Illustration for article titled How to Keep Your Expiring Travel Reward PointsPhoto: Thanakorn.P (Shutterstock)

After one year of travel restrictions, Almost a third of all credit card holders did not redeem their credit card rewards. But do these rewards expire before you can use them? Fortunately, most cards don’t have a set deadline, although that comes with a caveat – some rewards will eventually forfeit if you don’t actually use the card. Here’s what you need to know in order to keep your rewards intact.

Know the card type you have

Travel award cards fall into two categories: either cards for general use or cards co-branded with an airline or hotel chain. General use cards provide points that either never expire or have a long expiry window (up to five years). Examples of this are American Express Membership Rewards points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Co-branded cards, on the other hand, offer miles or hotel points, but tend to expire earlier.

The good news is that with most co-branded cards, your points will only expire if you haven’t used the card for a long time, usually one to three years after your last “account activity,” including using the card to create a card Purchase. In response to the lack of travel due to COVID, lenders have also “paused” on outstanding points expiration times, usually through the end of 2021 (however not all are created equal – you can see a breakdown by airline or hotel Here).

Even better, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United Airlines programs have completely canceled their expiration policies, so no action is required to keep your airline miles.

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To see when your travel card reward points will expire, you will need to log into and verify your loyalty account. Loyalty programs also typically send you an email a few months before the number of points you’ve earned expires.

Illustration for article titled How to Keep Your Expiring Travel Reward Points

So keep your points active

Assuming your points are about to expire and you won’t travel until you get a vaccine, what else would qualify as “Account Activity”?

The easiest way to ensure your points stay active is to use your card to make a purchase for non-traveling items. This may seem obvious, but it can be easily overlooked for those with multiple cards, which is why some reward enthusiasts regularly flip through the cards when making purchases to make sure they are logging activity on a regular basis. There are other options that are also considered account activity:

  • Shop on the shopping portal for loyalty programs, with which you can earn additional miles or points, also for non-travel products from retailers such as Apple or Staples.
  • Use your card to shop for groceries or restaurants, especially since so many travel cards now offer reward bonuses based on these categories that can later apply to trips.
  • Donate your reward points on the loyalty program portal.

Bottom line

Over the years, travel cards have added value to their loyalty programs for long-term users, and in some cases this includes reward points that don’t expire. Fortunately, keeping your points active is relatively easy as long as you remember to make a purchase or redemption at least once a year.