Where have my points gone?!
There are many reasons to use your reward points as you go, rather than amassing them over the years. The key ones being the risk of them devaluing or expiring. That said, we all know that sometimes it’s helpful to be able to ‘save up’ for a big trip.
Recently I heard from Stephen, an IHG Rewards member who had been saving points up over a period of 9 years, only to find that they suddenly expired due to a period of ‘inactivity’. Stephen was caught out by a change in policy, but argued that the points he accrued before the change in T&C’s should have remained on the original terms. He said that when he’d spent money with IHG to earn these points he understood it was on the basis that they didn’t have an expiry date (this was subsequently changed in 2016 to expiry at 12 months since the last account activity). He stated he was originally ‘sold the scheme specifically on the USP that the points never ran out’. Whilst I’m sure IHG do have the right to enforce this change in terms, I can’t help feeling that he has a valid point. It’s also a shame that in response there wasn’t some flexibility, or a goodwill gesture, for a customer who had lost points earned over such a long period of time. Stephen believed that he had at least enough points for ‘a couple of long weekends in London’, so was understandably disappointed when he discovered he’d lost these.
If nothing else, it seems that the negative PR of his – and others – social media complaints probably outweighs the value of reinstating some, or all, of the points. In addition, whilst there are likely thousands of very occasional customers with no real intention of using small numbers of points which may be sitting on their accounts, surely there could be scope for some differentiation where a long term customer has an inactive period. Writing off their points without communication seems the least likely strategy to win back their custom! In Stephen’s case he’s gone from being a long term customer, to a vocal critic.
And here’s the crazy thing – points only expire due to complete account ‘inactivity’, which means usually even the most minor transaction, like redeeming a few points for a low value gift card or making a minor spend on a linked reward credit card will protect them. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that people feel this is just there to ‘catch them out’, because those members who do know about the expiry don’t suddenly need to become active customers, they just have to do ‘something’ on that account.
If you want to avoid finding yourself in a similar situation, here are the current expiry terms for six major points schemes. Some of these were very easy to find, others were ‘hidden’ in long T&C’s (which perhaps makes it unsurprising that people get caught out). As I understand, all of the below periods commence from the last date the account had qualifying activity. Feel free to add any links for other schemes in the comments, and I’ll update the article and credit you.
NEVER EXPIRE – Another reason I love Amex! As long as you have an active American Express Rewards card, your points have no expiry date even if you aren’t actively using the card. However, if you close the account you MUST transfer or use the points first to avoid losing them. The absence of an expiry date is also a good reason (along with flexibility) to not transfer your points to a partner scheme until you need to use them.
12 MONTHS – Hilton points expire after 12 months of inactivity. However activity doesn’t have to be an actual stay – it includes earning points via a credit card (note there is no current UK card accepting new applications, although some people, including me, still have the Hilton Barclaycard) or transfering them from American Express. In addition buying Hilton points or donating via the ‘Giving Back’ programme is also valid activity.
24 MONTHS – Marriott points are valid for twice as long as Hilton, for Marriott you only need qualifying activity within 2 years. Again this includes credit card earning, it also includes converting points to miles. It doesn’t include points gifting though.
36 MONTHS – Avios points do expire, but you have a, quite reasonable, 3 year period before you forfeit them. With Avios, activity counts as collecting, spending, purchasing or sharing. So, unlike Marriott, sharing your points with another member is actually sufficient.
12 MONTHS – confusingly Nectar say points don’t expire, however if an account is inactive for 12 months, then it’s closed. I believe, from my own experience, that what this means is that your account is indeed closed after a year without use, but if you re-join you may still be able to recover these points with a bit of effort (I did this by contacting them and merging an old account when I opened a new one).
12 MONTHS – following a change a couple of years ago, IHG points now expire after 12 months of inactivity. To keep them active you must ‘earn or redeem through any IHG hotel or partners.’ Interestingly IHG were the only scheme I noted to give a rationale for this in their information. They say it was a move to focus on rewarding their regular customers.
Like it or not, most points schemes have expiry dates for inactive accounts. If you do have accounts you use less frequently, but want to protect your points, then make sure you log in to do ‘something’ before there’s a risk of points expiring. Sadly, as Stephen found, there might not always be much goodwill if you do inadvertently lose a significant number of points, even where you have a long history with a brand.
If you have any extra schemes to add, then add a comment, ideally with a link to verify, and we’ll credit you in any update.
N.B. Disclaimer: This is an amateur, personal blog. Please ensure you check T&C’s directly prior to making any decisions.
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