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.