08
May

Will I Lose My Points If I Cancel A Credit Card?

Posted By Trav

Lose-Points-Closing-Credit-Card

One of the most important things to know before canceling a credit card is whether or not you’ll lose your points if you cancel.

There is a lot of confusion around whether your points are safe or not, and one of the worst things you can do is cancel a card, only to find out later that you’ve lost all your hard-earned points.

Luckily, knowing whether you’ll lose your points is pretty straightforward as long as you know what TYPE of credit card you have.

The 3 types of travel credit cards

There are 3 types of travel credit cards.

  • Airline Credit Cards
  • Hotel Credit Cards
  • Bank Reward Credit Cards

Let’s take a look at each.

Airline Credit Cards

Short answer:  Will I lose my points if I close an airline credit card?  NO

These cards are specifically tied to a certain airline.  The bank issues you the card and you receive the points with the airline it is co-branded with.

An example is the Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Visa.

Citi is the bank that offers you the credit card.  You apply for the card through Citi, you pay the bill to Citi, etc.

However, the rewards you earn are with American Airlines.

Citi and American Airlines are two separate entities.  Imagine them as two separate circles.

The credit card lives in the Citi circle, whereas the AA miles live in the AA circle.

When you close the credit card, the Citi circle disappears but the AA circle is still there.

Therefore, when you cancel an airline credit card, you still have your miles!

Hotel Credit Cards

Short answer: Will I lose my points if I close a hotel credit card?  NO

Hotel credit cards operate in the exact same manner as airline credit cards, and the result is the same.

You will NOT lose your points if you cancel a hotel credit card.

An example of a hotel credit card is the Chase Marriott card.

Chase is the bank that offers you the card and Marriott is where you earn your points.  They are separate circles.

Bank Reward Credit Cards

Short answer:  Will I lose my points if I close my bank reward credit card?  YES

We’ve saved the bad news for last.  Unfortunately, with bank reward credit cards, if you cancel the credit card, you WILL lose your points.

This is because the bank is the one who gives you the credit card AND the one you have points with.

Therefore, both the card and the points live in the same circle.  When you close the card, that circle vanishes, and so do your points.

Examples of bank reward credit cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Amex Personal Rewards Gold or Platinum, Barclays Arrival, and Citi Thank You cards.

A Few More Answers About Bank Reward Credit Cards

How do I know if my card is a bank reward credit card?

Look at what type of points you earn with the card.  Does it earn you miles specifically with airlines (United, AA, Delta, USAirways, British Airways, etc) or hotels (Marriott, IHG, Starwood, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.)?

If no, then it is a bank reward credit card.  The major bank reward credit cards are ones that earn you Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Amex Membership Rewards points, Citi Thank You points, or Barclays Arrival points.

What should I do if I want to cancel a bank reward credit card but I still have points in the account?

First, ask yourself whether you should cancel the card or not.

If you decide that yes, you want to cancel the card, you have four options (in order of most to least preferable):

1.  Transfer points

If they are Chase or Amex points, you can transfer them to a partner before closing the card.

For example, you could transfer your Chase points to United.  Since they have been transferred, they now live in a separate circle and are safe.

United and Southwest are my preferred transfer partners for Chase, and here is a list of my preferred transfer partners for Amex points.

In addition, Chase allows you to combine your points between accounts, meaning you can send them to another one of your accounts or to a family member’s account (check out my video tutorial on how to easily do this).

So if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and a Chase Ink Bold card, you have two Chase accounts.

If you want to close the Chase Ink Bold card, you can transfer your Ink Bold points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred account.  Once you transfer the points to the CSP, they are safe and you can then close the Ink Bold card.

Note:  Citi Thank You and Barclays Arrival points can not be transferred, so you’ll need to look at option #2.

2.  Use the points

If you can’t or don’t want to transfer your points, you can use your points “as cash” to purchase a ticket or offset the cost of a travel expense.

If you have no trips coming up to use your points on, then you can use your points to buy gift cards OR help pay off part of your credit card bill.

3.  Downgrade the card and keep your points

Sometimes, the card will have a lower version that has no annual fee.  If you downgrade your card instead of canceling it, most of the time you’ll be able to keep your points.

Just be aware that sometimes when you downgrade, you might lose perks.

For example, if you downgrade from the Chase Sapphire Preferred to the Chase Sapphire, you’ll keep your Chase points, but they become “limited” Chase points instead of “premium” Chase points (read about the differences here).

4.  Cancel the card and lose your points

Obviously, this should be a last resort, and only done if you have a small amount of points in that account.

For example, I have 700 “straggler” Amex points in an account.  They are worth $7, but it’s not enough to transfer to any partners or even cash out for a gift card (you need 1,000 minimum).

At some point, I’ll close that card and lose those points.

Final Word(s)

Before you cancel a credit card, make sure you know whether you’ll lose your points or not.

If you have an airline or hotel credit card, you can cancel a credit card and you WILL NOT lose your points.

If you have a bank reward credit card, you will lose your points if you cancel the credit card, so make sure you use them or transfer them before canceling the card.

What do you do with your points when you are canceling a credit card?  Have you ever lost points by mistakenly canceling a card?  Let us know in the comments below!

35 comments

  1. Santastico says:

    Don’t agree with first one. I had miles posted on my AA account that later were deducted since I returned a product I had purchased with a credit card. Thus, they posted the miles related to that purchase but later took the miles back since that purchase was returned. In my opinion they could do the same with miles that were given as bonus. BTW, is it written in the contract that you have to keep the card for a certain period of time? Most cards charge fees when you get the card so it would not make sense to cancel it before it is up for renewal in one year.

    1. Trav says:

      @Santastico- I have never heard of an airline taking away bonus miles. Miles for purchases, yes, but not bonus miles. I guess it could happen if there was extenuating circumstances or fraud or something, but for simply closing the card? I’ve never heard of that happening. If you know otherwise, I’m all ears.

  2. Wmvp says:

    I closed out an AMEX account about a year ago and I had about 700 points left on the account after i transferred them to Delta. I was surprised when AMEX sent me a check for $6.70, which I assume was the value of those points.

    1. Trav says:

      @Wmvp- Wow, that is surprising. Didn’t know they did that, but pretty cool. Even though it’s a small amount, it’s a nice gesture!

  3. Patrick says:

    I have both an AMEX Gold rewards Personal and Business card. If I was to close the business card due to the annual fee kicking in, would I lose the points? The AMEX website shows a combined total of points from both cards.

    1. Trav says:

      @Patrick- I believe you would probably be able to transfer your business card points to your personal account, thereby keeping them. Beforehand, just make sure though.

  4. nope says:

    You may have the worst blog in existence.

    1. Trav says:

      @nope- Well, I’m happy more people disagree with you than agree with you, or else I’d be without an audience. What part of the post did you take offense to? Any suggestions to make it better?

  5. jennifernice says:

    Oh my goodness, what a helpful post! I didn’t understand the ramifications of canceling various cards before I read it. Nor did I realize you could transfer points within the same bank, such as Chase. I have both the Chase Freedom, which doesn’t have an annual fee (I’ve had it for about 3 years) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which I just earned my 50,000 points. Thank you for your clear and concise explanation! This is another reminder I need to take the Boot Camp next time it’s offered because I still have so much to learn.

    Quick question: I already redeemed a free ticket with my BarclayCard and I still have about 4,000 points. How do I help pay off a credit card with points? Never heard of that option. The balance is zero right now.

    1. Trav says:

      @jennifernice- Some companies will let you put that towards the statement. I’m actually a little unsure whether Barclays lets you do that with Arrival points or not, as I’ve never done it. If you find out, I’d be excited to know the answer.

      Thanks, and glad it was helpful!

      1. Oleg says:

        u have 90 days to apply Barclay points towards a purchase. If u dont use it for travel u will get $20 for 4000 points. Its like a never ending story between the points, the 10% bonus if used for travel, and cash towards the rest of the statement. Go to redeem rewards and follow their instructions, its pretty simple.
        O

        1. Trav says:

          @Oleg- Great, thanks for the info. 4,000 points for $20 is pretty lame though, huh?

  6. Helene says:

    Just remember that airline miles do expire, so if you don’t have the card anymore, make sure that you use a dining or shopping airline portal to keep those miles. Also, the same with some hotels.

    1. Trav says:

      @Helene- Yep, exactly right. Just because you don’t lose your points when you close your card doesn’t mean they don’t expire. And if you don’t have a card, you need to make sure you have activity so they don’t expire. Easiest way is to use a shopping portal or dining program. Thanks for the tips!

  7. J. says:

    What about points/miles earned between an anniversary date and payment of the annual fee?

    1. Trav says:

      @J.- You mean, if you cancel asfter that? You should still be able to get the points, I don’t think they will take them, but that could be a gray area.

  8. Kenny Cho says:

    DARN! I wish I had read this before cancelling my account with Chase… Just lost all my points on my credit cards– Why didn’t they warn me? :(

    1. Trav says:

      @Kenny Cho- They definitely should have warned you…that seems like bad form on their part. Sorry to hear that. And unlike airlines, I don’t think there is any way to reinstate those points.

      1. ZZMom says:

        Hey Guys,

        At what point did you forget the old adage to “read the fine print”? The statement that Chase will delete your points unless you keep the account open is right there in the term & agreement. I just finished reading it online at the Chase site. C’est la vie.

        1. Trav says:

          @ZZMom- I do agree that you should read the fine print, and I state clearly that you will lose “bank reward points” if you cancel the card in the post. However, the rep has always been nice enough to warn me before canceling those cards. Usually they say “if you cancel, you’ll lose these points.” I know this already, so it’s no big deal because I transfer them out, but just think it’s odd they didn’t say anything.

  9. Jan says:

    Citi Thank You Points from Premier Card can now be transferred to partners ; however Thank You points from Citi Preferred card do not transfer. I also think its important to get credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.These fees can be charged even when online purchases originate overseas.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jan- Yeah, the TY points from the Premier being able to be transferred is HUGE! Definitely a big score. Although it’s not “technically” transferred, it’s more like you can use them for travel on those airlines, instead of having them be miles. Tiny difference.

  10. Pilgrim says:

    I was thinking about getting the Chase Saphire Preferred (thanks to Travis for his recommendation). Can I link this card to my United account and have the points automatically credited to my United account on a monthly basis? That’s how it works with my current United Chase Visa card. Thanks. :)

    1. Trav says:

      @Pilgrim- No, you can’t, but the process of transferring from Chase points to United is suuuuuper simple. Takes less than 2 minutes. Sign in to Chase account, hit transfer points, put in your United number, and it transfers right away.

      I would, however, recommend not transferring them to United until you have a flight you want to book with United. Because they transfer instantly, there is no reason not to keep them in Chase in case you want to use them for something else that isn’t United at some point. And if you do want to use them on United, then just transfer when you know that.

  11. Kim says:

    This quote: “If you want to close the Chase Ink Bold card, you can transfer your Ink Bold points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred account. Once you transfer the points to the CSP, they are safe and you can then close the Ink Bold card.”

    Are you certain of that? I have heard of someone who transferred their points to a premium UR card, then cancelled the original card. However, since the premium card was still in the same system, they lost those points which were earned with the cancelled card.

    I have transferred all my UR ponts to CSP, and want to cancel INK, but I am scared I will lose them if I cancel!

    1. Trav says:

      @Kim- It’s always worked for me with no problem at all, and it’s also always worked for everyone I know. So you should be fine.

      1. Kim says:

        Great, thanks!

  12. Michelle says:

    What about store credit cards? I know it’s issued by a bank but I do not get points with it or rewards. If I close it will I lose points? And if so, how much??

    1. Trav says:

      @Michelle- I’m guessing that yes, if you close the store credit card, you will lose your points because those points are tied directly to that store and that credit card. They live in that “circle.”

  13. mike b. says:

    Does this also apply to default or bankruptcy. We have over a million AAdvantage miles, about half of them earned on our barclaycard and are facing default. Can Barclaycard actually reach into our AA account and take back those miles? Also, will AA cancel the miles because we declare bankruptcy?

    1. Trav says:

      @Mike B- No, Barclays can’t get your AA miles because once they are in AA, they are in a different sphere than Barclays. So you’d be safe.

      1. tamra says:

        What about if Amex Starwood card is cancelled due to bankruptcy but you’ve transferred all points to Marriott? (Starwood and Marriott are now partners, so it does seem a bit more complicated).
        Also, what if your points are held up in a future reservation? Will they cancel your reservation and take your points away?

        1. Trav says:

          @tamra – No, they won’t take your points away. Because Amex is the company that closed your account (the one in charge of your credit) and your points are with a different company (Starwood or Marriott). So they don’t have anything to do with each other – you’re safe!

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