How I Lost a Credit Card Referral Bonus — Reader Mistake Story

Sep 24, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Julia, who closed a credit card account prematurely. Here’s what she had to say:

I sent my friend a referral link for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card to get 20,000 bonus points. About a month after my annual fee posted for my own Marriott Premier card, I decided to cancel it, since I was not given a retention offer and upgrading to the Plus version would have only earned me 20,000 points (versus applying normally and getting the larger sign-up bonus). I canceled the card and transferred my credit line to my other Chase cards.

My friend ended up getting approved, but I didn’t find out until after I canceled my own card. I send Chase a secure message to see if anything could be done, and got a response saying that the referral went through and I would see the 20,000 points on my next statement (I was still receiving statements since I hadn’t yet requested a refund of my annual fee). The next statement came, but the points never posted to my Marriott account even after a long wait. My statement also indicated “Points currently unavailable for redemption,” so I got worried.

I called Chase and was told that points earned within 30 days after account closure would transfer, but my referral bonus was just outside that window. I then read online that I could reopen my closed account, and the representative I spoke with confirmed that would reinstate the points. But unfortunately, neither she nor her supervisor were able to do it because I had consolidated my credit line. I ended up losing 20,000 Marriott points (worth $180 based on your valuations). Next time I’ll follow up on my referrals before closing an account, as I would have rather paid the $85 annual fee and kept the points.

One of the steps you should take before canceling a credit card is to protect your rewards. If your card is linked to an airline or hotel program, then you’ll just need to make sure any points you’ve already earned are transferred before closing your account. If your rewards are specific to your card issuer (like Chase Ultimate Rewards), then you’ll need to transfer or otherwise use those points before canceling. In either case, be mindful of balances that are pending beyond your current statement, as referrals and other bonuses can take weeks or even months to post.

In this era of mounting credit card application restrictions, another important consideration is how canceling one card will impact your ability to get others both in the present and down the line. Chase and Amex recently began imposing a number of restrictions on co-branded Marriott and SPG cards, one of which is that current Marriott Rewards Premier cardholders (or previous cardholders who received a bonus within the past 24 months) are ineligible for the Premier Plus card. That means Julia may have to wait to apply for the new version, depending on when she earned her initial bonus.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Julia for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image by  @littlepp1910/Twenty20

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.