Nearly 50% loyalty program participants let airline/hotel rewards expire

Survey points to millions of dollars in expired rewards

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Nearly half (46%) of U.S. adults who participate in airline and hotel loyalty programs have let their points or miles expire at some point, according to a new Bankrate.com report . Among those who collect credit card rewards, 29% have allowed those to expire.

Millennials were the most likely generation to lose rewards to expiration policies; 57% have lost hotel points, 50% have forfeited airline miles and 44% been deprived of credit card rewards for this reason. For older adults, the totals are just 41%, 46% and 22%, respectively.

A lot of people are sitting on airline, hotel and credit card rewards that are worth a significant amount of money,” said Bankrate.com credit card analyst Ted Rossman. “That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of them before they expire. If you need more time to save up for your desired redemption and your rewards are about to expire, reset the clock by demonstrating new account activity. This can involve a small purchase or redeeming a minimal number of points or miles.”

Among loyalty program participants, only 25 percent were able to list how many hotel points they have and 29 percent knew their frequent flyer mile total. Just 33 percent knew their credit card rewards balance.

More education and diligence are needed

More than half of the people surveyed (53 percent) admitted that they didn’t know how much 10,000 rewards points/miles are worth. Generally, 10,000 points/miles are worth $100 to $199.

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) have credit card points, 57% possess hotel rewards and 56% collect frequent flyer miles. Among those who reported their balances, the averages were 34,065 airline miles, 22,893 hotel points and 15,941 credit card points. Even at the low end of the valuation range (1 cent per point/mile), that means the average frequent flyer account balance is worth about $341, the average hotel points hoard equals approximately $229 and their average credit card rewards stash is $159 or so.

In general, younger adults are more likely to join loyalty programs, but older folks have higher balances. Participation and perks both increase with income.

Types of rewards cards

Navigating all the rewards card options available to you can be difficult. That’s why we broke out some of the most common types, along with more detailed recommendations from our team on the best cards in each category.

Cash back

With a cash back rewards card, you’ll earn a percentage of cash back on purchases. Your cash back will typically be applied as a statement credit toward your account, yet some cards — such as the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card — can directly deposit the cash back into your U.S Bank checking or savings account.

Travel

Whether it’s a co-branded card with an airline or hotel or a general-purpose travel rewards card, these cards can help frequent travelers earn rewards for their travel-related spending.

With a travel rewards card, you can expect perks like discounted trips, seat upgrades, travel insurance benefits, statement credits and more. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® credit. Read our guide to your first travel rewards card for tips on how to choose the right travel card option for you.

Co-branded retail cards

Certain co-branded cards are issued through a partnership between a credit card company and a retailer. With co-branded retail cards, you can earn discounts, free shipping and members-only access events.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, for example, will earn you 4% cash back on eligible gas (up to $7,000 per year, then 1%), 3% on restaurant and eligible travel purchases and 2% on all other purchases from Costco and Costo.com. You’ll earn 1% on all other purchases.

Business

With a business rewards card, you can earn rewards for any business-related spending. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, for example, will earn you an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase for your business.

These cards may offer perks like free employee cards, travel and auto insurance, travel statement credits and more. If you’re interested in applying for a business credit card, read our tips on how to choose the right card.

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