A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about hotel loyalty program point expiration due to inactivity and how to circumvent this.
Here’s the email from the reader:
As life changes, marriage and now firstborn, I will stop traveling for a few years. I tried to make sense of miles/points expiry and family benefits, and have found programs to not be up front. I find most airlines have the information somewhere, most hotels seem to be hiding information much better, at least for me.
I narroweddown my remaining questions to 4, but I am sure many other people have a hard time finding the right information. May I suggest a post overviewing program expiry dates/policies versus status tiers on loyaltylobby?
As for my remaining question, would you know:
As a SPG gold member, I understand my account will be inactivated after 12 months of inactivity, but will the points expire too? Or do they only expire for regular members?
Since Marriott does not see points transfers as “activity”, what happens if I transfer my SPG points to a never used Marriott account? Will they be valid for 12 months, will they instantly expire/vanish?
As a Hilton Gold member, do points expire after 12 months or are Gold members immune to points expiry?
Does IHG have a way to pool points in a family account, or transfer points to a family member for free?
The reader is right here that the programs certainly could make it clearer (like the airline ones have done) when the points expire. I guess that they on purpose hide this info trying to maximize the number of points that they can cancel yearly due to account in activity.
Of the four programs mentioned above, only the IHG clearly spells it out VERY CLEARLY on the points dashboard, when the points are going to expire.
SPG (access here)
Here’s what the program T&Cs say about the expiry of points (access here):
11.1.f. Starpoints issued or earned through Vistana, including, without limitation, tour incentives, purchase incentives, SPG Conversion, sweepstakes and other giveaway prizes, will expire six years following the date they are deposited into an SPG Member’s account, regardless of SPG Member activity. All such Starpoints or any portion thereof, which have not been redeemed by their six-year expiration time, will be forfeited without notice.
4.2 Forfeiting Starpoints. Except for Vistana Owners to whom the obligations in Section 11 apply, Starpoints earned or otherwise obtained by an SPG Member will forfeit without notice if the SPG Member becomes Inactive, even if the SPG Member has achieved SPG Lifetime Gold or SPG Lifetime Platinum Status. An SPG Member is considered “Inactive” if during a 12-month period: (a) the SPG Member has not had a Stay at an SPG Participating Hotel; (b) the SPG Member has not earned or redeemed any Starpoints; or (c) the SPG Member’s account has been cancelled.
SPG Starpoints will expire even for Gold and Platinum lifetime members IF they don’t have any activity for 12 months. There is an exception for points earned from Vistana, giveaways and prizes that expire six years after they are deposited to member account.
There is nothing on the SPG account that clearly spells out when the points on the account would expire. I guess that they expect the member to go by the last transaction and count 12 months from that date.
Could definitely be better spelled out AND expiring them also for lifetime members is bit over the top.
Marriott Rewards (access here)
Here’s the T&Cs (access here):
POINTS EXPIRATION POLICY: Members must remain active in the Rewards Programs to retain Points they accumulate. If a Member is not active for 24 consecutive months, that Member will forfeit all accumulated Points. The Rewards Program will start enforcing this policy on February 1, 2016. Members can remain active in the Rewards Programs and retain accumulated Points by earning Points or Miles in the Rewards Programs or redeeming Points in the Rewards Programs at least once every 24 months, subject to the exceptions described below.
If a Member does not maintain an active status for five consecutive years, the Member’s account may be deactivated. Once Points have been forfeited, the Points cannot be reinstated, but a Member can earn new Points, unless that Member’s account is deactivated too.
- Not all Points activities help maintain active status in the Rewards Programs. The following activities do not count toward maintaining an active status in the Rewards Programs:
- gifting or transferring Points; however, converting Points to Miles or Miles to Points does count toward maintaining an active status
- receiving Points as a gift or transfer
- earning Points through social media programs, such as #MRPoints
- the transfer of points from a Member’s Rewards Program account to their SPG Program account, or the transfer of points from a Member’s SPG Program account to their Marriott Rewards account. Note that following the transfer of points across accounts, the points expiration policy of the account to which the points were transferred will apply to such points.
- Linking a Rewards Program account with a SPG Program account
- Rewards redeemed by a Member prior to Point forfeiture are still valid even though the Reward may not have been fulfilled at the time of Point forfeiture.
- The points expiration policy does not currently affect the Points in Elite Lifetime member accounts; however, the Rewards Programs may choose to apply a points expiration policy to Elite Lifetime member accounts in the future.
Marriott Rewards has the point expiry info when you expand the point activity (do they have the worst designed hotel loyalty program website?). Points don’t expire for 24 months and for now they don’t expire for lifetime Silver, Golf and Platinum members, although this may change in the future (as they spell this out very clearly).
Marriott Rewards has web page dedicated to points expiration and what one can do to keep them alive (access here).
Hilton Honors (access here)
Here are the Hilton Honors T&Cs (access here):
Members who do not have eligible activity as defined in a. – d. below in any 12 consecutive month period may be removed from the Program and are subject to forfeiture of all accumulated Points. At the discretion of Hilton Honors, such Members may be permitted to remain in the Program and removed after five years of inactivity. To keep accumulated Hilton Honors Points, the Member must take one of the following actions within a 12 consecutive month period:
- stay at a hotel within the Hilton Portfolio pursuant to the terms herein;
- earn Hilton Honors Points through any third party source of Hilton Honors Point accumulation, including a Hilton co-branded credit card, pursuant to its terms;
- purchase Hilton Honors Points; or,
- donate Points through The Hilton Honors Giving Back Program.
Failure to take action (a), (b), (c) or (d) described above will result in the forfeiture of all accumulated Points and, after five years of inactivity, to deactivation of the Member’s account. Once the Points have been forfeited, the Member may not retrieve any forfeited Points but Member may begin to earn Points again thereafter. Any Reward redeemed by the Member before the Points are forfeited (such as a hotel reservation made or a car rental voucher obtained) is still valid. This applies to any year of enrollment, including without limitation, the first year of enrollment. Members who fail to pay mortgage related payments properly due and owed to Hilton Grand Vacations®, including but not limited to principal payments, interest payments, late fees, and service fees are subject to forfeiture of Points equal to the amount of Points accumulated in connection with Hilton Grand Vacations®. Further, Members who so fail to pay amounts due to Hilton Grand Vacations® are subject to forfeiture of any Elite tier status earned through Hilton Grand Vacations®.
Hilton Honors point expiry is very harsh and there is nothing on their account dashboard indicating when the points would expire. Having elite status with Hilton Honors doesn’t prevent points from expiring (at least not per the T&Cs).
IHG Rewards Club (access here)
Here’s the relevant part of the T&Cs (access here):
Expiration of points. Points do not expire unless your account becomes inactive for any period of twelve (12) months or longer. To maintain the points in your account, you must have at least one earn or redeem transaction posted to your account every twelve (12) months. If you do not keep your account active for any period of twelve (12) months or more, all of your points may expire which means your points will be removed from your account and are no longer able to be redeemed. Points in your account do not expire for all current Elite members, although all of your points may expire twelve (12) months after your account moves to Club level from an Elite level without earn or redeem activity.
There are numerous ways to keep IHG Rewards Club points from expiring. The easiest way is to redeem and cancel the award. This alone extends the validity of points by 12 months. Points don’t expire for elite members.
I like the fact that the dashboard is very clear when the points expire (you will also receive several emails about this).
SPG, Marriott and Hilton all allow one to pool points freely. IHG does not.
I would say that wiping member’s points after 12 months of inactivity is bit harsh especially for programs such as IHG Rewards Club that advertised for years that their points never expire. It is just too easy for these programs to write down future liability by aggressively expiring points.
IHG Rewards Club has made it clear on the points dashboard when the points expire and Marriott Rewards has clear instructions for members what to do to ensure that points won’t expire. SPG and Hilton both have neither? Why?
I don’t think that opening Marriott Rewards account and moving your SPG points there would make them expire immediately. You should able to find out the exact expiry by extending the account activity. I would assume this would be the 24 months from the transfers or from the account opening date.