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One of the best reasons to apply for and carry a credit card is the potential rewards you can earn by doing so. You might earn cash back to help pay off your monthly statement, airline miles for award flights, or points that you can put toward travel and other things such as gift cards. Whatever your choice, credit card rewards can save you a lot of money when it comes time to redeem them. That's why it's important to know if your credit card rewards expire, and if so, how you can avoid losing them.
Luckily, if your account is open and in good standing (meaning you've made all your monthly payments on time), your credit card rewards should be safe. As with all things rewards-related, though, pay attention to the fine print and make sure you stay on top of any conditions that apply to your specific card and loyalty program. Here are some rules of thumb to help you keep your credit card rewards active so you can use them how you like when the time comes.
Which Credit Cards Rewards Expire?
It might surprise you to learn that some credit card rewards expire, but it's usually only under certain circumstances. First, consider the type of rewards your credit card earns: Are they airline miles, hotel points, cash back or points with an individual issuer like Amex or Chase? Once you sort that out, it should be easy to find the rules specific to each program.
Airline Miles and Hotel Points
If you have co-branded credit cards that rack up airline miles with specific frequent-flier programs, or hotel points with a particular chain, you will need to look up those programs' individual rules for how and when their points or miles expire. Unfortunately, many types of airline miles and hotel points do expire, though it's relatively easy to prevent that from happening.
- Some program earnings do not expire. You might already use a program that has no-expiration policies. For instance, Delta SkyMiles and Southwest Rapid Rewards points do not expire, so whether or not you fly either of them frequently, if you have a card that's associated with either of them, like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, your miles should be safe.
- Credit cards can help. Let's say you participate in a program with miles that do expire, though. For example, American Airlines AAdvantage requires you to earn or redeem miles on American Airlines or with an AAdvantage partner at least once every 18 months. That means taking flights with American Airlines or associated carriers such as British Airways and Alaska Airlines, redeeming miles for award flights, or earning miles through other activities such as buying things through American's online shopping portal. What's even easier, though, is just opening and using an American Airlines co-branded card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® for everyday purchases. Every time you use the card and earn miles, you will reset your expiration clock.
- It's OK to close a card. If you decide to close your hotel or airline credit card, your rewards should still remain in your loyalty program membership account. Just remember that they'll be subject to the regular expiration rules. In other words, you don't lose your points or miles immediately just because you close your card. But if the program has an expiration policy, your points or miles could be gone after the window for qualifying activity has passed.
Credit Card Issuer Rewards
Now, let's say you have a credit card that earns points within an issuer's points program, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards you accrue with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or the miles you accumulate with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Then, your points and miles will be subject to that program's rules, and you'll need to review the terms and conditions of your specific product. The good news is, if your account is open and in good standing, you're usually safe. Complications may arise if you decide to close your card account, though.
Current Credit Card Rewards Expiration Policies
In general, the following types of credit card rewards will not expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards
- Capital One Venture Miles
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou Rewards (with certain cards like the Citi Rewards+® Card they don't expire, but with others, like the Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer, from our partner, they expire within set time frames, even if your account remains open)
- Discover it® Cash Back
- Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards (with certain cards like the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, but not others like the Wells Fargo Rewards® Card)
That said, these rules can vary from card to card (even those from the same issuer), and are subject to change at any time. Be sure to check with your bank before making any decisions.
What Happens if You Close Your Card?
Closing your credit card can, but does not necessarily, mean losing all of your points. If points are lost, the questions then become: What will happen, exactly? And when?
- Immediate expiration: Closing certain credit cards means losing your rewards at the same time. For example, if you close your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, or Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, any rewards remaining in your account disappear right upon cancellation.
- Expiration after a certain period of time: Some issuers give cardholders a window of time after voluntarily closing an account during which they can use their rewards. For example, if you cancel a Chase Freedom Unlimited® card, you should have 30 days to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for cash back or other rewards. Likewise, if you close either the Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, from our partner, you'll have a 60-day grace period to use your points. If you combine your ThankYou Rewards points from one of these cards with those you earn from another, like the Citi Rewards+® Card, you can extend your expiration window to 90 days.
- Your rewards might be automatically credited to your account: If deadlines aren't your thing, cards such as the Discover it® Cash Back shouldn't worry you. With this card, cash back rewards will be credited to your account when it's closed or if you haven't used it in 18 months. So even if it slips your mind or you start using other rewards cards more, you don't have to worry about losing your cash back with it. Similar cards that credit rewards to your account may differ in their specifics, so be sure to read the fine print.
The timing and sequence of events when you cancel a card will depend on the loyalty program with which it earns points, the issuer's rules, and even the terms particular to individual cards. If you read your benefits guide and still don't know what will happen when you cancel your card, your best bet is simply to call your issuer's customer service line directly and ask.
How to Avoid Losing Your Credit Card Rewards
It would be a shame to spend years racking up rewards only to see them go up in smoke. Here's how you can stop that from taking place.
- Keep your account open and in good standing. As you've probably noticed by now, the simplest way to keep your credit card rewards from expiring is simply to keep your credit card open and in good standing by making your payments on time. With airline and hotel cards, specifically, using the card and earning more points will reset the expiration date on your points or miles per each program's rules, so making small purchases with them is a great way to keep your rewards active in general.
- Combine your points with another account. If you plan to close your card, you might be able to transfer your points to another rewards account you have with the same program, or share them with someone in your household who has an open and active account. This option varies from program to program, so you'll need to check what's possible with your specific cards.
- Downgrade to another card. Rather than canceling your account altogether, consider what's called "downgrading" to a related credit card with a lower annual fee. For instance, if you have the Citi Prestige® Card, which costs $495 per year, you might want to switch to the $95-per-year Citi Premier® Card, which also earns ThankYou Rewards points that you can use in all the same ways as those you earn with the Prestige.
- Transfer points to partners. Some credit card rewards programs allow members to transfer their points to partner airlines and hotels. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, convert to miles with United and Virgin Atlantic, among other airlines, as well as points with Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and IHG Rewards Club. Transferring your Chase points to one of them is a great way to get them out of your Ultimate Rewards account before closing a card, and will also reset any expiration clocks that those individual airline or hotel programs have.
Whether you have a card that earns cash back, hotel points, airline miles or rewards you can put toward travel and other redemptions, you don't want to lose them unexpectedly if they expire or you close your account. Luckily, it's easy to keep your credit card rewards alive by making sure your accounts are open and in good standing, and keeping any important dates in mind. If you decide to close your rewards credit card, examine all your options before pulling the trigger, and make sure your points are safe before doing so. To find rewards credit cards that meet your needs, you can see options matched to your credit profile when you use Experian CreditMatch™.
All information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, Wells Fargo Rewards® Card, and the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Experian and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.