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