Here’s what to do if you have a negative balance on your credit cards

May 7, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

Credit card balances tend to only move in one direction. The more you spend the higher they get, until you pay your bill and the number goes back to zero. However, with many people around the world canceling upcoming travel plans that they’ve already paid for due to the coronavirus, you may find yourself with a negative balance on your cards. TPG reader David wants to know what to do about that …

I had a trip planned to Bali this June that I paid for using my Amex Platinum. Because of COVID-19 I had to cancel, and when the airlines refunded my tickets I ended up with a negative balance on my Platinum card. Is there anything I can do to get this money back or is it stuck there?


For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

First off, let’s back up and explore how David ended up in this situation. For the sake of convenience let’s just say that his entire trip cost exactly $1,000. Months ago, when David was planning, he would’ve booked flights using The Platinum Card® from American Express as he mentioned, and then paid off the balance in full. This would’ve left him with a $0 balance on his card and fully paid-for plane tickets. Now that the trip has been canceled and refunded, his card would actually have a negative balance.

If you find yourself in this situation (like I have on three different cards recently), you have two choices. The easiest option is to just leave everything as is and continue spending on that card. In David’s example, he could charge $1,000 worth of groceries, gas or really anything to his Platinum card and he wouldn’t owe any additional money since it would just come out of the negative balance. This works best if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve with strong and diverse bonus categories, and especially ones like dining that are still useful during the current pandemic, and you might not want to spend $1,000 on an Amex Platinum since the card only earns 1x point per dollar outside of its limited 5x airfare when booked directly with the airline and through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, starting Jan. 1, 2021) and on prepaid hotel bookings via Amex Travel.

Related: The best credit cards for everyday spending

Thankfully, when I called both Chase and Amex to inquire about this issue over the last few months, the customer service agents were happy to deposit that balance directly to my linked bank account and in all three cases the money showed up in just one or two business days. This is a much better option — not only does it give you more liquidity at a time of economic uncertainty, but it allows you to then put your future expenses on the cards that earn the most bonus points. Not every bank is this generous, and I can only speak to my personal experience with Chase and Amex.

Some banks may insist on sending you a check via snail mail which can be frustrating if you want or need the money sooner, and some might not allow it at all. In that case, you’d probably want to use the card in question for most of your upcoming purchases until you’d used up the negative balance. “Free” money, especially right now, is probably worth more than a few extra bonus points.

Bottom line

David’s first move should be to call Amex and ask them to credit the negative balance back to his linked bank account. I’ve done this twice in recent weeks, and the process took less than 48 hours each time. If your bank isn’t as generous, you can continue charging new purchases to the card until you use up the negative balance.

Thanks for the question, David, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.