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I know many of you occasionally get rewards earning credit cards because of their sign-up bonuses, ongoing perks, etc. So do I. However, sometimes the time is right to cancel a card for various reasons. In fact, it is essential you consider closing cards from time to time otherwise the annual fees for cards you aren’t really utilizing can seriously cut at the value of the perks you have earned. When deciding whether you should cancel a given rewards earning credit card, you may wonder what happens to your unused miles and points.
Even those with some decent experience in the miles and points world often wonder if you will lose your points if you cancel a credit card. In fact, I have heard of this “scare tactic” used by customer service reps when people try to close cards. While it isn’t totally false that this can happen, it often isn’t totally true either.
Losing Your Points if You Close a Credit Card
There are some situations where you will lose points you earned if you close a given credit card. This usually can happen if you earned a type of credit card points unique that bank such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, etc. and you don’t do anything with the points before you close your last card that earns that type of point.
Let’s say you have 50,000 Amex Membership Reward points and you want to close your Amex Platinum card or similar and you don’t have any other card that earns Membership Rewards. If you just close that card without taking any other steps you can indeed lose the points (though there may or may not be a grace period to get them back in some situations with some banks).
However, it is very easy to avoid having that happen to you with a little bit of planning.
Transfer Points Out Before Closing a Credit Card
If you use a co-branded credit card that earns hotel or airline miles and points, generally you will not lose those points already earned when you close the credit card because those earned points go directly into your hotel and airline loyalty accounts. Even if you haven’t redeemed the miles, they are still already safely in your loyalty account. This means if you use an airline card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card and close it, you won’t lose the miles earned by getting and using the card because they are already safely in your Delta SkyMiles account. Be aware you may not get the miles you earned that have not yet posted to your account, so consider not using the card the last month or so before you plan to cancel.
A caveat to this is occasionally there are some buried terms and conditions that indicate you could lose miles posted to your loyalty account if you close the credit card in the first 6 months or so, but I don’t often hear of that being enforced, and there is usually no reason to close in the first six months anyway.
However, to use the Amex Membership Rewards example again, you would lose your Membership Reward points if you closed your Amex Platinum Card if you didn’t do something first, such as transfer them to a Membership Rewards hotel or airline partner. For instance you could first transfer them to Delta before closing your card, where they would safely remain in your SkyMiles account until you decided to redeem them.
Transferring points out of a credit card program before you really know you want to use them is infinitely better than having them disappear on you, but it isn’t ideal since one of the huge values from
Get Another Card That Earns the Same Type of Points
Often people are looking to close a card to avoid an annual fee when they don’t feel they are getting their money’s worth from holding the card. That is totally understandable, but many times you could simply get another card that earns that same type of point either with no annual fee or at least with the annual fee waived the first year to buy you some more time to use your points in an optimal fashion (and likely get another sign-up bonus if getting another card).
For example, if you are considering closing a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card you could preserve your Ultimate Rewards by transferring them to your Ink Plus. You could also simply keep them safe by having a Chase Freedom account with no annual fee, though they would not be transferrable to hotel or airline partners until you or your partner again had a premium Ultimate Rewards earning card like the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus.
With Amex you have a few more options to keep your Membership Reward points safe and transferrable since you can get The Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card that has no annual fee, but still allows for transfers to Membership Rewards hotel and airline partners such as Delta, British Airways, etc. This is unique to this card since most programs don’t offer annual fee free products with fully transferable points, but having this card is a great way to keep your Membership Rewards points safe and transferrable while avoiding annual fees.
Ask to Have the Annual Fee Waived
Finally, if the only reason you want to close a specific credit card account is to avoid the annual fee consider simply asking if there are any promotions or options to reduce or waive the annual fee. If you are serious about closing some banks will make you offers to retain you as a customer. However, be careful with this if you have points on the line since if they close the account you may be out of luck with your points if you haven’t already done something with them.
There is no reason you should lose points if you close a credit card as long as you have thought through the process and planned ahead by transferring the points or obtaining another card that will keep the points safe.
Have you ever lost points when closing a rewards earning credit card? What do you do to keep your miles and points safe when you do close credit accounts?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.