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Expiring Miles & Points Posted on Jan 23, 2011

Trillions of banked miles and points in travel reward programs worldwide have led to many of these programs enacting expiry dates on the miles and points held in the accounts of millions of people. Frequent Flyer programs in particular are the proprietors of expiring miles and the majority of airlines in the world will now remove miles from your account due to periods inactivity. On top of inactivity several have also put a lifespan on miles even with ongoing account activity. For hotel and shopping programs the opposite tends to be true with the majority of them having no point expiry or inactivity limitations.

Periods of between 12 to 36 months of inactivity are the most common seen in frequent flyer programs however some do go further out to 4 or 5 years. The general definition of activity means any addition or deletion of miles or points in an account. To keep an account current, collectors just need to have one earning or redeeming action within the period set out by the program. Many collectors are being caught by the inactivity rule due to a lack of knowledge. Many collectors tend not to read the terms and conditions set out by programs or simply delete emails of any changes that the program has tried to advise them of.

Keeping your miles from expiring can be quite simple as long as one keeps track of their account and knows the dates of their last activity. In Canada, the largest program with set expiry dates is Aeroplan and keeping your Aeroplan account current is as easy as buying gas at Esso at least once a year. Programs that are not Canadian based tend to be a little tougher to keep current but many now have options to earn miles for online shopping or for redeeming a small amount of miles by donating them to charity. Programs also have options to buy or transfer miles which can be a good way to top off an account to get bigger rewards. If you have stranded miles in an account that will not be enough to redeem for a flight, there is always the option of using websites like Points.com to transfer miles to another program or loyaltymatch.com to use your miles to buy merchandise should you not want those miles to expire. All of these actions are considered activity and will keep a travel rewards account current.

The tougher expiring mile condition set by some programs is the set lifespan for miles or points. More popular with Asian Frequent Flyer programs, the lifespan limitation was set in use by Aeroplan at the same time as the inactivity rule. Think of this as a best before date, the lifespan rule is an absolute expiry on miles, so even if you have activity in your account, the miles or points are time stamped and will be removed from your account if they are not redeemed by the best before date. Miles from frequent flyer programs like ANA Mileage Club and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles have a short three year lifespan whereas Canada's largest frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, has set a seven year lifespan. WestJet dollars earned in their frequent guest program have a five year lifespan. Canada's other large travel rewards program Air Miles, has no life span on the reward miles earned.

The airlines made these mileage expiry and inactivity rules to lessen the liability on their books with all the unused miles but have put the burden of keeping track of the dates of the miles or pointsearned on the collectors. Some programs do send out notice of expiring miles or list the expiry date when viewing accounts online but many do not. Collectors have to do their due diligence to make sure the miles in their travel rewards accounts do not expire by keeping an eye on the dates of their last activity and ensuring they perform an activity at least once within the period set out by the program.





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