Do You Lose Your Points When You Cancel a Credit Card?

I gave a pretty comprehensive answer to this question three years ago. But it comes up all the time. In fact, cancelling a card just the other day the retention specialist (whose job it is to convince me not to cancel) threatened that I would lose my American Airlines miles if I canceled my co-brand credit card. That’s just wrong.

Under almost all circumstances you will not lose airline or hotel points earned through a credit card when you cancel the card. That includes both signup bonuses and points from spending on the card.

However, if you close a bank’s proprietary rewards card, you’ll generally lose those accumulated points.

Credit card companies will often tell you that if you cancel their airline or hotel frequent flyer credit card you’ll lose your points. Sometimes it’s confusion, though the people telling this to you may have an incentive to be confused on this point.

  • It’s true that points can expire in many programs, or accounts turned inactive where you forfeit your points, when you don’t earn or redeem points in an account for a period of time (that can vary from 12 to 18 to 24 or 36 months). And using a co-brand credit card is one way to keep an account active. But you don’t need to keep the card to keep your account active, and you don’t forfeit already-earned points if you cancel.

  • Points in bank programs – like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards points – should be transferred out prior to cancelling. If you don’t have a Membership Rewards account via an open credit card, you don’t have a place for points to sit.

  • Points earned on a statement that haven’t closed yet could be lost. That’s usually pretty minor.

There have occasionally been unconfirmed reports of points from signup bonuses being clawed back when customers have cancelled card accounts shortly after opening and receiving bonuses. Those reports are few and far between and some accounts do contain terms and conditions that would allow a bank to do this (eg cancelling within 6 months of opening).

But the bottom line is that cancelling an airline or hotel credit card doesn’t mean you lose accumulated points in the airline or hotel loyalty program account.

Cancelling a bank program account means you lose the points in that account. In some cases that happens right away. American Express Membership Rewards is a little more complicated.

If we cancel your Linked Card Account for any reason (including your death, bankruptcy or insolvency), you’ll forfeit all points in your program account. If we reinstate the Linked Card Account within one year, these points will be returned to your account.

If you voluntarily cancel your enrollment in the program but keep at least one American Express® Card open and in good standing, you’ll have up to 30 days from the date of cancellation to use any points in your program account. If you cancel your enrollment in the program and don’t keep open any American Express Cards, all points in your program account will be immediately forfeited.

As long as you have a Membership Rewards account open, you retain your points. Say you have a Platinum card and a Premier Rewards Gold card, cancelling one of those won’t lose any points.

If you cancel your only Membership Rewards-earning card, then you lose all your points immediately if you do not have any remaining open American Express cards but you have 30 days to use remaining points if you are still a (non-Membership Rewards) American Express customer such as via a co-brand card like a Delta, Hilton, or Starwood product.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. If you cancel your Chase Hyatt card, but have already paid the annual fee and scheduled the award night reservation, will they cancel the reservation?

  2. In a related vein, due to an incident of identity theft, I recently closed a Club Card account with Chase (the card that provides access to the United Club Lounge) and was told that if I closed the account, I would forfeit access to the lounge, even though I had already paid for a full year worth of access.

    I closed the account anyway, and won’t be opening any new accounts with Chase in the future.

    NB

  3. Gary – I have a Citi Prestige card, a Citi Premier card and a Citibank Gold Checking account. The two credit cards are combined/nested together. The checking account is separate. I’d like to cancel one credit card and the checking account. If I link/combine/nest all three of them together and then cancel two of them will I lose the TYP for the two accounts I cancel? Thanks!

  4. Does anyone know the max # of personal and business AMEX cards you can hold before they deny your application? Thanks.

  5. MPLS, NO! Your reservation will still stand. In fact, Chase has always given me the free night on Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott cards while I could still close the account to avoid the AF, which I did twice & kept the free night for later use 🙂 !

  6. One annoying thing about MR points, unlike others I deal with, is that they aren’t posted right away when a statement closes, but go into “pending” status for a month. I am assuming that if I cancel the card in the meantime, the points will never be available to me, so that my practice has been to stop using an AMEX card two months before I call to cancel it. Am I correct? Or do the MR “pending” points from those transactions still post in the end if I have another MR-earning AMEX card open?

  7. You kind of gloss over it, but you should really go more in depth with UR and TYP rewards since you don’t necessarily lose those when you cancel one card if you have multiple products, but it is not quite as easy to deal with as MR.

  8. I have points with ANZ card collecting frequent flyer points, I should like to close the account , the annual fee, insurance etc is ridiculous compared to many, but I keep it because of the points I have accumulated. Any suggestions please.

  9. 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?

  10. I am wondering if you have any suggestions. Rather than explain I will insert the letter I just wrote to AMEX asking for arbitration, I guess I am the urban legend in this case. I hope to hear from you… Thanks

    TO AMEX:

    I have been an AMEX card holder for 16 years, I have had many cards. I have been a loyal AMEX customer. I applied for a Platinum card, Everyday card and Delta card all in 2016. I was approved for all. I decided to keep just two cards. I called customer service in June and inquired if I canceled the platinum card if I would keep the points. I was assured by the service rep I would as long as I kept a card active in the rewards program. They offered and transferred my points for me from the platinum to the everyday card and showed my new balance at approx. 149,000 points.

    3 months later I noticed the 100,000 points I had earned had been deducted. I have called numerous times over the last month to get this resolved and was stonewalled at every turn. Not one person could refer me to the paragraph in the terms and conditions that says if you cancel an account in the first year that you lose earned points. I read all the TC myself and no where can I find this provision, however I keep being told it’s in the terms and conditions.

    Not only did I earn the points, I had other AMEX cards and was ASSURED by your employee that closing my account was OK and they transferred the points for me into the one remaining rewards account. Even if this was in the terms, AMEX bears responsibility for advising me I would not lose the points and gave me the OK to cancel even though I SPECIAFICALLY ASKED if this would happen.

    I feel that since this rule IS NOT in the TC, and AMEX made the error to allow me to close the account after I asked the account rep to verify, that my points should be reinstated.

    Thank you

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