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Will I Lose All of My Points If I Cancel My Credit Card?

Guy who loses his points

A couple weeks ago I made a very costly rookie mistake. I cancelled a credit card without thinking, and forfeited about $400 of rewards points in the process.

Here’s how it went down.

It was a beautiful sunny day in Columbus, which is pretty rare in early April.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks, trying my best to avoid looking like a hipster while sipping coffee and doing my monthly points/miles check-up.

This is a ~20 minute monthly ritual where I take stock of my open credit cards (using my awesome free spreadsheet), tally up my points for future trips, and close old credit cards that are about to be hit with annual fees.

I’ve done this dozens of times now so I have the entire process down to a science. I even copy and paste the same email scripts for closing credit cards. (I’ll share these with you in a future post).

To be honest, I can’t help but feel like a baller while doing this. Like Simba looking out from pride rock, I feel like I can go anywhere the sun touches.

Look Simba, you can travel anywhere for free

The next day I was paying some bills on my Chase account and noticed that I was missing about 30,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (conservatively worth ~$400 in travel, even to an amateur).

My first thought was that my account was somehow hacked.

I pulled out all of my old rewards statements, scoured line-by-line through my account activity, and even called Chase to see what the deal was.

Nobody could figure out what happened.

Then, just before opening a fraud case with Chase, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Bryce, you idiot. You just cancelled a card that still had points left on it.

Now I know how this guy feels.

Chase confirmed that I was indeed an idiot, and informed me that I had forfeited more than 30,000 points by closing my Chase Ink credit card.

Eventually I was able to get my points back, but it was about as painful as shooting myself in the leg. I’ll tell you how I did it in a future post.

So how can you avoid my mistake of forfeiting credit card points?

By answering a simple question.

Who owns your points?

For the vast majority of credit cards there are only 3 possible answers to this question:

1. An airline
2. A hotel
3. A bank

Let’s take a look at how each of them work.

 

1. Airline Credit Cards

Airline credit cards are cards that earn points with a specific airline. These cards are easy to spot because they almost always have the name of an airline or airline rewards program in them.

Here are a few examples:

  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card
  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Credit Card
  • Gold Delta Skymiles Credit Card
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard

With airline credit cards your points are owned by the airline company. The bank that issues your credit card has no control over these points once they are awarded to you.

Which means that you will NOT lose your airline miles by closing an airline credit card.

 

2. Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards work just like airline credit cards. The hotel owns your points, and you will almost always see the name of a hotel or hotel rewards program in the name of the card.

Here are a few examples:

  • Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Hyatt Visa Card

Like airline cards, you will NOT lose your points when closing a hotel credit card.

 

3. Bank Reward Program Credit Cards

Bank reward program credit cards are the ones you need to watch out for. Again, look at the name to determine if you are holding a bank credit card.

If you see the name of a bank, without also containing the name of an airline or hotel, your credit card is earning points that are owned by the issuing bank.

Here are a few examples:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • American Express Platinum
  • Barclays Arrival Plus
  • Citi Thank You Preferred

Like a bitter ex-girlfriend, banks will gladly your points back if you decide to dump their card. So make sure to use or transfer your points before closing a bank reward program credit card.

To recap:

  • You will NOT lose your points/miles when closing an airline credit card
  • You will NOT lose your points/miles when closing a hotel credit card
  • You WILL lose your points/miles when closing a bank credit card

 

So be careful not to leave any money on the table.

Happy Travels,

Bryce

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