Don’t Let Your Hard-Earned Rewards Expire (Cash Back Credit Cards Included!)

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If you’ve been involved in the miles and points hobby for a while, you might be aware that some programs have expiration dates on the miles and points you earn.  But it can be easy to forget that the same rules can apply to cash back credit cards, as well!

I’ve made the mistake of not paying attention and letting a few hundred dollars’ worth of rewards disappear into thin air.  And let me tell ya – that was a HUGE wake-up call for me to check the fine print on all of my cards to make sure I wouldn’t be losing any more!

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Even if You Use Cash Back Credit Cards, the Cash You Earn Could Still Come With an Expiration Date!  Pay Attention to the Fine Print to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Out

If you have a big stash of rewards, it’s worth it to periodically check the fine print and make sure they won’t be expiring before you have the chance to redeem them!

The Return You Receive From Cash Back Credit Cards Aren’t Immune to Expiration Dates!

A cash back credit card can be pretty awesome, because redeeming the rewards can be simpler than redeeming miles or points.  But don’t be fooled by the name!  Even though you’re earning cash back rewards, they’re not necessarily the equivalent of cash, and they could still have an expiration date on them!

For instance, rewards earned on the Citi® Double Cash Card expire after 12 months without any qualifying activity on the account.  It would be a shame to have earned a huge stash of cash back rewards, only to log-in one day to find your rewards balance at zero!

That’s pretty much what happened to me on my PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card.  I lost out on ~$150 in rewards because I didn’t pay attention to the fine print.  I assumed that because I was regularly using the card, and because it was issued by a credit union, the terms would be pretty favorable.

Boy was I wrong.  Imagine the look on my face when I logged in one day and found my rewards balance at nearly zero!

The information for the Citi Double Cash Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Your Credit Card Reward Terms May Not Be as Favorable as You Presupposed

You see, that’s because PenFed’s fine print states that rewards on the card expire 5 years after being earned.  So even though I had continued to use the card regularly, it did absolutely nothing for resetting the expiration date on my earned rewards!

It’s a good reminder that no matter what card you have, no matter which bank it’s from, to always read the fine print so that you won’t lose any of your hard-earned rewards!

2 Easy Steps to Prevent Your Rewards from Expiring

Every bank has their own policies, but there’s 2 things you can do to prevent your rewards from expiring which works for the vast majority of banks.

First, make sure to redeem your rewards every now and then.  Don’t be a points hoarder!  Depending on the bank, your rewards could expire a certain number of months after being earned.  Redeeming your points frequently not only makes sure you don’t lose them, it’s also kind of a nice way to vacation regularly!

One Way to Make Sure Your Rewards Don’t Expire?  Redeem Them Often for Vacations!

Second, make sure to use your card frequently!  A lot of banks will say that your points will expire if it has been inactive for too long.  In most cases, making a purchase at least once every few months is enough to keep it active so that your points won’t expire.

Bottom Line 

You worked hard to earn your rewards, and depending on the bank, those rewards can come with an expiration date.  Don’t let them expire and go to waste!  Redeem them often, and continue using the credit cards to keep them active and to keep your rewards from expiring.

Do you have a story to tell about expired points?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Andrew Wan is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where he covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines and hotels. His work has also appeared in The Simple Dollar.

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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