How You Could Lose Your Credit Card Rewards

A woman holds a credit card while talking on the phone
© JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty

It can take a lot of time and spending to accumulate enough credit card rewards to redeem for something significant like free hotel stay or even a $25 statement credit. Losing credit card rewards can feel almost like losing cash from your wallet. The fine print of your rewards program will detail the specific things that could cause you to lose your rewards. Here are some of the most common reasons.

Make a late payment. You probably already know that paying late comes with consequences like a late payment, higher interest rate, and damage to your credit. Paying late on a rewards credit card can also cause you to forfeit your rewards and you may not be able to get them back just by bringing your account current. Be careful to always pay on time with your rewards credit card.

Let your credit card go dormant. Not only does not using your card mean you’re not earning any new rewards, you’re also at risk of losing the rewards you’ve already earned. Use your credit card about once every three months and your rewards should be safe. Refer to your credit card terms to learn how often you need to use your card to keep your rewards.

Let your rewards expire. While many credit cards allow you to earn unlimited rewards that never expire, there are other credit cards that do expire your rewards after a few months.

Pay attention to the expiration date for your rewards – especially retail store rewards – and use them before they expire.

Close your account. If you decide you want to close your account for whatever reason, it’s best to use up your rewards first. Some credit cards let you transfer your rewards to another credit card with the same rewards program or to the hotel or airline partner loyalty program before closing your card.

Otherwise, once you close your account, you’ll lose any rewards you’ve accumulated, even those you earned that didn’t post to your account before you closed the card.

Credit cards that come with a signup bonus may rescind your bonus if you cancel your account within a few months of opening the account. Leaving your account open for at least a year should protect you from losing the sign up bonus.

Return an item or receive a refund for a purchase. Credit card issuers have to have a provision like this in place, otherwise, people would max out their cards to earn rewards then return the items and keep the reward. Don’t let the risk of losing rewards make you keep an item you don’t want or can’t afford. You can always earn the rewards again with future purchases.

Make a purchase using near field communications or a digital wallet. You don’t technically lose rewards when you make a purchase using NFC technology or a digital wallet, but you may not earn rewards on those purchases. This often applies for rewards earned on certain categories of purchases.

Because of the merchant code used for these purchases, credit card issuers can’t determine what you purchased in the transaction.

Thankfully, this isn’t true for Apple Pay or other payment technologies that use tokenization to secure your credit card transaction.

You can also lose you rewards if the credit card issuer changes the reward program. Of course, this you cannot control. The card issuer may give you a chance to use your rewards before the program changes. If they do, make sure you act immediately so you don’t lose all the rewards you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Continue Reading...