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Sunday Reader Question: Risk Of Losing Miles When Canceling A Card

by on August 12, 2012 · 11 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions, United

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TPG reader Grayson asks an important question about the risk of losing miles when cancelling a credit card:

“Do I need to worry about losing the significant number of miles I have in my account if I want to cancel the United Explorer card?

One stated benefit of the card is that miles won’t expire, however in readying the T&Cs, I see ‘Upon cancellation of your credit card account, your miles will expire according to the MileagePlus program rules.”‘

Am I safe to assume this means that it will revert back to expiring at the regular rate, rather than that my miles will  just expire upon cancellation?”

I’m very happy you asked this because a lot of people have the same question and the way United has phrased it in the T&C is very confusing. I’ve gotten into a lot of exchanges with people who misinterpret that to mean that they will lose all their miles if they cancel the United card – that is not true.  What they’re trying to say here is when having the card open and active, your miles will automatically remain active as long as you are spending on the card every month.  However if you cancel the card your miles will be subject to the normal rules, which state that miles expire after 18 consecutive months of account inactivity. The only way your miles would expire is if you cancel the card and there is absolutely no activity on the account for an extended period of time.  To let this happen would be a very silly thing to do since there are so many ways to keep your account active even if it’s just by buying a song on iTunes. So if you want to cancel your card you can do so without worrying about your miles.

It’s easy to keep your miles from expiring, even if you don’t fly.

As a general tip I recommend not cancelling a credit card within 6 months of opening. If it’s clear to credit card companies that you are just opening and closing accounts, they could potentially take the miles back or black list you so I personally like to keep credit cards open for at least 6 months before cancelling. For more information on when to cancel a credit you should take a look at this post.

Also note: Amex/Chase/Citi will expire your points if you close all of your cards with their transferable points programs like Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards, so use those points or transfer them before closing!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Hseplow1

    Hi Brian,

    Do the banks notify you when your annual fee is due or is it on you to remember when a year has passed? I have a bunch of cards that are free for the first year only but that I don’t want to keep. How do I know when to cancel?

  • Zilawapinski

    When the annual fee shows up on your monthly bill, you can then call and cancel or ask for a fee waiver, which is what I did for my usair mc recently

  • AsherO

    You should clarify that mileage cards (or other partner points), the miles won’t be lost, but for bank points (Amex MR, Chase UR, Citi TYP etc) you can lose your point when you cancel (in at least some instances).

    You can also lose spend/bonus points when cancelling if the points didn’t post yet.

  • Tom

    Did US Air waive the fee or offer miles? Just got my annual fee and want to call and possibly cancel but alos want to have a card come Grand Slam time..

  • Webazoid

    I have bank of Hawaii and bofa hAwaain airlines cards as well as us airways card that I got about 5 or 6 months ago. Haven’t really been using this card since. When should I cancel in order to churn? Is time now?

  • dsssp

    Amex MR points expire immediately if you cancel a amex personal card without a remaining card linked with the membership rewards program. With amex business charge cards, you have 30 days after cancellation to use /transfer points before the points are forfeited. In preparation for a churn, I made the mistake of cancelling the PRG, personal gold and business gold in short order prior to transferring my MR points and my 377K MR points were forfeited. If you reapply and get approved for a MR linked card within a year ( can get a no fee card), then you can request reinstatement of the forfeited MR points. Otherwise you have to write (no online/secure message or phone requests) the ‘ MR Correspondence Unit’ to request a one time reinstatement of miles so that u can transfer them to a partner program or cash them out.

  • thepointsguy

    Good to know! You must have had a heart attack when you found out 377k points expired!

  • thepointsguy

    at the 6 month mark should be fine

  • thepointsguy

    Added in that disclaimer

  • TomT

    So even if you close all your Chase card.. you will unable to use access or use your UR?

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- so transfer them or use them before you close all UR cards

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