You Won’t Lose Airline Miles In Your Account When You Cancel a Card

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Million Mile Secrets reader Pat Gardunia commented:

I have a United MileagePlus card and have 50,000 United Airlines miles accumulated.  How can I get those miles off the card and transferred to a frequent flyer account so I can avoid paying the annual fee next year? I have read that if I cancel the card the points are forfeited.

Pat won’t lose his miles, even though Chase and United make it seem that way!  But they will expire in 18 months unless Pat keeps them active.

You Won’t Lose Miles When You Cancel Your Credit Card

When you cancel a card, you will NOT lose airline miles that are already in his airline account.

So Pat won’t lose the United Airlines miles or points already in the United Airlines account when closing the United MileagePlus card.

So Pat can cancel the United MileagePlus card, and will NOT lose the 50,000 United Airlines miles.

You Won't Lose Airline Miles In Your Account When You Cancel A Card

Pat Can Still Book a Trip to Places Like Hawaii Using His United Airlines Miles After Canceling the Credit Card

But Pat should wait until the statement closes before canceling the card.  

That’s because if you cancel before your statement closes, you will lose United Airlines miles that haven’t posted to your United Airlines account.

Cards that give you bank points are different.  See my post about what to do with your banks points (such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards) before you cancel those cards.

Keep Miles Active

But Pat could lose his United Airlines miles later IF he doesn’t keep his United Airlines account active.  That’s because United Airlines miles expire after 18 months of inactivity:

Your miles will not expire as long as there is activity on your credit card account, including paying your annual membership fee, and the credit card account is open and not in default. Upon cancellation of your credit card account your miles will expire according to the MileagePlus program rules.

So Pat has to keep United Airlines account active every 18 months.

But Pat can easily keep his United Airlines miles from expiring!

You Won't Lose Airline Miles In Your Account When You Cancel A Card

Buying Snacks With the MileagePlus Dining Program Can Keep Pat’s United Airlines Account Active

Bottom Line

Pat won’t lose his United Airlines miles in his account if he cancels his United MileagePlus card.

But he will lose his United Airlines miles if he doesn’t keep his account active.

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12 responses to “You Won’t Lose Airline Miles In Your Account When You Cancel a Card

  1. how about amex delta gold card promotion miles? Do I lose the miles when I cancel my card?

  2. What about US Airways/American Miles from Barclays American Express?

  3. OK, but don’t you have to use some Chase card that you have enrolled in the With the MileagePlus Dining to keep your points alive? Or can you put ANY credit card in the With the MileagePlus Dining account. Doesn’t the With the MileagePlus Shopping portal also help to keep your points active? And what about answering some of those Consumer questionnaires to add points to it?

  4. @ Alex

    The only good thing about Delta miles is that they never expire. Even if you cancel the card.

  5. @Alex @nibodhi – This is true of any card. Wait for miles or points to post after the statement closes, so it transfers to your personal account, then cancel the card. Anything in your personal account is yours, unless you’re negative on your statement in which the credit card company can take back miles/points for that specific amount. But as far as the sign-up bonus or accumulated miles/points, it’s yours to keep until the program’s expiration date (none for Delta, 12-18 months for others).

    @Jonnie W – You can put ANY card in the Dining programs, but the same card cannot be in multiple programs. For example, if you put a Chase Sapphire into the dining MileagePlus, do not put it into the dining Delta program. This is a great way to keep accounts open if you close a credit card.

    Shopping portal is also great for extra points or keeping accounts active, and you can use ANY card here also and still get Mileage points. Although, being a cardholder offers some exclusive mile promotions on the shopping portal, but probably not worth it to pay annual fee just for these promos.

    Lastly, earn additional points miles/points through surveys (if you have the time and patience). This is also a good way to keep your account active if you cancel your credit card…do a survey, keep it active another 18 months.

  6. Anyone know if you can get a prorated refund on card: Example…on 12/1/14, you get charged $85 annual fee. If you call to cancel the account on 12/10/14, can you get pro-rated credit for that $85 fee?


  7. I got in on the 100,000 mile BA Chase promo 1 year ago and got all my points. I called to cancel my card and the representative said Chase would take back the points from the account if they were not used within two years of canceling the card. I told her I thought she was confusing that with points inactivity and she said no. Anybody else heard of this happening?

  8. Pingback: You Do NOT Risk Losing Your Points When You Cancel a Credit Card - View from the Wing - View from the Wing

  9. I have a united card and my husband does too. He’s working on getting the points bonus so we can take a trip to europe next year. What is the best way to do this? From my understanding, we can’t combine points. I just learned this. 🙁

  10. I have run into some personal issues and my united explorer card is too high! I have the opportunity to transfer my balance to a card with 0% APR. Will I lose all my miles?