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Will You Lose Your Miles & Points After Cancelling a Credit Card?

Will You Lose Your Miles & Points After Cancelling a Credit Card?

Million Mile SecretsWill You Lose Your Miles & Points After Cancelling a Credit Card?Million Mile Secrets Team

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Million Mile Secrets reader Toby writes in with a common question:

Love your website, and have 5 cards between my girlfriend and me.  What are the rules in cancelling a card?  I don’t want to pay the $89 yearly fee, but will it wipe away any unused miles?

The short answer is that it depends!

You will NOT lose airline miles or hotel points already in your airline or hotel account by cancelling a card.

But you’ve got to be careful with points issued by banks such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi Thank You points because you can lose ALL the points in your account by cancelling them.

Airline Miles & Hotel Points

If you cancel an airline or hotel credit card, you will NOT lose the miles or points which are already in your airline or hotel loyalty program account.

For example, if you cancel your Citi American Airlines credit card 10 months after getting the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus, you will not lose the 50,000 American Airlines miles which are already in your American Airlines account.

Often times, customer service representatives lead folks to believe that cancelling a card will result in you losing your miles.  What the representatives are really trying to say (besides scaring you into keeping the card) is that you will lose the miles and points which haven’t yet posted to your account.

For example, let’s say that your credit card billing cycle is from August 20 to September 15, but you cancel your card on September 10th.  In this case, you will lose the miles which you earned from August 20 up to September 10, and which would have posted to your account around September 15.

But you won’t lose the miles and points which are already in your account.

That said, some cards do have provisions in the terms and condition to take back the sign-up bonus if you cancel the card in 3 or 6 months.  I’ve read very few reports of this actually being enforced, but I usually don’t cancel a card for at least 6 to 8 months.

– Miles & Points Expiration

However, the miles and points in your airline or hotel account will still be subject to the regular expiration policy of the airline or hotel.  For example, American Airlines miles expire after 18 months.

But it is very easy to keep the miles “alive” because most earning and redemption activity will extend the expiration date of your miles by 18 months.

For example, you could redeem an award, use miles to buy magazines, buy or transfer miles, earn miles for dining, or buy something for $1 or $2 on the American Airlines shopping mall.  You could even earn miles by flying!

I use Award Wallet to track the expiration of my miles and points.  However, Award Wallet doesn’t track the expiration of American Airlines, Southwest & Delta miles.

Bank Reward Program Points

You usually will LOSE the points earned from a banks’ own reward program which are already in your account, such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi Thank You points, when you cancel a card unless you transfer the points out or have another credit card which earns points in that program.  You can transfer points online or by calling the banks.

You can find a list of Bank Reward points credit cards issued by the different banks in the Bank Rewards Points credit card tab.

The rules are a little different for each bank reward point program.

American Express Membership Rewards points

You will lose ALL your points, if you cancel a card which earns Membership Rewards points.

However, there are 4 ways to save your points already in your account.

American Express Membership Rewards
American Express Membership Rewards

1.   Have another Membership Rewards card.    You won’t lose your points if you have another American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points AND which is linked to the same Membership Rewards points account as the credit card which you cancel.

Sometimes, business and personal cards result in separate Membership Rewards accounts, so make sure that you have both your personal and business cards linked to only 1 Membership Rewards account.

2.  Transfer to Airline Partners.  Transfer your Membership Rewards points to airline or hotel partners before cancelling the card.  You can even transfer Membership Rewards points to anyone else’s airline or hotel accounts.

3.  Grace Period.  The terms suggest that you have 30 days to transfer the points out of your Membership Rewards account if you cancel all your Membership Rewards cards, but have at least one open (non-Membership Rewards) American Express card.

If you voluntarily cancel enrollment in the program or cancel all Linked Accounts enrolled in the program but keep at least one AMEX Card open and in good standing, you will have up to 30 days from date of cancellation to redeem the points accrued in the program account.

I interpret this to mean that you can cancel all your American Express Membership Rewards points, but still have 30 days to transfer points as long as you have another American Express card such as the Starwood or Hilton card.

However, if you do decide to take this route, I would confirm with the Customer Representative that you do indeed have 30 days from cancellation to use your points before losing them.  This could be risky!

4.   Reinstatement.  If you get a new Membership Rewards card within 1 year after cancelling, you *may* be able to request your points be reinstated by writing a letter to the Membership Rewards Correspondence Unit.

Their address is:  Membership Rewards Correspondence Unit, AMEX Membership Rewards, PO BOX 297813, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33329-7813.

Their telephone number is 1-800-567-1083.

Be sure to highlight your previous history with American Express, high credit score, and responsible credit usage in the letter.  Telling them you’ve seen the light and are returning to American Express shouldn’t hurt either!

Again, I wouldn’t use this as my primary way to avoid losing points and there is no guarantee that American Express will reinstate your points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards

You will lose ALL the points in your account if you close a credit card which earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  There is NO grace period to transfer the points out of your account after you cancel the card.  You can’t transfer or use them immediately after cancelling.

However, there are 2 ways to save your points.

1.   Transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to airline or hotel partners before closing your card.

You can only transfer Ultimate Rewards points to airline or hotel partners if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus, or JP Morgan Select.

You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points to anyone else’s airline or hotel account instantly on the Ultimate Rewards website.  Technically, the terms say that you should do this only to transfer points to your spouse or domestic partner, but it appears to work for transfers to any account.

There is no cost to transfer points.

2.  Transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to another Ultimate Rewards card before closing your card.

For example, if you are closing your Chase Ink Bold card, you can transfer the 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points in your account to your Chase Freedom card.

You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points to anyone else’s Ultimate Rewards credit card account if you have their credit card card number.

There is no cost to transfer points.

 Ultimate Rewards Points Bottom Line:  Don’t cancel a Chase Ultimate Rewards card unless their are NO points in your Ultimate Rewards account associated with that credit card!

Citi Thank You Points

Citi Thank You Points
Citi Thank You Points

You usually have 30 days to use your Thank You points earned from a credit card before losing the points in your account.  There are lots of ways to earn Thank You points, but this post only discusses the expiration for Thank You points earned from credit cards.

1.   Grace Period.  The terms suggest that you have 30 days after cancelling your Thank You credit card account to use your points.

2.   Transfer to Another of Your Accounts.  You can call Citi (1-800-THANKYOU) or transfer online your Thank You points earned from one credit card to another of your credit card’s Thank You point account.  But you have to use those transferred points within 90 days.

However, if you cancel the Thank You Point credit card which earned the points which you transferred, the transferred points will expire in 30 days even though they are in another account!

3.   Transfer to Another Person’s Account.  You can transfer Thank You points from your account to another person’s Thank You points account.  But you have to use those transferred points within 90 days.

However, if you cancel the Thank You Point credit card which earned the points which you transferred, the transferred points will expire in 30 days even though they are in another account!

For example, if Emily transfers her ThankYou points to my account, the points will expire in 90 days.

But if she cancels her card within those 90 days, I will have only 30 days from when she cancelled the card to use the transferred Thank You points in my account.

Bottom Line

You won’t lose airline or hotel points which are already in your airline or hotel account when you cancel a credit card.

But you could lose points earned in a Bank Rewards program such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi Thank You Points.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Citibusiness changed my credit card from VISA to MASTERCARD and took away my 321,303 Miles accumulated and placed 123 Miles on the MasterCard. Are any class action suits pending over such takings?

Charles Hugh Taylor

I have an AMEX corporate card that has a lot of points. I was hoping to purchase “e-gift cards” for a variety of retail outlets (e.g., Home Depot, retail stores, restaurants, etc.) before closing out my account. I am not anticipating any travel/hotel expenses for the next several years and the e-gift cards seem to provide me with the best value. I plan to give most of the e-gift cards (via the e-gift card number) to my kids but I am concerned that once I drop out any unspent e-gift cards will become invalid.

Can you tell me if the e-gift cards that purchase will still be valid even if I no longer have an AMEX card?

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?

Thank you! I have been looking for a answer to this question.

Excellent tips

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