Are Americans Getting Enough Out of Airline and Hotel Rewards?

Nearly half of U.S. adults who participate in airline and hotel rewards programs have let their points or miles expire at some point, according to a new survey. Also among those who collect credit card rewards, 29% have allowed those to expire.

Bankrate conducted this survey and found that most loyalty program participants don’t know how many points/miles they have collected. Just 25% were able to list how many hotel points they have, 29% knew their frequent flyer mile total and 33% reported their credit card rewards balance.

The survey also found that there’s a lack of awareness regarding how these rewards are valued. More than half of U.S. adults (53%) admit they have no idea how much 10,000 rewards points/miles are worth. The correct answer is generally in the $100 to $199 range — roughly one to two cents apiece — but just 18% of Americans know that.

This may come as no surprise that millennials were the most likely generation to lose rewards to expiration policies. About 57% of millennials surveyed have lost hotel points, 50% have forfeited airline miles and 44% been deprived of credit card rewards for this reason. For older adults, the totals are just 41%, 46% and 22%, respectively.

Finally, the survey detailed that two-thirds of Americans (66%) have credit card points, 57% possess hotel rewards and 56% collect frequent flyer miles. Among those who reported their balances, the averages were 34,065 airline miles, 22,893 hotel points and 15,941 credit card points. Even at the low end of the valuation range (one cent per point or mile), that means the average frequent flyer account balance is worth about $341, the average hotel points hoard equals roughly $229 and their average credit card rewards stash is $159 or so.

Ted Rossman, credit card analyst, commented:

A lot of people are sitting on airline, hotel and credit card rewards that are worth a significant amount of money. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of them before they expire. If you need more time to save up for your desired redemption and your rewards are about to expire, reset the clock by demonstrating new account activity. This can involve a small purchase or redeeming a minimal number of points or miles.

In summary, the survey found that younger adults are more likely to join rewards programs, but older folks have higher balances. Participation and perks both increase with income.