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.
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.
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!