It's a question we hear frequently: do credit card rewards expire?
For many credit card issuers, the answer is no. Your points, miles or cash back won't expire so long as your account is open and in good standing.
However, it's best to never assume that's the case and always check your card's fine print. There are exceptions to the rule. Plus, if your rewards are for a separate loyalty program - such as a frequent flyer plan - you'll want to check for that program's expiration policy as well.
Keep reading for more about major issuers' policies, how to cash in your rewards, and everything else you need to know about credit card reward expiration dates.
When rewards expire by credit card issuer
Credit card rewards may come in various forms: cash back, points or miles. If your card earns points or miles for an airline or hotel program, check with that company for its expiration policy. In many cases, airline miles or hotel points will expire after a certain period of inactivity.
Points earned through programs offered by card issuers, on the other hand, typically don't expire so long as your account is in good standing. Here's a look at each issuer's rewards program and expiration policy.
Membership Rewards points don't have an expiration date, but you could lose points if you fail to make a timely payment, your account is cancelled or American Express determines you are abusing, misusing or gaming the program.
Points do not expire so long as your account remains in good standing.
Rewards do not expire so long as your account remains open. Unredeemed rewards are forfeited once an account is closed.
Points don't expire unless your account status changes or closes because of reasons including not making a payment within 60 days, filing for bankruptcy or suspected fraudulent activity.
ThankYou Points are subject to the expiration described in your account materials. Shared points expire 90 days after they are received, and points contributed by ThankYou Rewards expire three years from the end of the year in which they are awarded.
Discover it Rewards
Rewards have no expiration. Discover will credit your account with your rewards balance if your account is closed or if you have no yet used it within 18 months.
Wells Fargo Rewards
Rewards on some cards expire at the end of the 60th month after they post to your account. Rewards on other cards do not expire, but they may be forfeited if you close your credit card account.
Keep in mind that credit card programs and terms can change at any time so, again, read the fine print on your account to confirm the details for your card.
Does cash back expire?
Maybe your rewards card gives you cash back instead of points or miles. Do you need to worry about that expiring?
Like other rewards, cash back usually doesn't expire so long as your account is open and in good standing. In fact, Discover, which has some of the most popular cash back cards available, will even credit your account if you have a CashBack Bonus balance and close your account or leave it inactive for 18 months.
But that isn't the case for all cash back cards. For instance, cash rewards earned on U.S. Bank cards will expire at the end of 36 months after the billing cycle in which they were earned.
How do I redeem cash back rewards?
Most card issuers make it simple to redeem cash back rewards. Once you've logged into your account, look for a redemption link to see your balance and options. Many cards will let you select from one or more of the following choices:
- Redeem for a statement credit
- Request a check or direct deposit
- Redeem for a gift card or merchandise
- Pay for purchases at select retailers
Some card issuers will let you redeem cash back in any amount while others may require a minimum balance first.
If you are redeeming points or miles, you may also have the option to transfer those to a partnering loyalty program or redeem through a travel portal for flights, hotels, car rentals and more.
In general, redeeming cash back for cash or its equivalent is the best use of those rewards. However, if you have points or miles, redeeming for travel may give you a better value than cashing out for a check or statement credit.
How to avoid losing your credit card rewards
Credit card rewards can be lucrative, especially if you earn a large welcome bonus. You don't want to lose those valuable points or cash back, and so you should follow these tips:
- Confirm your card's expiration policy by reading its terms and conditions.
- Always make your payments on time.
- Redeem any points or cash back prior to closing an account.
- Follow the rules and avoid spending that could be considered by a company to be misuse, such as buying an unusually large quantity of gift cards.
You can also avoid losing your credit card rewards by redeeming them on a regular basis. Some cash back cards offer the option to auto-redeem your outstanding balance at the end of each month or billing cycle.
If you are earning points or miles, be aware that program changes could devalue those points. For instance, travel portals may increase the number of points needed to redeem for a hotel room or flight, which effectively makes your points worth less.
To make the most of your points, don't horde them. Instead, apply for travel rewards cards with a plan for how you'll use your miles or points and then redeem them regularly. If travel isn't possible for you right now, consider whether there are other redemption options, such as cash or gift cards, that you could use. Better yet: apply for a cash back credit card if you don't think you'll be able to redeem points or miles anytime soon.