closeup of a pecil eraser correcting a mistake

The Worst Travel Hacking Mistake and Proven Ways to Avoid It

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

You’ve made the leap into travel hacking and have begun earning miles and points for travel. Congratulations!

Maybe you’ve opened a few travel rewards credit cards and earned the welcome bonuses after meeting the minimum spend

The travel goal you set from the beginning is starting to come into focus.

Polignano a Mare Italy
A trip to Italy using miles and points!

You log in to your loyalty account, giddy at the sight of your miles and points balance. Suddenly, though, your eyes glimpse a small bit of information. You pause, then squint and lean into the computer screen. Your heartbeat quickens and you swallow hard as the reality sets in.

You’re on the brink of making the worst travel hacking mistake. 

How did you not realize that your miles and points were set to expire?!?

You begin to Google airline and hotel loyalty program expiration dates.

You discover that, of course, airlines and hotel loyalty programs have their own rules about miles and points and when they expire!

Here’s the information to know about airline loyalty programs and their expiration dates.

AlaskaEarn or spend 1 mile every 24 months
AmericanEarn or redeem miles on American or a partner once every 18 months
Collect, spend, purchase, or share at least 1 Avios every 36 months
DeltaDo not expire
Flying Blue / KLMTake at least one flight every 24 months on Air France or any Skyteam partner
HawaiianEarn or redeem miles once every 18 months
Jet BlueDo not expire
SouthwestEarn at least 1 mile every 24 months
SpiritEarn at least 1 mile every 3 months
UnitedMiles do not expire
HiltonStay, earn, or redeem once every 12 months
HyattInactive accounts may be deleted and all points forfeited if there is 24 months with no activity
MarriottEarn or redeem points once every 24 months
IHGEarn or redeem points once every 12 months

With the time that’s passed, your frustration has turned to determination. You’re going to save your miles and points, without having to pay any of those pesky loyalty account reinstatement fees.

You begin to think about your loyalty accounts and all the proven ways to reset the expiration date on your balances. 

How about using your miles for a trip to the Caribbean?

1. You can use your miles and points or pay for a flight or hotel stay. Seemingly the most obvious on the list, but still important to mention.

If you book award travel with your miles and points for an upcoming trip, your miles and points typically don’t expire.

The same goes for paying for an upcoming flight or hotel stay out-of-pocket. The miles and points you earn for paying cash will deposit into your loyalty account and reset the expiration date.

girl makes a purchase on the Internet on the computer with credit card

2. You can shop through a shopping portal.

Many airlines and hotels have shopping portals where you can earn miles or points for making a purchase at any of the thousands of merchants. You already shop at many of them, so why not earn for travel, too?

Once you make a purchase, the miles and points will be deposited directly into your loyalty account and the expiration date will reset.

Dining out at a participating will extend the life of your miles and points.

3. You can dine at or order out from a participating restaurant in the dining program.

Similar to shopping portals, airlines and hotels have dining programs where you can earn miles and points every time you dine at a restaurant in the rewards network.

Join the dining program for free and start earning! Every time you dine at one of the restaurants, your miles and points earned will be deposited directly into your loyalty account and the expiration clock will begin anew.

Airport car rental sign
Did you know you can earn airline or hotel miles and points for renting a car? 

4. You can take advantage of the airline’s or hotel’s partners. 

Shopping portals and dining programs aren’t the only way to earn miles and points. There are often many other airline and hotel partners that allow you to maximize your earnings.

With United’s partners, for example, you can order flowers from FTD, sign up for Directv, book a rental car, order wine, and even take surveys to earn miles and points.

Every time these miles and points are earned, the life span of your loyalty account refreshes itself.

5. You can make a purchase with your co-branded airline card or hotel credit card

If you’re in the habit of collecting miles and points, it’s pretty likely you have a few airline or hotel credit cards.

Use your co-branded card for the airline or hotel program you want to extend to make a purchase for something small. Even spending just $1 will succeed in pushing back your loyalty program’s expiration date and save your miles and points.

chase sapphire preferred
Transfer Ultimate Rewards Points earned with a travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred to one of their airline or hotel partners to keep your loyalty account active.

6. You can transfer points from a credit card to a loyalty program. 

If you have transferable points with a travel rewards program like Chase, Capital OneCiti, or American Express, you have access to their travel transfer partners.

The points you earn with these credit card companies don’t expire unless you close your card.

If your miles and points are set to expire in a hotel or airline loyalty account, transfer the smallest increment allowed from your Chase, Citi, or American Express account into the airline or hotel program you wish and it will reset the expiration date on your account.

7. You can buy miles or points. 

While obviously a last resort, airlines and hotels do sell miles and points in set increments. If none of the above options work for you and the only choices you have are to buy miles and points or to let your entire stash expire, then buy the smallest amount possible.

Spending the money is better than losing miles and points that could’ve been used for a free flight or hotel stay.

Your loyalty accounts are intact. Your miles and points have been saved. Take a moment to smile, but remember jet-setting off for some free travel courtesy of your miles and points will be even sweeter.

How have you kept your miles and points from expiring?

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The Worst Travel Hacking Mistake and Proven Ways to Avoid It
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34 thoughts on “The Worst Travel Hacking Mistake and Proven Ways to Avoid It”

  1. I’ve never got into miles as I don’t fly frequently with one carrier, I just choose the cheapest!

    Plus I don’t like the idea of opening lots of credit cards!

    But travelling with miles sounds like a system that works for some!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I understand, Hannah. There are so many travel rewards to be had, though. They’re hard to pass up.

  2. The only time I ever built up a few miles I lost them because I didn’t realise they’d expired (and didn’t realise I could stop this from happening!). Next time I’ll be more savvy, thanks for the post, always good to learn new ways to save money!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Oh no, Heather! Sorry to hear you lost your points, but glad you know better now!

  3. honestly..I never use or collect any miles and etc:D bus started to think that need to do that:) so some ideas from this post will be really useful:)

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      There’s a lot to gain by earning miles and points for travel, Ria. Glad the post was useful!

  4. I have never used miles before, I always think it would be a great idea to save money in the long run if you can keep it organised. I think because there are so many budget airlines that we use that don’t do points and the other airlines are so much more expensive we haven’t yet given it a go. It’s good to know more about how it works though!

  5. Wow, there are some very useful tips here, beyond the basic point that points and miles can save a ton when flying. This is helpful to those of us who want to travel more, without breaking the bank. Thanks for compiling this useful information.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I’m so glad, Paula! With just a small effort, you can easily extend the life of your miles and points!

  6. The US schemes are way more generous than the ones in Australia, I collect a few points here and there down here but never enough to do anything really interesting. I definitely would hate to see the hard earned points expire, going to have to check on that in the morning.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Do check, Toni. Points are their own currency with a lot of benefits. It would be a shame to lose them.

  7. Nice to see all the perks and ways to use them in one post. I participate in many of the programs but the goals are so unattainable it seems pointless to me. Case and point, I switched credit cards over to Princess and I use my card to pay for EVERYTHING. I can basically cruise with Princess for well under $1000 and after saving points all year, i have about 1/10th enough points for a simple cruise.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I understand your frustration, Melody. I always suggest getting a credit card that has transfer partners because the points you earn come with the flexibility to use with a variety of hotel and airlines. Have you looked into earning airline miles for each dollar you spend when paying for a cruise?

  8. I recently had a conversation with my boyfriend about this. He was claiming that his miles were about to expire, how could they I wondered? Mine never did since I always use them. You really don’t want to go through all the effort to then lose them! Great table you put together!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You never want your miles and points to sit too long, Mar. Hopefully he can use one of these tips to reset the expiration date on his points.

  9. I would be so upset if I had gone to all the trouble to earn extra miles and then not been able to use them! I’ve been reading so many travel hack blogs, trying to figure out how to earn myself more miles without going crazy keeping track of everything. You have some great tips here!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Tami! Travel hacking takes some time and effort and you absolutely don’t want to have all that wasted. Let me know if you have any questions about getting started with this hobby. 🙂

  10. Shailender Kumar

    I never really thought seriously about this miles business, but after reading your post I can say that we need to be little smart and lot of saving can be made. Thanks for this post.

  11. Just an observation – Not a Criticism!

    This word “hacking”seems to have caught on really well with bloggers. Guess it sounds really cool. But are you losing reader because of it? In a word, YES! While it may be a cool word for bloggers understand when they use it, It is a different story when you ask the average person, or traveler what the word means. The overwhelming majority of people still think the word has to do with shady Internet types who do it to hack into the accounts or people and governments.

    Readability is based on a person being able to read and understand what they read. Let’s use what I call “real people words”, when we write. After all, are we just writing for other bloggers, or are we writing for the general public.

    To Your Success

    Rick Stoneking

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Totally a fair point, Rick. The word hacking can certainly be seen as shady. The use of miles and points for travel is playing by the rules set by the hotels, airlines, and credit cards who offer such perks and is certainly not shady. But, I also think the term “hack” has become more mainstream and accepted overall. You can find everything from travel hacks to life hacks, to cooking and budget hacks online. I think the more this word is used, the more people understand its nuances. I do appreciate your point and will certainly keep it in mind. Thanks for the time you put into reading and commenting on the post.

  12. I earn probably upwards of 70% of my airline rewards using the Avios shop. It’s shopping I do anyway and can earn up to 12 points per £1 but I also earn for the spend because I’ve used my credit card. A £1000 could potentially earn me 13000 points, enough for a short haul flight in Europe.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Shopping portals are so valuable! I do the same, Anne, most often with Chase, United, or American airlines. I also love some of the deals they offer, like bonus miles for back to school shopping or 30 points per dollar to send my mom flowers on Mother’s Day! Everyday purchases add up and earn free flights and hotel nights before you know it! 🙂

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