“I want a credit card with points that don’t expire.”
That’s something I hear from many people, especially first-timers to the miles game. To be fair, it’s a perfectly reasonable ask- after all, it may take a while to save up for your first big redemption. Non-expiring points let you convert them when you’re good and ready, minimizing transfer fees and removing the risk of them expiring on you unawares.
Even though I don’t think expiry of points should be that big a concern (read on to find out why), let’s answer the question at hand first.
How long are credit card points valid for?
Here’s the expiry policy that each bank adopts for its rewards currencies.
|DBS Points||1 year|
|VOYAGE Miles||No expiry|
|360 Points||3 years*|
|Citi Miles||No expiry|
|ThankYou Points||5 years*|
|Rewards Points||37 months|
|Membership Rewards||No expiry|
|Rewards Points||12-24 months|
But that’s not the whole story! Where it gets confusing is that even within the same bank, points earned on different cards may have different expiry policies.
For example, DBS Points earned on the Woman’s World Card expire after one year, but DBS Points earned on the Altitude cards never expire. Similarly, Citi ThankYou points earned on the Citi Rewards Visa expire after five years (kinda sorta), but Citi ThankYou points earned on the Citi Prestige card never expire.
So in addition to the general rules above, it’s helpful to set out which specific cards earn non-expiring points:
|Cards with non-expiring points|
|Local Earn Rate (MPD)||FCY Earn Rate (MPD)|
|OCBC 90N Card||1.2||4.0
(Until 29 Feb 20, 2.1 after)
|SCB Visa Infinite||1.4
(Min S$2K spend in a statement month, 1.0 otherwise)
(Min S$2K spend in a statement month, 1.0 otherwise)
(Premier & Private banking versions earn 1.6)
(Until 31 Dec 19, 2.3 after)
|DBS Treasures AMEX||1.2||2.4|
|Citi PremierMiles Visa||1.5
(Min S$3K spend in a statement month, 1.2 otherwise, until 31 Dec 19)
|DBS Altitude AMEX/Visa||1.2||2.0|
|SCB X Card||1.2||2.0|
|Maybank Visa Infinite||1.2||2.0|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||0.78||0.78|
|AMEX Platinum Credit Card/ Platinum Reserve||0.69||0.69|
|Maybank World Mastercard||0.4||0.4|
Are non-expiring points really that important?
Although it’s nice to earn points that don’t expire, I don’t believe this should be your key criteria for choosing a card. That’s because
- you actually have more time than you think
- you shouldn’t be holding on to points so long that expiry becomes an issue
You have more time than you think
Most of the major cards in the miles and points game will earn points that are valid for at least 2 years. After that, you can transfer them to KrisFlyer where they’re valid for a further 3 years.
|One major exception is the DBS Woman’s World Card, where points expire after 1 year. This is annoying, but the ability to earn 4 mpd on S$2K of online spending each month makes me willing to pay the additional transfer fees necessitated by the short expiry period.|
Therefore, in most cases, you have at least 5 years to save up for your desired redemption. If you’re not able to accumulate enough miles in that period for at least one award flight, it suggests that:
- you’re not optimising your miles collection strategy
- your miles goal is too ambitious relative to your spending (e.g trying to redeem for too many people, or in too high a cabin)
- your absolute spending levels are too low (but before you write off the miles game as only for big spenders, consider whether you’re truly optimising your miles collection in the first place)
You shouldn’t be holding on to points indefinitely
Non-expiring points can be a bad thing, if they encourage you to hold them indefinitely without any clear redemption plan. The longer you hold your points, the more vulnerable you are to devaluations.
Take KrisFlyer, for example. Historically speaking, KrisFlyer devalued every 4-5 years. However, recent events suggest that the gap between devaluations has shortened to a 2-3 year cycle.
Once upon a time, road warriors would save their airline and frequent flyer points up for retirement. That’s a quaint, almost romantic notion, but it’s unthinkable today. Given how airlines are handing out miles for everything from opening a credit card to buying flowers, the pace of devaluations is only likely to accelerate in the future.
Miles are amazing, but they’re the worst investment to hold- they don’t earn interest, they’re not protected by deposit insurance, and they can only be devalued. Earn and burn, not earn and hold!
But what about transfer fees?
It’s certainly true that non-expiring points help minimize transfer fees, because there’s no pressure to cash them out before you’re ready. For example, if you hold a DBS Woman’s World Card, you’ll have to transfer your points at least once every 12 months, or else forfeit them.
While transfer fees are annoying, and you should be doing all you can to minimize them, I feel they’re ultimately insignificant in the grand scheme of things. To put it another way: I wouldn’t actively avoid the DBS Woman’s World Card or the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa just because they earned points with 1-2 years expiry. The opportunity cost of foregone miles far outweighs any additional transfer fees.
And at the end of the day, when you’re sipping champagne in a Business Class seat awaiting takeoff, I guarantee the last thing on your mind will be the conversion fees you paid.
I see non-expiring points as an added bonus rather than a hygiene factor when getting a credit card. As nice as they are, it’s not what ultimately sways my decision whether or not to get a card.
So my advice is not to get too hung up about this. Pick cards on the basis of their earning rates and benefits, and with the right accumulation strategy, you’ll be earning and burning points so fast that expiry won’t even be an issue.