Will You Lose Flexible Points If You Cancel a Card?

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Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.  Million Mile Secrets reader, Fran, emailed:
I was told by an AMEX representative that I would lose my AMEX Membership Rewards points if I cancel my Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.  Is this true?

Generally speaking, if you cancel a card that earns flexible bank points, you will lose them.  This goes for cards that earn AMEX Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points.

Certain banks give you a grace period to use points after cancelling a card.  But there are also a few ways to preserve them.

Preserve Flexible Reward Points
Flexible Points Are the Key to Big Travel!  So Don’t Let Those Hard-Earned Points Disappear by Cancelling a Credit Card!

I’ll explain how to avoid losing flexible rewards points.

Preserve Flexible Reward Points

Link:   The Trick to Travel Flexibility: Transferable Points

The best part about earning flexible transferable points is the opportunity to redeem them for Big Travel.  So the easiest way to avoid the risk of losing your points when cancelling a credit card is to book your next trip!

And besides transferring points directly to airline or hotel partners, there are other ways to redeem bank points like:

  • Airline and hotel stays through bank travel portals
  • Gift cards
  • Statement credits

Although you will generally get more value by transferring them to airline or hotel transfer partners.

I understand why folks might keep a card for ~10 or ~11 months and then decide to cancel.  Because you can save money on annual fees.

But this doesn’t mean you have to give up your hard-earned points!

Let’s take a look at the rules for the major bank flexible points programs after you cancel a card.  And solutions to keep your points!

1.   AMEX Membership Rewards

Link:   Keep Your AMEX Membership Rewards Points Active With No Annual Fees

If you cancel a card which earns AMEX Membership Rewards points, you will lose your points.  This includes cards like the The Platinum Card® from American Express or Premier Rewards Gold card.

You get a 30-day grace period to redeem your points if you have at least one other AMEX card.  The AMEX terms say:

If you voluntarily cancel enrollment in the program or cancel all Linked Accounts enrolled in the program but keep at least 1 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.

Otherwise, you’ll immediately lose all of your points!

Preserve Flexible Reward Points
AMEX Membership Rewards Points Can Get You a Business Class Award Seat on KLM. So You Won’t Want to Give Them Up!

But you can keep all your points if you cancel your card and keep a different card that earns AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Like the no annual fee the AMEX EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express.

Or instead of cancelling, consider downgrading to a card with a lesser or no annual fee.  For example, you can downgrade the Premier Rewards Gold, which has a $195 annual fee to an AMEX Green Card, which has a $95 annual fee.

Keep in mind you can NOT downgrade an AMEX charge card to a credit card, or vice versa.

If you move forward with cancelling a card and you lose your points, it’s possible to get the points reinstated.  You’ll need to get a new AMEX Membership Rewards card within 1 year after cancelling your old card.  Then, contact AMEX in writing to request your previously earned points.

This is NOT guaranteed to work.  So I wouldn’t use this as the primary way to avoid losing points.

2.   Chase Ultimate Rewards

Link:   Why Chase Ultimate Rewards Is My Favorite Points Program

You do NOT want to cancel a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, unless are NO points in your account associated with that card!

Because you immediately lose all your points when your card is cancelled.  There is no grace period to redeem these points.

Instead, I’d suggest transferring the points from the card you plan to cancel to a different Chase Ultimate Rewards card.

Preserve Flexible Reward Points
Before Cancelling a Chase Ultimate Rewards Card, I Recommend Transferring Your Points to a Different Card

Remember, you can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to a partner or joint business owner depending if it’s a personal or small business card.

3.   Citi ThankYou

Link:   How to Prevent Losing Citi ThankYou Points When Closing Your Card

The rules at Citi are slightly different compared to Chase and AMEX.

Before cancelling or downgrading a card, you can combine Citi ThankYou points with another Citi ThankYou card.

Preserve Flexible Reward Points
Before Cancelling a Citi ThankYou Card, You Can Combine Your Points With a Different Citi ThankYou Card. Then You’ll Still Have the Option to Transfer Points to Partner Airlines Like Singapore Airlines!

But the points from your old card must be redeemed within 60 days or you’ll lose them.  Even if the points are sitting in a combined account.

If you only have one Citi ThankYou points card, you typically have 30 days to use your Thank You points after cancelling a card.  But your redemption options are limited.

For example, you will NOT be able to transfer points directly to Citi ThankYou airline or hotel partners.  Instead, you’ll have to contact Citi to redeem points for airline, hotel, or car rentals through the Citi Travel Portal.  In that case, it’s best to transfer your points before you cancel your card.

4.   Starwood Points

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Starwood points are versatile, too.  And if you decide to cancel your AMEX Starwood personal or small business card, you will NOT lose any of your points.  Although I usually recommend keeping it.

Both cards have a limited-time offer to earn up to 35,000 Starwood points through April 5, 2017.  So if you’ve never had one of the cards, now is an excellent time to apply.  And you can transfer the points you earn to lots of airlines for award flights.

Of course, you can also use Starwood points for award stays at Starwood hotels.  Or for:

Bottom Line

You can lose flexible transferable points if you cancel a credit card with banks like AMEX, Chase, or Citi.

Some banks, such as AMEX and Citi, offer a grace period to redeem points after you cancel a card.  But instead of risking losing your points, I recommend using your points before you cancel a card.

Or you can combine points with a different card that earns the same type of points.

Before cancelling a card, consider you might be able to downgrade to a no annual fee card and still keep your points active!

Thanks for the question, Fran!

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