This week, the world of miles and points took yet another small step in the direction of stinginess and nastiness with Marriott’s announcement of an upcoming change to its points-expiration policy.
According to a longstanding clause in the Marriott Rewards terms and conditions, points expire after two years of inactivity in a member’s account. However, that policy was never enforced. Points lived on indefinitely, whether members were active or not.
Whether Marriott intended as much or not, it was a competitive advantage over programs with harsher expiration procedures. It made Marriott Rewards a friendlier program.
In a post to Flyertalk this week, a Marriott representative warned that the policy will be enforced, beginning next year:
Starting February 1, 2016, members who do not have a qualifying activity in the prior 24 months will forfeit all accumulated points. If you have not engaged in a qualifying activity since January 31, 2014 you have until January 31, 2016 to do so before the policy is enforced.
Members with lifetime elite status will be exempt from the new rule.
Of course, it’s easy enough to keep hotel accounts active without making hotel stays. Purchasing a small lot of points will do the trick. For $12.50, for example, you can buy 1,000 Marriott Rewards points. But the added trouble and expense are drags on the program’s value, at least for infrequent travelers.
There’s little relief to be found elsewhere. The expiration policies of Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood are decidedly more draconian: Points expire after just 12 months of inactivity. After Marriott’s change, of all the major hotel loyalty programs, only InterContinental’s IHG Rewards will not expire points.
Reader Reality Check
How big a part do points-expiration policies play in your choice and use of travel-loyalty programs?
Have you ever lost points due to expiration?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.