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Friday, May 6, 2016

When do you let points and miles expire

There has never been a loyalty or rewards program that I have not signed up for and as a result I literally have thousands of points spread out across hundreds of different programs, some of which I have only used once or twice. If you are lucky then these programs don't have expiration dates for your points such as with Delta SkyMiles but this is usually not the case. As a result, I have many points that are on the verge of expiring which begs the question: What should I do with these?

Before I move on I first want to point out that life is much easier if you have a centralized system of tracking all your points and miles in one easy to find location and the program I tend to use for this is AwardWallet which I talked about in my post about essential travel apps I use on a regular basis.

This program is probably best used by first going to their website at and entering all your data that way as it can be somewhat cumbersome typing in all your info on your phone. This program keeps track of all of your reward and loyalty programs and will notify you if there are any changes including if your points are about to expire. Some features require you to upgrade to AwardWallet Plus which is only $5 for 6 months although they regularly release free upgrade codes to different travel blogs and I was lucky enough to grab one from OneMileAtATime a few days ago. Not every program is supported such as Delta but you'd be surprised by how many are.

Now that you are tracking all your points and miles in one place you'll notice a column that has their expiration date (if applicable) and you will also receive email notifications when your points are about to expire. I have around 2,800 Wyndham Rewards points that are set to expire in a few weeks and am wondering what I should do. For this particular program, your points expire 4 years after being posted to your account or after 18 months of inactivity but the good news is that there are many options to keep these points alive.

Since I just need some activity to keep my points from expiring if I go to their website at I have the option of either donating points, buying gift cards, subscribing to magazines, buying points, shopping for merchandise, or transferring to other airlines. Now don't get me wrong, these usually represent horrible redemption options with values often less than or equal to 1 cent per point and the best value is always by redeeming for hotel stays but this is still better than forfeiting your points altogether.

And this is similar to other major airline and hotel programs in that you usually have multiple ways to stimulate activity in your account to keep your points alive. My favorite way to keep points alive is by transferring either AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards to accounts that are about to expire because as long as you transfer just 1 point then that is enough to reset the expiration clock. However, just keep in mind that not all programs are transfer partners of either Chase, AMEX, or Citi such as with Wyndham Rewards so this method will not always work.

Also, some programs such as United will even let you reinstate expired points. Here is a rundown of the cost:

Number of miles
1 – 5,000
Retail Reinstate Price
$ 50.00
5,001 - 6,000 $ 60.00
6,001 - 7,000 $ 70.00
7,001 - 8,000 $ 80.00
8,001 - 9,000 $ 90.00
9,001 - 10,000 $ 100.00
10,001 - 15,000 $ 125.00
15,001 - 20,000 $ 150.00
20,001 - 25,000 $ 175.00
25,001 - 30,000 $ 200.00
30,001 - 35,000 $ 225.00
35,001 - 40,000 $ 250.00
40,001 - 45,000 $  275.00
45,001 - 50,000 $  300.00
50,001 - 75,000 $  400.00
75,001 - 100,000 $  500.00
100,001 - 125,000 $  600.00
125,001 - 150,000 $  700.00
150,001 - 200,000 $  950.00
200,001 - 250,000 $  1,200.00
250,001 - 300,000 $  1,450.00
300,001 - 350,000 $  1,700.00
351,000 – 400,000 $  1,950.00
400,001 - 450,000 $  2,200.00
450,001 - 500,000 $  2,450.00
500,001 - and above $  2,500.00

So this breaks down to a cost of around 1 cent per point to reinstate <10,000 points, anywhere from 0.6-0.8 cents per point to reinstate 10,000-50,000 points, and ~0.5 cents per point to reinstate >50,000 points. It would have been much better not to let these expire in the first place through one of the methods I've already mentioned but paying to reinstate expired miles is still cheaper than buying new miles outright.

Bottom Line

I'm sure we've all encountered the situation where we have soon-to-be expiring points or miles and wondered what to do. Luckily in the majority of cases these programs offer opportunities to stimulate activity in your account for a minimal amount of points to keep your points alive but this is not always the case, especially for smaller programs. In these cases it may not be worth it to book a hotel stay or flight just to keep points from expiring, especially when you are probably not going to use them in the future if its a program you don't normally utilize. And the best case scenario is when your points don't expire at all but this is usually the exception rather than the rule.

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