Four Ways to Use Up Your Travel Rewards Before They Expire

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Let’s say you’ve accumulated travel rewards into an airline or hotel loyalty program account but the remaining balance doesn’t cover a flight (or part of a credit toward a flight) and you don’t have any way of earning more points or miles any time soon.

Ideally, your travel rewards don’t expire, meaning you could eventually accrue enough points or miles to make what you have useful if your balance is currently negligible. Or if they do expire (or are about to), there are ways to reclaim them or keep your account active until you have a reason to redeem them.

Either way, if you have random points or miles spread out across several rewards programs for airlines you don’t typically fly and want to make those work for you now, there are a few strategies for rescuing your remaining rewards.

Buy extra miles

If you are just short of the miles needed to book an award flight in the immediate future, it might make sense to top off your account by buying the balance of points required. Airlines and hotels generally sell miles directly to loyalty program members.

However, this approach is logical only if you need a limited number of additional points to redeem your total and you’re planning to fly soon, as points may lose value over time sitting in your account. The Points Guy notes that the best time to buy points and miles is when loyalty programs are offering promotions or bonuses, maximizing points per dollar spent.

Transfer rewards between partners

If you have a few hundred or thousand reward points stranded in a loyalty program, you may find immediate value by transferring points in to boost your balance enough for redemption (or in some cases, by transferring those miles out to a partner program where you also have rewards you can use). Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards can all be transferred to partner airline and hotel programs.

Redeem points for non-travel awards

Getting a new magazine subscription or gift card isn’t as exciting as taking an international trip, but it’s one way to squeeze out that last bit of value from your few remaining rewards. Most airlines offer ways to spend points and miles without traveling, such as for merchandise and charitable donations.

Donate points or miles to charity

If you have a small points or miles balance remaining in your loyalty account, you can zero out by donating the remainder to charity. One option is Miles4Migrants, which uses donated frequent flyer miles to purchase airfare for refugees and asylum seekers impacted by crises. The organization accepts donations from a long list of airline loyalty and credit card rewards programs.

Alternatively, airlines and credit card companies partner with organizations for charity donation redemptions. Check with your airline or credit provider for options.

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