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I got an email from a reader the other day, asking about what happens when you cancel your credit cards (typically to avoid paying the annual fee)

I have noticed that all of these Airline and Hotel cards have annual fee. Do I need to keep open an account for each airline/hotel in order to keep all of the points or can I transfer the miles/points into a card that may not have annual fee?

Say for example, there are no AAdvantage cards that have no annual fee. How can I keep all of the miles that I accumulate? Or is the only way to have one card open while I churn the others?

I started responding, but then thought that the answer to this might be a good one for other readers as well.  There are 2 different types of miles and points, and the answer is different for each one

Airline miles and hotel points

sheraton-club-lounge-access-spg-logoIf you have a credit card that gives airline miles or hotel points, generally if you close the card, your points do not disappear.  Some examples:

  • Chase card that gives Southwest Airlines points – you cancel the card, your Southwest points stay in your account
  • Citibank card that gives American Airlines AAdvantage miles – you cancel the card, your AAdvantage miles stay in your American account
  • American Express Starwood card – if you cancel your American Express, your Starpoints will remain in your SPG account

(SEE ALSO: SPG Amex 30K offers (maybe?) going away on Monday!)

Bank miles and points

All good so far, right? Now for the bad news.  If you have a card that gives bank points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points, if you close that card, WITHOUT having another card that also gives those benefits, your points will disappear.

  • American Express Membership Rewards – all of your Membership Rewards are in one account, so as long as you have one card that gives Membership Rewards, your points won’t expire. That was one of the reasons I thought the recent 25,000 point signup bonus on the Amex EveryDay card was so good – it’s a great card to have to make sure you have an account available if / when you have to cancel an Amex Platinum card or other card that comes with a big annual fee.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards – If you cancel your card, your points are gone.  You CAN transfer your points to another Ultimate Rewards earning card for free, but you need to do that before you cancel the card.  This nearly burned me a few months ago – see Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards between accounts before closing an account.  Another option, if you have a premium card, would be to transfer your expiring Ultimate Rewards to one of Chase’s transfer partners, like British Airways, United or Hyatt.  Once they are in the partner program, you could cancel your Chase card without losing the account
  • Citi ThankYou Points – As with Chase, if you cancel the card, your points disappear.  You do have a 30 day grace period after your card is canceled to use your ThankYou points.  You CAN transfer the points to another Citi ThankYou card, but you’ll have 90 days to use them after the transfer, and if you cancel the card, that 90 day period is reduced to 30 days.

I always like to track my points with Award Wallet, which was ranked as #1 in the Top 10 miles and points tools.  It’s a great way to keep track of how many points you have in various programs, and when they might expire


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