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Do you keep your points and miles when you cancel a credit card?

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

We talk about travel credit cards quite a bit here at TPG. Applying for and utilizing these cards strategically can unlock incredible travel experiences like premium-class flights or luxurious hotel rooms.

However, there are a number of misconceptions when it comes to credit cards, so it’s important to separate fact from fiction and debunk some of the most popular myths out there.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering canceling a credit card but aren’t sure what will happen to the rewards you’ve earned on it.

Points and miles: Quick breakdown

You may assume that a credit card issuer is like a bank. You’d never expect Chase or Bank of America to simply keep your cash if you close a checking or savings account. Surely the same logic applies to credit card rewards, right?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “not necessarily.”

Generally speaking, you can divide your credit card rewards into two categories:

Let’s take a look at how easy it is to hold on to each of these types of rewards.

Do you keep your points and miles when you cancel a credit card?

For the most part, you will not lose your points and miles when you cancel cards that fall into the first category of airline miles and hotel points, since they will typically post to your loyalty program account within a week or so of your statement closing.

Once they are there, it becomes incredibly difficult for the card issuer to try to take them back if you cancel the card.

Related: What to do before you close a credit card 


However, canceling a card in the second category, which earns rewards within an issuer’s proprietary program, may result in a forfeiture of your points. That’s because these accounts (and their content) are owned and controlled by the issuing bank.

Exception: New York state law

One exception to the above: If you live in New York state, you’ll now have a bit of a grace period when trying to redeem rewards on a canceled card.

As of December 2023, New York law states that “credit card issuers have 45 days to provide notice to cardholders when any existing credit card account or rewards program is canceled or closed or modified in a way that is less favorable to the consumer.”

Additionally, “consumers have 90 days to redeem their accrued points or rewards.” In other words, you’ll receive a 90-day grace period after your account has been closed to redeem any points or miles you might have.

Points and miles policies by issuer

Here are some policies to keep in mind depending on the issuer:

American Express Membership Rewards

Policy: Membership Rewards points are immediately forfeited when you cancel a card and don’t have another card that earns Membership Rewards points associated with that account.

Exceptions/workarounds: Per the program’s terms and conditions, you have a 30-day grace period in which to redeem your Membership Rewards points if you have at least one other (non-Membership Rewards) American Express card. However, if you cancel your only Amex card, your points will be immediately lost.

Capital One miles

Policy: When you close your account, you will lose any rewards you have not redeemed.

Exceptions/workarounds: Capital One offers tremendous flexibility when it comes to moving your rewards prior to canceling a card. If you have another card on your account that earns Capital One miles, you can log in and select the “Move Rewards” option from the rewards page.

You can also move your miles to another Capital One cardholder — who doesn’t even need to live at your same address. You do need to call to accomplish this, as there’s no way to do this online, though.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Policy: Ultimate Rewards points are forfeited when your account is closed, though the terms and conditions indicate that you’ll have at least 30 days to redeem the points from the date of closure if your account is in good standing at the time.

Exceptions/workarounds: In addition to the 30-day grace period, if you, a spouse/domestic partner or business owner (for Ink business cards) have another card that accrues Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer your points to their Ultimate Rewards account before closing your own.

This is also a great way to convert cash-back points into full Ultimate Rewards points. Just note that you may need to call to accomplish this.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Policy: Citi ThankYou points are forfeited 90 days after you cancel a card if you don’t have another card that earns ThankYou points associated with your ThankYou Rewards account.

Exceptions/workarounds: If you combine your rewards with those from another account that remains open, you should be able to redeem or transfer them to one of the program’s airline or hotel partners. If you don’t have another Citi ThankYou account open at the time of account closure, you will forfeit your points after 90 days.

ThankYou Rewards also allows you to share points with a friend or family member who is also a ThankYou member. However, you’re limited to 100,000 points per calendar year, and all shared points must be redeemed within 90 days.

Bottom line

Canceling a credit card may be worth it to avoid an annual fee if you no longer use the card, but it’s essential to know how that will affect the points or miles you’ve earned (but haven’t redeemed) on that card. While most airline- and hotel-specific cards won’t take back the points that have already posted to your account, many cards affiliated with a specific issuer won’t be as forgiving.

Redeeming those points before canceling is your best bet, but you also have a few additional strategies to keep them in your possession or share with other cardholders.