Reward Points : 5 ways to keep loyalty points from expiring
The worldwide popularity of loyalty programs has created a headache for the companies that offer then. There are trillions of banked miles and travel reward points out there that they’re on the hook to pay for.
That’s why many programs have expiry dates and inactivity rules.
If you don’t use your reward points within a certain time after earning them, or haven’t shown any activity in your account within a certain time frame, you lose them.
Expiry rules typically kick in between three and seven years after getting the reward points and inactivity between one and three years.
Keeping your Reward Points
1. The one-transaction rule
The transaction doesn’t have to be big. For example, if you’re an Aeroplan customer, buy gas once a year at Esso, or buy something you need at Home Hardware an Aeroplan partner.
A $3 purchase, and a swipe of your Aeroplan card and you get 1 Aeroplan mile. You’ve kept your account alive!
2. Buy or transfer points
The option to buy or transfer miles and points is relatively new, but is another good way to keep accounts current. Even though this costs money — most programs charge a per mile fee to buy/gift/transfer miles – it can be useful for programs that may be hard to earn/burn points or miles in.
My parents had enough miles in their Czech Airlines OK Plus accounts for flights between Canada and Europe. But they didn’t plan to travel for a year. Their best bet was to buy miles rather than lose then all. They bought the minimum 1,500 miles each for roughly $80 each which is small compared to losing the value of two transatlantic flights.
3. Donate miles and reward points
Most programs have the option to donate your miles and points to a worthy cause and depending on the loyalty program and charity you can receive a tax receipt. These donations count as activity. Aeroplan has nine charities, including Médecins Sans Frontières and Earth Day Canada. As of a few weeks ago, Aeroplan members had donated well over 200 million miles. The Air Miles program offers five different charities including the Red Cross and Special Olympics Canada.
4. Use them up
The other tried and true method of keeping an account current is redeeming points. Whether you use 25,000 miles for a flight in North America or 3,000 miles for $10 Gift Card, these type of redemptions keep accounts alive.
When it comes to expiring miles or points, this is the only method to use them up (donating counts as a redemption) You don’t have to use up all your miles and points at once as almost all programs that have expiry rules run on a first in first out basis. This is where the not-so-big ticket redemptions like redeeming for gift cards can come in handy as you may only have a few thousand miles expiring and you don’t want or can’t make a big value redemption by the end of the month or year that those miles expire in.
5. Keep track of your balances and expiry dates
By properly tracking your balances and inactivity/expiry dates you will ensure you don’t lose any of those hard earned miles and points. There are numerous ways to keep track of your account balances. From creating your own spreadsheet with columns for your balances and last activity dates to using an online service such as Awardwallet.com (this one has the best coverage of Canadian programs), GoMiles.com, UsingMiles.com and a whole slew of others you can easily keep track of which programs will require some action in the near future.