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When it comes to credit card rewards, one of the worst things that could happen is your points expiring. In addition to the value depletion, it can amount to a whole lot of wasted effort and disappointment but luckily points don’t always expire or get forfeited instantly. Still, you want to make sure that you are aware of the policies in place for keeping your points alive.
In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about American Express Membership Rewards points expiring/forfeiture. I’ll also give you a tip on how to always keep your Amex points alive without having to pay an annual fee and some last-minute redemption ideas if needed.
Membership Rewards expiration policy
According to American Express, Membership Rewards do not have an expiration date. However, your points can be forfeited when you close certain accounts and I will explain that below.
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Membership Rewards Forfeiture
While your points do not have an expiration date, you will forfeit your Membership Rewards in the two scenarios below.
Close all your American Express cards
If you close all of your American Express cards, you will lose your Membership Rewards instantly. It’s a brutal outcome (I know) but that is just the way it is.
This is made pretty clear by the terms and conditions:
Will immediately lose all the points in your Rewards Account if you don’t keep any Card Accounts open.
Sometimes an agent will notify you about this outcome before you cancel your card that will trigger this outcome but you can’t always rely on them to give you that heads up so it is important to know about these terms.
Close your Membership Rewards cards but keep other Amex cards open
The second scenario is when you close all of your credit cards earning Membership Rewards but you keep additional American Express cards open.
Remember, only select American Express cards earn Membership Rewards.
These are some of the most popular cards which include:
Other American Express cards might simply earn cashback or if you have a co-branded card like a Delta Airlines card, you will earn currency with that program.
If you do cancel all of your cards that earn Membership Rewards, but keep at least one Amex card open that does not earn Membership Rewards, then you will have 30 days to redeem your Membership Rewards before they expire permanently.
Can use the points in your Rewards Account for up to 30 days from the date of cancellation if you keep at least one Card Account open, it isn’t canceled or past due, and there is no return payment outstanding.
Those terms also bring up additional important factors which include the status of your account.
If you have an account that is past due or has some other type of issue such as an outstanding payment, you are at risk of eventually forfeiting your points.
Regarding late payments the terms state:
You must make timely payment of the amount due on your Card Account statement. If you don’t, you may forfeit all the points that you earned during the period covered by the statement.
For some banks like Chase, if you want to maintain your transferable points you will have to keep at least one credit card open that has an annual fee.
But that is not the case with American Express.
Amex has a no annual fee credit card called the Amex EveryDay that earns Membership Rewards.
This is fantastic news because it means that you can keep a no-fee card like this open and always know that your Membership Rewards will stay alive!
The big thing to remember is that you can’t product change a charge card to a credit card so this means that you could not product change something like a Gold Card to the Amex EveryDay.
American Express does limit you to four or five credit cards so the Amex EveryDay will be taking up one of your four or five slots which is another consideration.
If you are trying to maximize points with other programs like Hilton, Marriott, and Delta, you might find that you will have to cancel some cards to keep yourself under the four or five card limit.
If you have no intention of getting rid of some of the premium charge cards like the Gold Card or Platinum Card then you don’t have to keep a slot occupied by the Amex EveryDay. But if you are someone who tries to avoid annual fees at all costs, then having the Amex EveryDay take up on your slots is often worth it.
Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!
Ways to use your points if they are expiring
The best way to get optimal value for your points is to transfer them to some of the amazing transfer partners.
The problem with this is that there is often a learning curve involved with knowing how to efficiently transfer your miles and it often requires a decent amount of planning. If you have under one month to use your points, you may not have enough time to put together some solid travel plans and execute a well-planned strategy.
Generally, it is not a good idea to transfer points to a travel partner when you have no concrete or semi-concrete plans to use those points. That is because you never know when a devaluation could hit that decreases the value of your points and makes them much harder to use.
However, if the alternative is to for sure lose out on all of the value of your points then making a transfer to a partner that you think you will be using in the future is not a horrible idea. My advice would be to transfer to programs that are easier to use or that you are familiar with.
If you don’t want to transfer your points than other redemptions you can look into include:
- Gift cards (okay value)
- Pay with Points on Amex Travel (okay value for flights)
- Statement credit (poor value)
- Shop with Points (poor value)
Generally, I would try to get at least one cent per point but settling for something like .7 cents per point is better than nothing. And I would only redeem my points for .5 cent per point as an absolute last resort.
Membership Rewards expiration policy FAQ
Membership Rewards do not expire on their own but you can lose them if you close your cards that earn Membership Rewards.
You will lose your points instantly if you close all your cards that earn Membership Rewards and you don’t have any other Amex cards. If you do have at least one American Express card, you will have 30 days to redeem your points.
While your American Express points do not expire on their own, you need to be mindful about closing any cards that earn Membership Rewards. If you close all of them you can instantly lose your points and even if you have other Amex cards, you can lose them in a matter of 30 days.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.