAM Pass||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must fly on flights marketed by LATAM Airlines to extend.||Fly a cheap intra-South America flight to extend for another 36 months.|
|Lufthansa Miles & More||Miles are valid for 36 months, except if you have elite status or a co-branded credit card. Otherwise, no way to extend.||Open a Barclays Miles & More World Elite Mastercard.|
|Malaysia Airlines Enrich||Miles are valid for 36 months and expire at the end of the 36th month. You can only pay to extend Enrich miles.||Pay .02 MYR/mile + 40 MYR to extend miles if they are within 3 months prior to the expiry date or until 7 months after the expiry date for another 12 months.|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||Miles are valid for 18 months. You must earn or use points to extend.||Transfer 1,000 Citi ThankYou points to Qantas Frequent Flyer.|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||Qatar miles do not expire as long as you have at least some qualifying activity once every 36 months.|
Miles don’t expire for Platinum Privilege Club members.
|Pay $0.015/Qmile online or $0.020 over the phone for another 12 months.|
|Saudia Al Fursan||Miles are valid until the end of the year 36 months after they were earned.||No way to extend.|
|Shenzhen Airlines PhoenixMiles||Miles are valid for 36 months from the end of the month in which it was accrued.||No way to extend.|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Miles are valid for 36 months.||No way to extend.|
|South African Airways Voyager||Miles are valid for 3 years and can be reimbursed with activity.||Fly a minimum of 6,000 Tier Miles on South African Airways flights between January and December preceding the date of expiry, and the number of expired miles will be reimbursed with an additional 1 year of validity on March 31.|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must have a qualifying activity to extend.||Make a purchase on a Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards co-branded credit card.|
|TAP Portugal Miles&Go||Miles are valid for 36 months. You can only pay to extend TAP Portugal miles.||Pay €24/2,000 miles to extend for another 3 years.|
|Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus||Miles are valid until the end of the quarter 3 years after accrual.||No way to extend.|
|Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles||Miles are valid for 3 years. You can only pay to extend miles.||Pay $10/1,000 miles for another 3 years.|
|United Airlines MileagePlus||Miles do not expire.||Not applicable.|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Miles do not expire.||Not applicable.|
|Virgin Australia Velocity||Miles are valid for 24 months. You must have a qualifying activity to extend.||Taking a cheap Delta Air Lines flight and crediting to Virgin Australia Velocity.|
Airlines With the Best Expiration Policies
The most ideal situation is you have miles that will never expire. Of all the major airlines out there, there are only a few with this generous policy: Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, United MileagePlus, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
When you consider all the amazing ways you can redeem Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue points, United MileagePlus miles, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, you’ll see why many flock to these loyalty programs.
Airlines With the Worst Expiration Policies
The airlines with the worst expiration policies are:
- Frontier (180 days)
- Air Canada Aeroplan (12 months) and;
- Avianca LifeMiles (12 months).
Although these airlines have the shortest expiration timeline, you can extend the validity of these miles through qualifying activities.
Some of the airlines that have a hard expiration policy are Etihad Guest, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and All Nippon Airways Mileage Club. All of these miles cannot be extended. Considering how many fantastic ways there are to redeem Etihad Guest miles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and ANA Mileage Club miles, this hopefully shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
A Complete Guide to Points Expiration For the Major Hotel Brands
|Hotel Brand||Expiration Terms||Example of Qualifying Activity to Extend Points|
|Best Western Rewards||Points do not expire.||Not applicable.|
|Caesars Entertainment Caesars Rewards||Rewards Credits are valid for 6 months. Can extend with by earning Rewards Credits.||Purchase virtual coins when playing any Caesars Rewards Play For Fun Games on Facebook.|
|Choice Privileges||Points are valid for 18 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Purchase 1,000 Choice Privileges points.|
|Club Carlson||Points are valid for 24 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Purchase 1,000 Radisson Rewards points.|
|Expedia Rewards||Points are valid for 18 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Make a purchase on the Expedia Rewards Card.|
|Hilton Honors||Points are valid for 12 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Make a purchase on the co-branded American Express Hilton credit cards.|
|World of Hyatt||Points are valid for 24 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Make a purchase on the co-branded Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card.|
|IHG Rewards||Points are valid for 12 months. Gold Elite members’ points don’t expire. Can also extend with qualifying activity.||Hold the Chase IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.|
|Jumeirah Sirius||Points are valid for 12 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Stay at a Jumeirah Hotel, Resort, or Residence worldwide.|
|Le Club Accorhotels||Points are valid for 12 months. Can extend with a qualifying stay.||Stay at a hotel within the Le Club Accorhotels brand.|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Points are valid for 24 months. Can extend with a qualifying stay.||Make a purchase on the co-branded Marriott Bonvoy credit cards.|
|MGM Resorts International M life Rewards||Points and Express Comps are valid for 6-12 months, depending on elite status.||Play a slot machine or table game at a property in the brand.|
|Omni Select Guest||Free nights are valid for 12-24 months, depending on elite status.||No way to extend.|
|Preferred Hotels I Prefer Hotel Rewards||Points are valid for 24 months and can be extended with qualifying activity.||Make an eligible stay or point redemption into a Reward Certificate.|
|Shangri-La Golden Circle||Points are valid for up to 3 calendar years.||No way to extend.|
|Sonesta Travel Pass||Points are valid for 36 months. Can extend with qualifying activity.||Make a paid or award stay at a Sonesta property.|
|Wyndham Rewards||Points are valid for at least 18 months. Can extend with qualifying activity for a total validity of up to 4 years.||Make a purchase on the Barclays co-branded Wyndham Rewards Credit Cards.|
Hotel Brands With the Best Expiration Policies
The program with the single best expiration policy is Best Western Rewards. Their points never expire, which is fantastic. The runner-up is Sonesta Travel Pass, which is valid for 36 months and can be extended with qualifying activity.
As far as the top major points-friendly hotel brands, IHG Rewards has the most advantageous policy for credit card holders — miles never expire if you’ve got Gold Elite status or higher. The IHG Club Premier Rewards Select offers Platinum Elite status, which is 1 level above Gold Elite status.
If you don’t have any hotel credit cards, the best expiration policies among the points-friendly hotel brands are Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy, both of which have a 24-month validity period and easy ways to extend points expiration.
Hotel Brands with the Worst Expiration Policies
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the major casino brands, Caesars Rewards from Caesars Entertainment and M life Rewards from MGM Resorts International, have the worst expiration policies.
Both of these have 6-month expiration policies for standard members, which is extremely short.
In conclusion, we analyzed nearly all of the major airline frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs out there. With so much differentiation between terms and conditions of booking programs, it can be overwhelming trying to keep track of your points and miles.
That being said, what we’ve provided here is a one-stop-shop to find out when your miles and points expire. We’ve also provided you with some easy ways to extend/reset the expiration dates of the major miles. Some programs don’t allow mileage extensions at all, but others do.
Now you can rest easy and avoid the headache of trying to find out when your points expire!