Caution: Mileage Expiration Ahead

Caution: Mileage Expiration Ahead

With the news from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer who says that travel loyalty programs have been misleading in regards to their mileage expiration policies, we decided to have a close look at exactly how the programs are advising their members about upcoming mileage expiration. These policies to expire miles of inactive members are nothing new (expiring miles first made news in 1988–yes, that’s more than 20 years ago). But the Senator is concerned about how the airlines notify members of expiring miles, “When a consumer accumulates valuable frequent flyer miles, they should not have to constantly worry that they are going to expire with little or no notification from the airline.” Schumer is calling for the DOT to look into the business practices of these programs and the spotlight is once again falling on the way that the programs keep their members informed of impending miles/points expiration.

Not all frequent flyer programs have miles that expire, there are a few holdouts that continue with the once industry standard of not expiring miles–the policy was generally something along the lines that if an account was inactive for three years, it “could” be closed. But in the past, even this nebulous policy was generally not enforced which meant that miles had no expiration.

But with the airlines all facing new accounting guidelines, many adopted much stricter policies for mileage expiration and are now following through with their warnings. As a result many flyers, but maybe not so “frequent” flyers, have collectively lost hundreds, or rather millions, and yes, even billions of miles. And as time has passed, these flyers’ collective cries of distress have reached the Senate.

Following are the good and the bad–those that are good at warning their members of the imminent demise of their miles and what their expiration policy actually is–and those that are downright negligent about giving notice. You can use it as the ultimate guide to where to look for your miles that are set to expire.

While doing our research, we were a bit surprised to find that the hotels in general seem to be having more of a problem with the concept of showing when points will expire–maybe this report will spur them into action to be more precise.

We do not mention those programs that send email notices to their members about the upcoming deletion of their miles–after all, if you are receiving emails from your program that means that you are being active in that program. Miles are only lost when you are inactive (neither earning or spending miles/points) for at the very least one year. And we admit, this is a purely subjective exercise we’ve conducted for this report based on the online statements we accessed.

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it again–always ensure that all of your travel loyalty programs have a valid email address on file for you. Long gone are the days when you’ll get snail mail from your programs, so you should make sure that all of your programs have your updated email address. And it pays to have a plan to earn or burn at least a few miles/points in every program every year. We’ve heard horror stories aplenty of flyers who have discovered that they have lost their miles just when they were ready to spend them—so be aware of your mileage expiration dates–and be aware that the expiration policies can change at any time. It’s in the fine print of every program that they have the right to change the policies of the program or to end the program at any time.

Without further ado, here is the list. Beside each name of the program, you’ll notice a [thumbs up] or [thumbs down] notation, signifying our fully subjective view of the way in which the program lets members know the program’s mileage expiration policy and when the member’s miles/points are set to expire.

AeroMexico Club Premier [thumbs up]

The actual date when the kilometers will expire is displayed prominently on the Club Premier online statement along with the number of miles that are set to expire on that date. There is no link to the expiration policy, however, and you cannot access the online statement from the home page of Club Premier unless you have had activity within the last two months.

Policy: Your Premier kilometers never expire but you do need to make at least one AM code flight with a paid ticket every 24 months.

Aeroplan [thumbs down]

The expiration information is not included in the online statement. And we could not find the information quickly–we had to do a search and found the rather restrictive policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: Miles expire if the Aeroplan member has not accumulated or redeemed Aeroplan Miles for a period of 12 consecutive months. Mileage in an account expires 7 years (84 months) after the date of accumulation. Mileage accumulated in an account prior to Jan. 1, 2007 is deemed to have an accumulation date of Dec. 31, 2006 (regardless of the actual mileage accumulation date). Mileage may expire without further notice.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue [thumbs down]

A link to mileage expiration policy is displayed prominently on the online statement; however, the actual date of when the miles are set to expire is not listed.

Policy: Your Award Miles are valid for life as long as you fly at least once every 20 months, on Air France, KLM, Air Europa, Kenya Airways or Aircalin or one of the SkyTeam member airlines.

AirTran Airways A+ Rewards [thumbs up]

There is a link directly from the online statement entitled “Expiring Soon” so there is no doubt as to when your credits will expire–and you’ll have plenty of notice. You can also quickly link to your used and expired credits.

Policy: The policy can be found through the terms and conditions link. A+ credits expire 12 months after the date that they are posted to your account. Credits that are about to expire within 45 days will be noted as such in your account. For A+ Visa cardholders and Elite members, A+ Rewards credits are valid for 24 months after the posting date.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan [thumbs down]

There are only two clicks needed to get the mileage expiration policy from the Mileage Plan home page: Conditions of Membership Account -> Mileage Expiration. And if that didn’t work, you could always ask online customer help, “Jenn” the avatar. On the online statement, members don’t have as much luck. There is no exact date shown for when your miles will expire. When we called the service center to see if the “may close the account” in their policy was reality we discovered that, yes it is. After no activity in two years, the account is effectively put on “hold” and can be reactivated for a $75 fee. After that, well, the miles are gone.

Policy: Mileage Plan Miles do not have an expiration date and may remain in an active account indefinitely, provided that the Mileage Plan Program has not been terminated pursuant to these Conditions of Membership. Activity in an account includes redeeming a Mileage Plan award or accruing mileage in the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program. However, not withstanding any term to the contrary, if a Mileage Plan account is inactive for 2 years, Alaska Airlines may close the account, delete any mileage balance and reassign the Mileage Plan number.

American AAdvantage [thumbs up]

The expiration date for miles is displayed prominently on the online statement—no hunting is require–along with the actual number of miles set to expire. It would be good to have a link to the mileage policy, but this is a good example of the way we’d like all programs to show when miles will expire.

Policy: The policy is easily found in the FAQ section. Your AAdvantage miles will no longer expire as long as you have qualifying account activity at least once every 18 months.

Bangkok Airways FlyerBonus [thumbs up]

Bangkok Airways FlyerBonus has a very good online statement that clearly spells out when miles are set to expire in the “Point Summary” tab. Members will need to know that they should access this tab, and not just the “Statement” tab, but the site is well laid out for easy access. The policy can be found in the terms and conditions.

Policy: Membership accounts where there’s been no active point accrual over 12 months period will be deemed inactive and deactivated upon the expiration of any remaining points.

British Airways Executive Club [thumbs down]

A “Card Expiry Date” is prominently displayed, but what is a “Card Expiry Date”? How can you tell when your miles are about to expire? We don’t know, and when we contacted customer service they seemed to not understand what we were asking. We’re still in the dark about the miles in the account. (See Opening Remarks in this issue for more about British Airways and expiring miles).

Policy: Found in the terms and conditions … if a Member has not earned or redeemed Mileage for 36 consecutive months, all Mileage that has accrued to that date will expire.

Continental OnePass [thumbs up]

We asked “Alex” the online customer service avatar about expiring miles and she directed us to the mileage expiration policy page.

Policy: Mileage Expiration — Miles currently have no expiry date; however, Continental Airlines reserves the right to impose expiry limits or terminate the OnePass program, thus terminating your ability to claim rewards.

Czech Airlines OK Plus [thumbs up]

The mileage expiry date is prominently displayed on the online statement. And to go a step further to keep members informed, the policy is also stated on the online statement with a link.

Policy: The validity of your miles is unlimited, provided that we note at least one positive transaction in your account every 24 months.

Delta SkyMiles [thumbs up]

The miles set to expire are prominently displayed on the Account Activity page after just two clicks after you log in as a member. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a link directly from the “SkyMiles Mileage Expiration” displayed there to the expiration policy? With a little further looking, the policy can be found in the ABout SkyMiles->Membership Guide & Program Rules->Rules & Conditions.

Policy: Accounts with no activity for 12 consecutive months after enrollment will be deleted. A new SkyMiles number can be obtained by contacting Delta. Currently, miles will not expire as long as you participate in one of the following activities at least once every two years … (it continues to explain that you must earn/redeem to keep account active).

El Al Matmid Club [thumbs down]

On El Al Matmid’s online statement you can find your “Overdrafted Points”–whatever that is, but you cannot find the amount and expiration date of any points about to expire. The expiration policy can be found in the FAQ and a rather difficult to uncover General Information page.

Policy: Basic Points and Extra points accumulated from EL AL flights and not utilized within three years are no longer valid and will be erased from your account. Points accumulated from partner companies are not limited in time.

Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns [thumbs up]

The expiration information is displayed prominently on the online statement. And you can fairly easily see the last time you earned any miles since that date is there. What’s not there, however, is the actual date that the miles will expire and that’s what we’d like to see. Why should a member have to do the math? The full mileage expiration policy can be found in the Q&A section.

Policy: Mileage in a member’s account will not expire so long as the member generates accrual or redemption activity in the account. Unredeemed mileage accumulated in a member’s account will expire at the end of the second calendar year after the last accrual or redemption activity date. Membership in the EarlyReturns program is terminated if the member is inactive for three consecutive calendar years.

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles [thumbs up]

Although the statement does not state exactly when the miles are set to expire, the policy is right under your mileage balance with a link. This is a borderline thumbs up–we would prefer the expiration date and miles to be specified.

Policy: Miles do not expire with activity within an 18-month period.

JetBlue TrueBlue [thumbs up]

Right on the home page of TrueBlue, you can read, “Points don’t expire” with a note below in the fine print stating, “Points don’t expire as long as you earn points through flying JetBlue or through the use of the JetBlue Card from American Express on eligible purchases at least once in a 12-month period.”

On the online statement, members can click a tab to the actual number of points that are set to expire and the date.

We found a more thorough explanation of the expiration policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: New Points will not expire provided a member is “active”. A member is considered “active” when: (i) a Member earns Points from flying a JetBlue flight within the preceding 12 months, or (ii) a Member earns Points by making eligible purchases with their JetBlue Card from American Express (as defined in the American Express Cardmember Agreement) in the preceding 12 months. Each qualifying activity extends the expiration date of all new Points by 12 months from the date of the last Point issuance. Once a Member is deemed inactive all Points will expire.

Midwest Miles [thumbs down]

Although the mileage expiration policy is good news for members, you can’t readily know that when looking at the online statement or the Midwest Miles home page. A mention or a link to the terms and conditions where the policy can be found would be a good idea.

Policy: Mileage in a member’s account will not expire and will be available for award redemption and other benefits as long as the member has qualifying activity in his or her account during any consecutive 36-month period.

Oman Air Sindbad [thumbs down]

There is no reference to mileage expiration on the online statement. And you have to hunt down the mileage expiration policy in the fine print of the terms and conditions.

Policy: Sindbad Miles are valid for a period of five years from the date of transaction.

Qantas Frequent Flyer [thumbs down]

There is no mileage expiration information displayed on the online statement. But there was a note to explain the mileage expiration policy directly on the statement.

Policy: Points will not expire provided you earn or redeem points (excluding Family transfers) at least once every three years. From 1 July 2010 this will change to 18 months.

Qatar Airways Privilege Club [thumbs up]

Qatar Airways Privilege Club makes it easy for members to see when their miles are set to expire. The date and amount of miles is displayed on the online statement when you click on “View Your Activities”. The mileage expiration policy can be found from the Privilege Club home page, by clicking FAQs then Mileage Expiry.

Policy: All Qmiles earned are valid for a period of five calendar years. After this period, miles earned but not used will be deleted from the member’s account on 31 December of the fifth year. Expired Qmiles cannot be refunded.

SAS EuroBonus [thumbs up]

If we were giving out gold stars for excellence, SAS EuroBonus would be a recipient. Members can easily see not only the dates that miles are set to expire, but also the number of miles that are set to expire on that date. But just one little complaint is tarnishing that gold star–there is no direct link to the mileage expiration policy and it’s hard to find buried in the Membership conditions section of the Web site.

Policy: If a member does not earn any points for 24 months, SAS has the right to terminate membership provided the member has no valid, usable points in his/her account.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer [thumbs up]

Singapore deserves credit for the way they communicate with their members about when their miles might disappear. On the online statement, members can quickly and easily see those miles expiring “within this month and the next 5 months.” If they are warned as much as five months in advance, that gives them plenty of time to ensure that they have activity in the account. The full mileage expiration policy is found in the small print of the terms and conditions.

Policy: KrisFlyer accounts which have activity are valid for 36 months from the end of the month in which the last activity occurred, after which the membership accounts will expire. KrisFlyer accounts which do not have any activity for a period of 18 months since enrollment will expire after that period of 18 months.

Southwest Rapid Rewards [thumbs up]

Southwest has always made it very clear that you have a limited amount of time to earn a free flight. Currently on the Rapid Rewards home page, you can read the following prominently displayed: “Simply fly just eight roundtrips in 24 consecutive months, and get one free.” And the online account statement is as equally clear. More information about the policy is easily found in the “Rules”.

Policy: A Rapid Rewards Standard Award will be automatically deposited into your account once your 16th credit posts to your account during any consecutive 24-month period. … Each credit is valid for 24 months from the date earned.

Spirit Airlines FREE SPIRIT [thumbs down]

Although the mileage expiration policy is easy to find in the online Membership Guide, members cannot easily see when their miles will expire when looking at the online statement.

Policy: As long as you earn at least 2,000 miles within the previous six months, your miles won’t expire. If you don’t meet that requirement, any miles older than six months will expire. Because the FREE SPIRIT program calculates your status on a monthly basis, any miles that will expire do so at the start of every month.

You can continue to read a rather expanded and unnecessarily long explanation that if you have a FREE SPIRIT credit card and use it, your miles won’t expire.

TAP Air Portugal Victoria [thumbs up]

TAP Victoria Miles is another program that spells it out for members–right away, you can tell when your miles are getting close to expiring with an actual date on the online statement. You have to hunt a bit, however, to find the actual mileage expiration policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: Victoria Miles are valid for three years from the date of accrual unless specified otherwise. The validity of the miles is calculated as from the date of accrual.
And: TAP may terminate Victoria membership with immediate effect if the Member concerned collects no Victoria Miles in three successive years and without written notice to the Member.

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus [thumbs up]

Thai Royal Orchid Plus leaves no one wondering when their miles might expire. Directly under the current mileage, members can see the exact amount of miles that are set to expire at year’s end. One problem, however, is that there is no mention of the actual miles expiration policy or a link to the information.

Policy: The policy is found in the program terms and conditions. Miles will remain in member’s account for three calendar years after the year in which they are accrued and expire on Dec. 31st of the third year. Expiring miles in each calendar year must be redeemed for an Award by dates stipulated by THAI. Expiring miles that are not redeemed by these stipulated dates are void and deleted from accounts.

United Airlines Mileage Plus [thumbs up]

The information is very easily found when you first log into your account. But again, a link to the mileage expiration policy (similar to the links they have for Elite Qualifying Miles) would be an asset. The full policy can be found under Mileage Plus Rules.

Policy: Effective Dec. 31, 2007 miles will expire if there is no current activity for 18 months consecutive.

US Airways Dividend Miles [thumbs down]

We were not readily able to find any information on expired miles and the information is not listed on the online statement. When calling the service center, we were told that miles expire 18 months from last activity but even the agent could not find this information online. After another search, we found the policy in the online Dividend Miles membership guide (Home -> Dividend Miles -> About Dividend Miles -> Dividend Miles membership guide under Reactivation Policy.

Policy: Since Jan. 31, 2007, active membership status is based on having earned or redeemed miles within a consecutive 18-month period.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Flying Club [thumbs up]

The online statement clearly shows the date that your account is set to expire. And you can find the policy in the terms and conditions and FAQ.

Policy: Your miles will not expire providing that your account remains active. To keep your account active, you need to continue to earn or redeem Flying Club miles, as each mileage transaction will ensure you a further 36 months of active Flying Club miles.

Best Western Rewards [thumbs up]

“Points that never expire” is prominently displayed under Member Benefits and easy to find. However, the actual online statement does not have a link to the policy or explain the policy, so this is a marginal thumbs up.

Policy: On the Best Western Rewards Questions and Answers page you’ll find the following: Q: When do points expire? A: Effective March 1, 2006 Best Western International will no longer expire Best Western Rewards points.

Choice Privileges [thumbs down]

The information is not found on the online statement. We had to search to find the policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: Points expire on Dec. 31, two years after the year in which they were deposited into your account unless forfeited or canceled earlier due to membership inactivity or otherwise in accordance to these rules and regulations.

goldpoints plus [thumbs down]

The expiration policy is buried in the terms and conditions and not available on the online account statement.

Policy: If no Points are earned or redeemed during a 24-month period, all Points in the account at the time of termination will be forfeited at that time.

Hilton HHonors [thumbs down]

Members can’t quickly see when any points will expire when looking at their online statement. We found the policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: Members who do not earn points in any 12 consecutive month period may be removed from the Program and, if so, are subject to forfeiture of all accumulated points. Once the account has closed, the member may not retrieve any points forfeited by Hilton. Members are exempt from the foregoing requirements during their first year of enrollment.

Hyatt Gold Passport [thumbs down]

The information is not found on the online statement or in the main information pages about the program, but we did find the policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: A member’s Hyatt Gold Passport membership may be discontinued at Hyatt Gold Passport’s discretion if a member does not record Hyatt Gold Passport points or Travel Partner miles activity during any consecutive 12-month period.

When we talked to a Hyatt customer service agent, she said that in the 10 years that she has been working as an agent, no account has been closed due to non-activity.

InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards [thumbs up]

After one click (Member Benefits) from the Priority Club home page we found the expiration policy under “Easy to redeem with unmatched flexibility.” Not as easy to find as one would expect with the policy being that liberal so this is a very marginal thumbs up. Nothing is mentioned on the online statement about the points expiration policy and there is no mention on the Q&A or terms and conditions pages.

Policy: Points never expire.

La Quinta Returns [thumbs down]

The information is not readily available on the online statement, but we did find information in the terms and conditions.

Policy: Members who do not have any stay activity within an 18-month consecutive period may be removed from the program and all accrued points will be forfeited.

Marriott Rewards [thumbs down]

The information is not found on the statement, but we did find the policy in the terms and conditions.

Policy: An account may be closed at Marriott’s discretion if no points are accrued during a 24-month period. All points in the account will be forfeited at that time.

Like the typical statements of the past, this “threat” is usually not implemented.

Red Lion R&R Club [thumbs down]

There’s no mention of the points that are about to expire or a statement or link for the expiration policy. We found it on the FAQ page.

Policy: Like all good things, this could come to an end. Red Lion R&R Club points expire if there has been NO membership activity within two years. Memberships expire in four years, but only if there has been no activity on your account.

Starwood Preferred Guest [thumbs down]

The information is not found on the online statement but is buried in the terms and conditions.

Policy: You will be considered an “Active Member” so long as (a) your Membership has not been cancelled (by you or us), and (b) you have had an Eligible Stay at a Participating Property within the previous 12 months, or (c) you have earned Starpoints by using a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card during the previous 12 months.

When we called the service center we were told, “Non-activity for 12 months can result in forfeit of your points.”

Wyndham Rewards [thumbs down]

The online statement does not state when the points might expire.

And finding the points expiration policy for Wyndham Rewards is a hunting expedition–it took us awhile but we did find it. From the Wyndham Rewards home page it was found through Members Services (small link at top of page) -> Terms and Conditions (another small link) and buried in the fine print.

Policy: Wyndham Rewards points expire four (4) years after being posted to the Member’s account, unless forfeited or cancelled earlier due to membership inactivity or otherwise in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.

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