You may or may not lose your rewards if you cancel your credit card before using them up. Here’s how to find out.
Generally speaking, what happens to your credit card rewards when you close your account depends on the type of card you have and the specific rules outlined by its associated rewards program. With this in mind, you should read over your credit cards program’s fine print before you take steps to close a credit card account that has a rewards balance.
That said, there are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind if your goal is keeping your points balance alive. There are also steps you can take to avoid losing the points and miles you worked so hard to earn.
Curious what happens to your points and miles if you ditch your credit card? Read on to learn what to expect and how to avoid accidentally forfeiting your rewards points.
What happens to points and miles if you cancel a credit card?
Canceling a credit card without having a plan for your rewards can be a big mistake. After all, most rewards cards with their own programs state that your points are valid only while your account is open. If you close your account without using them, you’ll almost always forfeit them.
When it comes to credit cards that earn rewards points within their own specific programs (for example, Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, Amex Membership Rewards cards, Capital One miles cards, etc.) you typically have two options when it comes to keeping your points if you close a card – you can use them before you cancel or make sure you have another card within the same program that will keep them “alive.”
Generally speaking, redeeming your rewards is the smartest way to avoid losing them when you’re ready to cancel a credit card. If you’re unsure of how to redeem them, cards that offer cash back, statement credits and gift cards make things easier. After all, practically anyone can benefit from getting cash back or having a few gift cards to use at their favorite retailers or restaurants.
How having another card in the same family can help
Sometimes having another card in the same family can help you if you don’t want to redeem your rewards. For example, let’s say you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and a stash of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but you don’t want to pay the annual fee on this card for another year. At this point, you could redeem your rewards for cash back, statement credits, gift cards or travel through Chase – for 50% more value – before closing your account. You could also transfer your Chase points to one of the Chase airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio before closing your card.
If you also have the Chase Freedom Unlimited, however, you can close your Chase Sapphire Reserve card without losing all your points. That said, you’ll lose the ability to transfer your points to airline and hotel partners without a Chase travel card, and you’ll no longer get 50% more value for booking travel through the Chase portal when you close the Reserve.
For some rewards enthusiasts, it can even make sense to sign up for a new credit card before closing the old one.
For example, say you have The Platinum Card® from American Express and a stash of American Express Membership Rewards points. You don’t want to pay the annual fee on this card for yet another year, so what should you do?
In this case, you could sign up for the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express*, which lets users earn Membership Rewards points with no annual fee. With your new, no-fee account open, you could safely close your Amex Platinum without losing out on any rewards.
What happens to points and miles if you cancel a loyalty program credit card?
While some rewards credit cards dole out points in their own programs, co-branded credit cards do things differently. If you have an airline credit card or hotel credit card, for example, the rewards you’ll earn will be in your loyalty program account regardless of what you decide to do with your credit card.
Let’s say you signed up for an American Airlines credit card and earned 60,000 miles your first year. Regardless of whether your credit card account stays open, your American AAdvantage miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.
That said, it’s important to know and understand your favorite loyalty program’s policies since they all work differently. Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus program miles never expire, so you won’t have to worry about losing them no matter what. Meanwhile, World of Hyatt points expire after 24 months of inactivity and the same is true for Hilton Honors points.
How to avoid losing points and miles
If you want to keep your credit card rewards in good standing so you can use them when you’re ready, you have plenty of options to consider. The following tips can help you avoid losing rewards, depending on your situation:
- Maintain a credit card from the same issuer that earns the same type of rewards. As mentioned already, sometimes maintaining a different rewards credit card from the same issuer can keep your points in good standing. Make sure to read over the terms and conditions of your credit card’s program so you know for sure.
- Sign up for a rewards card in the same program with no annual fee. If you want to keep valuable rewards points alive without having to pay an annual fee, consider signing up for a rewards credit card in the same program that doesn’t charge one.
- Earn loyalty points through qualifying activity. If you have points in a frequent flyer program or a hotel loyalty program, you can restart the clock on your rewards with qualifying activity. This could include anything from a paid flight or hotel stay to using your programs’ shopping portal or dining program.
- Redeem your rewards before you cancel. You can also simply cash in your rewards before you cancel. Look for easy options like gift cards and merchandise, which could help you splurge for something fun.
- Transfer your points to another person. Some programs, like Citi ThankYou points, let you transfer your points to other members. Just remember that transferred points sometimes have their own expiration dates. With Citi points for example, shared points are valid for only 90 days after they are received.
- Transfer your points to another program you’ll use. If you have flexible travel points, consider transferring them to your favorite airline or hotel program before you cancel your card.
- Donate your points to charity. Keep in mind that many credit card rewards programs let you donate points or miles to charity, which can be a wonderful gift. As an example, the American Red Cross is able to accept miles from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and many others.
If you have rewards points in your account but you need to cancel your credit card, make sure you have a plan in place ahead of time. By using your points, transferring your rewards to another person or having another credit card in the same program, you can avoid having those hard-earned rewards go to waste.
*All information about the Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.