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

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I’m often asked if you lose your points when you cancel your credit card. I can understand the confusion, since the rules do vary based on the type of card.

Furthermore, I’ve heard of some credit card issuers incorrectly threatening that cardmembers will lose their points, even when it isn’t true.

Generally speaking the rules vary based on the type of card you’re earning points with. It depends on whether it’s a program specific card or a bank rewards card (a card accruing points with Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, etc.).

Program specific card — no

As a general rule of thumb you don’t lose your points when you cancel a card which accrues airline or hotel points. These are cases where the card issuer themselves doesn’t issue the points currency, but rather one of their partners does.

For example, if you earn AAdvantage miles with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® or Starpoints with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, your points wouldn’t be forfeited when you cancel the cards. That’s because the points are issued directly in the partner currency.

To clarify, this doesn’t mean they can’t claw the points back. For example, if you make a purchase to get over the minimum spend threshold and then later refund it, they can take back the points they issued you.

But the point is that canceling the card in and of itself doesn’t cause the points to be forfeited, since keeping the points isn’t at all contingent upon having the card.

American-3

Bank rewards cards — yes

If you accrue a points currency specifically linked to your card — like accruing Membership Rewards points with the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, etc. — you do typically lose the points associated with the account when you cancel the card.

The exception is if you have another card which accrues the same points currency, in which case you can typically transfer points to that card. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and want to cancel it, you can transfer those Ultimate Rewards points to the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, or if you have the Amex EveryDay you can transfer those Membership Rewards points to the The Platinum Card® from American Express.

So you’ll always want to transfer or redeem your bank rewards points before canceling the card, or else you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Membership-Rewards

Bottom line

If you accrue points with a credit card in a specific partner program, your points balance will typically be safe, even if you cancel a credit card. However, if accruing bank rewards points, you’ll want to be much more careful before canceling your card.

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Comments

  1. I’m concerned that my credit rating (score) is hit when I cancel card, as you clearly explained how the credit rating is calculated in an earlier post. When opening a new card, my avg card life is greatly reduced therefore my score is reduced. Not sure how my score changes when I cancel a card like Amex Starwood. or Amex Skymiles.

  2. Good overview. I canceled a program-specific card a while back (I believe it was the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer but not 100% certain) and the representative swore up and down I would lose all my miles. I knew this wasn’t the case – having the card means no expiration, but even without it your United miles don’t expire as long as you have some activity every 18 months. I canceled the card anyway, but I can imagine that someone less well-versed in this stuff would’ve held off, and I’m thinking this misinformation is very much intentional.

  3. Regarding loss of miles earned on a program-specific card, I believe there is one wrinkle you have not addressed. That is, if you have made any charges between the last transfer of points to the affinity program (i.e., after the end of the last billing period) and when you request that the account be closed, points/miles associated with those charges posted during that time frame WILL be lost.

    Advice: Shortly before the end of a billing cycle, stop using the card that you want to cancel so that all charges will be posted before the end of the billing cycle. Pay off the bill in full after the close of the billing cycle. Then, and ONLY then, cancel the card.

  4. when i cancelled my Sapphire card, my points transferred to my Freedom card. If i end up cancelling my INK, can those points transfer to Freedom?

  5. @ Endre — Average age of accounts does indeed factor into your credit score. That’s why I always recommend picking up a few no annual fee cards to keep long term, as they’ll help balance that out nicely.

  6. @ Mangoceviche — They can be, though keep in mind points on the Freedom can only be redeemed for cash, unless the card is linked to one which accrues “premium” Ultimate Rewards points, like the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus. So the Freedom points are more valuable in conjunction with one of those cards.

  7. I recently canceled my CSP, (prior to reapplying), with 10K URs on it. I assumed they would automatically transfer to my Freedom card. My Chase webpage still shows the same total URs points I had before I canceled the CSP. So I’m assuming I didn’t just make a 10K mistake. Right?

  8. @ Robert Hanson — If you show the same balance still you should be fine. But typically you’ll want to transfer points before cancelling the card.

  9. Au contraire. I called Chase, and it turns out the points are indeed tied to the card, not an UR account. Had I called to cancel, the CSR probably would have advised me to move the points before canceling. But I closed it with a SM and was not told about it in the return SM.

    The Chase CSR on the phone was able to reopen the account for just long enough to move the points to my Freedom card, then closed the CSP again. Whew !

    Ironically, I canceled the card the day before you did this post. Fortunately I saw it today in time to get it fixed. Another benefit of being a regular reader of your blog. Thanks once again. 🙂

  10. When I canceled my Marriott Premier about 5 yrs ago, the 70K bonus pts that came w/ it were taken away. I even held the card for 2 yrs.

  11. @ mommafrica — That’s definitely NOT supposed to be the case. Did the points maybe expire due to lack of use? Definitely not supposed to be taken away.

  12. Aren’t my MR points from the Amex Plat card and the Amex EveryDay preferred card already in the same pot? Before I cancel my Platinum card is there something I have to do with respect to points earned specifically with that card?

  13. I have two amex cards: Green and Gold rewards, if I cancel the green one (a $95 fee without any benefits) will I still keep all my points ? (more precisely, the 50k bonus I got when I opened the gold card)?

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