Back in mid-November last year, Etihad ‘relaunched’ its frequent flyer programme Etihad Guest, promising a series of enhancements for the scheme’s 6.5 million members including chauffeur drive service in Abu Dhabi when flying on Business and First Class award bookings and discounts for on-board Wi-Fi.
One of the better benefits announced at the time was a change to the expiry policy of Etihad Guest miles, which currently get wiped from your account as little as two years after they are earned.
How it works now
Etihad Guest Miles are currently valid for 2 years from the date they are earned for Etihad Guest Bronze members, the basic status level achieved on joining the programme.
Your miles last a little longer if you hold status with the airline:
- 2.5 years for Etihad Guest Silver members
- 3 years for Etihad Guest Gold and Etihad Guest Platinum members
Unused Etihad Guest Miles expire on the last date of the month in which they are due to expire, at 23:30 (GST time, which is 19:30 GMT).
For example, Etihad Guest miles earned by a Bronze member on 15th July 2018 would expire on 31st July 2020.
Expiry policy announcements
In their press release last year regarding programme enhancements, Etihad first announced the upcoming change to its miles expiry policy.
“In a further planned enhancement to the programme, Etihad Guest Miles will no longer expire and will remain valid as long as one eligible transaction is made every 18 months.”
Etihad, 15th November 2019
The airline also stated that this change was “coming soon”, however since then it all went quiet and nothing happened. Terms and conditions related to miles expiry were never changed, and it was as though the whole plan had been quietly forgotten.
Good news though is that Etihad Guest members have now been informed by email that the activity-based miles expiry policy is finally coming into force later this month.
“From 31 July 2020, every eligible transaction you make will extend your balance by another 18 months. That includes earning, spending or buying miles. You can only extend your miles balance once per month and by a maximum period of 18 months.
“Earn or redeem miles to extend your miles balance and have more time to redeem your miles.”
Etihad, 9th July 2020
After a cursory mention eight months previously and then nothing since then, this was something we and many other members had seriously given up hope on, however the airline has made good on its original promise (and at least we now know what Etihad means when it says “coming soon”!).
How it will work
These are the new expiry rules for Etihad Guest miles from 31st July 2020.
- The validity of Etihad Guest Miles will be extended based on qualifying member activity. Miles will be extended for a period of 18 months after making one eligible transaction, including earning, spending, or buying miles. Miles can be extended to a maximum period of 18 months.
- Etihad Guest Miles will expire if there is no qualifying activity within a period of 18 months after the last qualifying activity. If an Etihad Guest member does not qualify for the extension, the Etihad Guest Miles balance will expire on the last day of the 18th month after the last qualifying activity, at 23:30 (GST time).
That means for example if you have 98,000 Etihad Guest miles and you earned an additional 2,000 miles on 15th June 2020, that would be enough to keep your entire balance of 100,000 miles ‘alive’ until 31st December 2021.
You would then have to earn or redeem at least one mile by that date at the latest to get another 18-month extension for all your miles, from the month of activity.
There’s good news for miles expiry if you hold Etihad’s top-tier Platinum status.
From 31st July 2020, you will no longer be affected by any miles expiry.
- The Etihad Guest Miles balance of Etihad Guest Platinum members will not expire as long as the Etihad Guest Platinum Tier Status is maintained.
- Once a Platinum member is downgraded to Gold tier, the total miles balance validity period will be calculated 18 months from the tier downgrade date.
While this sounds nice and generous, there really can’t be many Etihad Guest Platinum members who can go for 18 months without earning or redeeming a single mile and still retain that tier level, so it’s a moot point.
Why hold Etihad Guest miles?
Etihad Guest miles aren’t actually a very good way to do what you’d assume they might be best for – redeeming Etihad flights.
In fact we recommend these miles only for the wide range of partner redemptions available, spanning no fewer than 24 airlines globally.
Good value options, whether you’re transferring from Citi or Standard Chartered credit cards in Singapore or purchasing Etihad Guest miles in a promotional sale, include:
- American Airlines Business Class Hong Kong – New York for 50,000 miles
- Asiana Business Class Singapore – Seoul – Singapore for 60,000 miles (return)
- Bangkok Airways Economy Class Singapore – Koh Samui for 7,500 miles
- Bangkok Airways Business Class Singapore – Koh Samui for 10,000 miles
- Brussels Airlines Business Class Brussels – New York for 44,000 miles
- Virgin Australia Business Class Bali – Perth for 21,800 miles
That means Etihad Guest miles can be very useful to hold for the airline’s partner redemptions. They were recently on sale with a 60% bonus, where we examined the options in more detail.
Keeping your Etihad Guest miles alive
For most of our readers, the simplest way to keep your Etihad Guest miles alive if you’re coming up to the 18-month expiry window and there are no other earning or redemption opportunities on the horizon is to buy 1,000 miles.
This is the lowest denomination you can purchase and outside any promotional offer comes at a cost of US$20 (around S$28 at the time of writing).
Clearly Etihad Guest miles aren’t actually worth that, however this transaction will then reset the clock and keep your entire balance alive for another 18 months.
Another alternative from Singapore credit cards is to transfer:
- at least 10,000 Citi Miles or 25,000 Citi ThankYou Points into 10,000 Etihad Guest miles for a fee of S$26.75, or
- at least 3,000 Standard Chartered Points into 1,000 Etihad Guest miles for a fee of S$26.75.
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles programme already shifted from a time-based expiry policy to an activity-based one earlier this year.
Other schemes also running an activity-based policy include British Airways Avios (36 months) and Qantas Frequent Flyer (18 months).
Unfortunately Singapore Airlines is sticking firmly to its 3-year expiry policy for KrisFlyer miles, unless you are a PPS Club member in which case your miles never expire. The airline has however extended the validity of some miles in light of the COVID-19 situation.
It was strange for Etihad to highlight this enhancement to the expiry policy for its miles as “coming soon“, then never mention it again for eight months!
Thankfully it wasn’t forgotten as many of us had feared and the much improved policy will be coming into force on 31st July 2020.
Although on the face of it 18 months is less than the 2 years Etihad Guest miles used to be valid for, the simplicity of maintaining your entire account balance with a single activity to give you a new 18-month lease of life is a far better solution than before, when expiring miles would simply vanish if left unused.
(Cover Photo: Marvin Mutz)