This is a question that I have received a few times, but have heard it more often lately, so I wanted to take a moment to answer it.
Does Canceling My Credit Card Cause Me to Lose My Points?
Short Answer? Maybe! 🙂
That is why this question gets asked frequently. First, there are a couple of different types of credit cards that we discuss here for miles and points. One is a co-branded credit card that is linked with a specific airline or hotel loyalty program (such as the Citi AAdvantage credit card – from Citibank for American Airlines) and the other kind is a flexible point program (something like the Chase Sapphire – utilizes the Ultimate Rewards program to redeem or transfer from). Let’s look at each of them.
Before we get into the whole explanation, why would someone want to cancel? They may have reached their limit of cards issued by the bank or the annual fee is do and they no longer derive enough value from the card to justify holding it, or maybe they are just trying to weed down the cards they have opened. Whatever the reason, here is how to avoid losing your miles/points when the card gets canceled.
Co-Branded Credit Cards
An example of co-branded credit cards are these for the airlines:
- Citi AAdvantage credit cards (the card is issued by Citibank for American Airlines and only earns American Airline miles)
- American Express Delta credit cards (these cards are issued by American Express for Delta and only earn Delta Skymiles)
- Chase United credit cards (these cards are issued by Chase for United Airlines and only earns United miles)
- Barclay US Airways credit card (this card is issued by Barclays for US Airways and only earns US Airway miles)
- Southwest Airlines credit cards (these cards are issued by Chase for Southwest Airlines and only earn Rapid Reward points)
There are other airlines but these are the major bank/airline players.
Here are examples of co-branded hotel credit cards:
- Citi Hilton credit cards (these cards are issued by Citibank for Hilton Hotels and only earn Hilton HHonor points)
- American Express Hilton credit cards (these cards are issued by American Express for Hilton Hotels and only earn Hilton HHonor points)
- American Express SPG credit cards (these cards are issued by American Express for SPG hotels and only earn Starpoints)
- Chase Hyatt credit card (this card is issued by Chase for Hyatt hotels and only earns Hyatt points)
- Chase Marriott credit cards (these cards are issued by Chase for Marriott hotels and only earn Marriott points)
Again, there are other hotel and credit card partners but these are some of the major ones.
Now that we have identified which type of credit cards are co-branded cards, what happens if you cancel one of them? Will you lose your points?
The answer is NO (with a couple of exceptions). When you earn points/miles with a co-branded credit card, they go directly into your account with that particular hotel/airline loyalty program (after your statement has closed). They are not the property of the credit card/bank but are now the property of the airline/hotel but are to be used by you. When you cancel a credit card, any points that you have earned on a co-branded card are safe from loss due to the closure of the card.
Now, there are exceptions. If you were to return items after the miles/points have already posted to the account, they do have the right to pull those miles/points from the account as they were not earned under the program definition. Sometimes, they do not get pulled, but they absolutely can. Another time they can be pulled is if you have not paid your bill on time. Because you have not abided by the terms of your agreement, they can pull back the points that are tied to the bill that you did not pay. Finally, for the biggest exception, make sure you read the offer details closely. There will be some cards (very few) that might have language in the contract that they have the right to pull the miles/points back if you cancel within a certain timeframe after opening the account (something like 3 or 6 months), but that does not extend to a year after.
So, if you find that you are no longer using the card or what you have signed up to get from it has served its purpose and you do not want to pay the annual fee, you can go ahead and call to cancel the card without fear of losing your miles/points. Just remember that you are responsible to pay the account off in full!
Flexible Point Credit Cards
Here are examples of flexible point credit cards:
- American Express Membership Rewards credit cards (these cards are issued by American Express and points are earned in the Amex Membership Rewards program – such as the American Express Platinum cards, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, and the American Express Business Gold)
- Chase Ultimate Reward credit cards (these cards are issued by Chase and points are earned in the Ultimate Reward program – such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Ink Bold, and the Chase Ink Plus)
- Citi ThankYou credit cards (these cards are issued by Citibank and points are earned in the ThankYou program – such as the Citi ThankYou Preferred and the Citi Premier Pass)
- Barclay Arrival credit card (this card is issued by Barclays and points are earning in their Arrival redemption bank with the Barclay Arrival World Mastercard)
With these type of credit cards, all points earned are tied directly to the bank’s award redemption program. If you were to cancel any of these cards, you will lose all the points that are tied to that account. This has happened to many people when their cards come due and they cancel – they find out several months down the road that they lost all of their points they worked so hard to earn. So, how can you keep that from happening?
Avoiding loss of points when canceling credit cards
- Transfer the points to a friend or family member (as allowed by the program) – be aware that these points will expire within 30 or 90 days after the transfer, however (time varies by program – Chase is 90 days).
- Keep or apply for a no-fee card to be able to hold the points still – American Express has their Blue card (no annual fee but the points are not full Membership Reward points that can be transferred until paired with a full Membership Rewards card, like the Premier Rewards Gold) and Chase has their plain Sapphire card (no annual fee but the Ultimate Reward points cannot be transferred to travel partners until paired with a full Ultimate Rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred)
- Transfer the points to a travel program – just transfer the points out to a travel partner (airline or hotel) before canceling. Once that is done, those points are treated the same way as if they were earned from a co-branded credit card (cannot be taken away when the card is closed).
- Use the points for cash redemption or awards – not normally a suggested path to take, but if you do not have that many or you just want to make it simple to get the reward now, you can cash out your points (depending on the program).
So there is a look at the two main categories of cards and whether or not you will lose your miles/points when canceling your credit card.