Travel points can expire during a pandemic? You bet! Check yours now

I got mine reinstated with a simple call; I hope you are that lucky

Check on your travel points, people. They might have expired during the pandemic because of … account inactivity. That sounds absurd, but it’s true, and it happened to me recently (until it un-happened). Read on. But before you do, log in to your favorite hotel / rental company / airline and make sure you aren’t about to lose a lot of hard-earned points because you’ve been stuck at home the past 15 months.

I pretty much hate points programs. They are almost always an invitation (trick?) by a company to force consumers to play in the darkest parts of the Gotcha Capitalism forest. Fine print is everywhere: there’s systematic de-valuing, expiration, blackouts…in short they are often a source of endless frustration. Understandably, some consumers actually enjoy this game, and they have my endless admiration. People can and do succeed at babysitting their various collections of points and managing their rewards programs. To me, it’s rarely worth the time investment and heartache. Nevertheless, I am enrolled in a couple of loyalty programs — with companies I use frequently, and in programs that I think are really straightforward.

Unfortunately, companies get acquired and rules change and well…here’s the back story. Many readers know I’ve been an avid fan of La Quinta hotels for years because they were consistently dog-friendly (without fees!) and I do a lot of travel writing with Rusty (and Lucky before him). So I signed up for La Quinta’s program. Add up stays for a half-dozen cross-country trips and I had a nice little cache of points with them.

Then, Wyndham bought La Quinta and a lot of things changed. La Quinta hotels charge dog fees now. Some are perfectly reasonable, some are not, but on the whole, I can no longer count on LQ’s being easy and simple for my pets. But that’s a sad side story.

Like many of you, I recently started planning my first post-Covid travel — a road trip, of course — so I went to my Wyndham account to see about LQ’s along the way. And much to my dismay, my points balance was listed as 0. Those points had expired just a few days earlier because my account had been dormant for 18 months.

During a pandemic!

Hard to imagine a more consumer-unfriendly policy than that. But hold on to your outrage, let it fuel you. I called Wyndham and the firm was pretty reasonable about restoring the points. I just had to ask. And no, they didn’t do it as a favor to a journalist, it was a normal customer support call. I’m not the only one who’s had this experience. So points to Wyndham. (And to Choice, which seems to be doing something similar).

On the other hand, Wyndham’s website says points won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2021. So color me a confused consumer and a cautionary tale.

It seems like hotel chains are trying to wipe points off their books, but aren’t putting up a fight against consumers who complain. But who knows how long they’ll keep that policy?

So my message to you: Check on your points now, before you need them, and get them re-instated / extended.

PS: I tried to do the good journalist thing and find out various Covid points expiration policies for you. But the policies vary a lot and they are changing, so I really recommend you focus on your favorite 2-3 loyalty programs and make sure you aren’t getting gotcha’d out of your just rewards! Here’s a few links:

Hyatt: Says it has suspended points expiration until June 30, 2021. So get on that.

IHG: Says it has extended points expiry for Club members only until Dec. 31, 2021

Marriot: Says points won’t expire until March 2021

And as for elite status, etc.? Here’s a good Nerdwallet roundup.

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