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Aeroplan has a rule that your miles expire if there’s no activity in your account for 12 straight months. I should know because I’ve mentioned this policy many times over the years. And yet, I forgot about it with my own Aeroplan account.

A random online check of my account recently showed that all my points were gone – snatched back by Aeroplan because I didn’t earn, redeem, donate or transfer points over a 12-month period. To help you avoid this and other travel reward blunders, take a look at a recent blog post by budget travel blogger Barry Choi. Last on his list is letting your points and benefits expire.

“To keep things active simply use or earn points in some way,” Mr. Choi writes. “That could be through your credit card or by shopping on the Aeroplan or Air Miles e-stores.” My fallback for keeping my Aeroplan account current was to use my orange Aeroplan card at a certain gas station chain. When that chain’s affiliation with Aeroplan ended, I never did find a replacement way of earning points. Don’t make that same mistake if you’re an avid points collector.

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Aeroplan lets you buy back your expired points at a cost of one cent per mile plus a $30 administration fee and applicable tax. I think I’ll pass. First, I didn’t have that many points. And while Aeroplan generated a whole bunch of reward trips for my family back in the day, it long ago stopped being our prime travel rewards program.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list …

An argument against dumping your stocks

A portfolio manager says he’s sensing more nervousness about the stock markets lately and argues against selling. I agree. Now for a reminder of how sharply stock markets can fall and still deliver great long-term returns.

Life lessons from someone who lost their partner at age 34

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A woman who was widowed at age 31 offers 40 lessons about living in the moment while also planning for the future. Thoughts on investing, debt and much more.

TFSA or RRSP?

When to use an RRSP over a TFSA is among the many topics covered in a Q&A that investing blogger Urgen Kuyee did with John De Goey, an investment adviser who happens to be his industry’s toughest critic.

Can an employer take a pension back?

All about a case that went to the Supreme Court of Canada. At issue was whether a university could take back almost $500,000 in pension payments to a professor who went missing and was later found dead.

Ask Rob

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Q: I've spent a lot of time considering exchange-traded funds for my RRSPs. One thing that I have heard conflicting information about, but haven't been able to find much info about myself, is the cost of every ETF purchase. I've been told that most ETFs charge up to $10 per transaction so this would add up quickly if I'm contributing monthly.

A: You invest in ETFs like stocks, which means you’ll need to use a brokerage that will charge you commissions to buy and sell. The maximum commission at an online brokerage ranges from $5 to $10 for the most part. Exceptions: Questrade and Virtual Brokers have no commissions on ETF buy orders, but you pay the usual amount for sell orders. Scotia iTrade and Qtrade have a limited list of zero-commission ETFs, while National Bank Direct Brokerage charges no commissions on ETF orders of 100 shares or more.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

Set a financial goal and see how much to need to save to reach it.

Video of the week

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A financial planner takes a look at a rule that says retirees can safely withdraw 4 per cent of their savings annually and not run out of money. She’s not a fan.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

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