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How Hard Is It to Cancel a Credit Card, and Will You Lose Your Points?

The reason I wanted to write this post was due to something a new reader said in an email. That person mentioned that he doesn’t want to sign up for cards just for bonus’ sake. Why? Because it’s too much hassle to cancel them later on.

So, recently, I’ve had to put one of my cards on the chopping block. I wanted to time how long the entire process would take. It was a Citi Thank You Premier, so I had to log into my online profile and send a secure message:

citi card cancel

This took about  a minute total. Ten minutes later I got  a message in my email account saying that I got a response from Citi. I logged back in, and the card was already canceled. Thank You, Citi, pun intended.

Note that first I redeemed all my points tied to that card, see this post for more. Citi is quite different from other issuers in this respect since the points expire after 30 days even if you transfer them to another account. With Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can send them to your spouse for free as long as they have Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus.

When it comes to American Express, you would have to have a card that earns the same type of rewards in order to preserve your stash. They don’t do “mix and match” the way Chase does with their Ultimate Rewards program, as in combine points earned via Chase Freedom with those earned via one of their premium cards.

Note that I’m referring to bank-issued points. If you have an airline or hotel co-branded credit card and the miles or hotel points are already deposited in your account, you won’t lose them.

Back to cancellation. Most card issuers have a similar process. Well, except one: Bank of America. Six months ago I had to cancel  a card, so I sent a secure message. To my shock, I got a response that I needed to call in order to do it. I don’t know if that’s their standard policy or I just got a super eager agent intent on keeping me as a customer.

Of course, when I called I was given a speech on how great the card is, blah blah blah.  I did get it canceled, but it was an annoying process, for sure. If I had to do it with every single offer, I would be much more picky with my choices.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to repeat the process again in a few months with Bank of America Spirit MasterCard, only this time my husband will be the one calling (gasp!)  I’m trying to select an appropriate reward in advance.

Fortunately, Bank of America doesn’t usually have the most lucrative offers. So, if you are just starting out, you will most likely end up  going with Chase, American Express, Citi or Barclays. All of those issuers let you cancel via secure message, at least the last time I checked.

With Amex, you’ll usually  have to do an online chat with a rep, but it’s no big deal. Plus, sometimes they will end up offering you a perk to keep the card. As I’ve said many times, if you like a certain product but don’t want to pay a fee, always try to get a retention offer. You won’t know until you ask.

Generally, if I’m certain I’ll end up canceling the card later on, I avoid putting any recurring  charges on it as to avoid future hassle. I also tend to do it at 10 month’ mark to give myself plenty of time to avoid the annual fee. Of course, sometimes there is an option to convert the card to a no-fee version.

Bottom line

My point with this post is not to encourage readers to do something they are not comfortable with. I think everyone needs to find the right balance when it comes to how often they sign up for credit cards. In general, my advice for busy families is to pick a few good long-term products and get 1 or 2 new bonuses per year IF they can easily manage it. The choice is yours.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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7 thoughts on “How Hard Is It to Cancel a Credit Card, and Will You Lose Your Points?

    • Julie, I’m very glad! It’s very hard to figure out which content will be helpful because my readers are all at different stages in this hobby. I try to mix it up. Some posts are a bit more advanced, some deal with basic concepts. Please, feel free to email me if you have any other questions. I honestly will be happy to help and do research if needed.

  1. Funny, I’ve never tried that because I’m always willing to call and potentially receive a lucrative retention offer. But that is a good route for people who want an easy exit. However…the other reason that I call is to move the available credit line over to another card before cancellation. For example, if I have a $5K limit on card A and $5K on card B from the same bank, I ask them to move the credit line from A->B so that B now has a $10K limit BEFORE I allow them to cancel A.

    I stress BEFORE because I’ve encountered reps that acted fast as soon as they heard the word “close” and it’s nearly impossible to get that credit line back without going through a standard “request credit line increase” process that usually results in another hard pull. From what I understand, preserving your overall available credit line helps with the “credit utilization” component of your score.

    In my experience, Barclay’s, Chase, and Amex will do the credit transfer, no problem. Citi is weird – they won’t allow you to move the credit between existing cards without doing a hard pull because they see it the same as the “request credit line increase” process. However, if you apply for a new card (which also does a pull) they have no problem transferring it over.

    That brings up another point: if you “save” your available credit this way, it can help you get approved for multiple cards from the same bank. For example, let’s say you have Chase’s United, Marriott, BA, Southwest, and Freedom cards. A great Hyatt card offer appears. You apply for it and don’t get an instant decision. Bummer…but rather than give up, just call the reconsideration line and ask about the status of your application. The credit analyst will probably ask several questions – be truthful – but when they ask why you want the card, avoid saying “because I want the bonus”. It would be better to say something like “I am planning to increase my stays at Hyatt properties in the future and the card’s benefits are attractive to me.” Which is true, why else would you want the bonus? 🙂

    The conversation may lead to a point where either the analyst or you offer to move credit from an existing card in order to approve the new card. (I’m just using Chase as an example because they have so many top travel brands. Depending on your personal situation and some of their new policies, they may not actually allow YOU to have 6 cards. But the principle is the same.)

    • @Erik What you are saying makes sense. I know a lot of people like to transfer their credit line before closing. Personally, I’ve never done it because 1) I’m lazy and prefer to just get it over with, 2) Large credit line can backfire on your future apps with the same issuer. Every bank will only extend a certain amount of credit, and once you meet it, you’ll have to call them and convince them over the phone. So, ironically, not having that large credit line to begin with can actually work to your advantage and help with instant approval.

      This is especially true in the case of Barclays. That bank can be a bit stingy with credit lines. With Chase, credit line re-allocation used to be a sure bet for approval on a new offer, but not anymore. Latest data indicates that Chase reps are looking at the number of inquiries and won’t budge if they perceive you as a churner. So, once again, a smaller line to begin with may work to your advantage. Of course, this is all very speculative. If I knew a formula for credit card approval with any given bank (other than good credit score), I think even hobbyists would pay to acquire it. And as you know, hobbyists don’t like to pay for anything!

      • I’ve read people complaining about Barclays being “stingy” but in my experience, it has been exactly the opposite. I have had a very long relationship with them that is easily over 5 years so maybe that is a factor. In fact, if I park my Barclay cards in a drawer for a few months, I’ll inevitably receive a targeted bonus offer to start using them again. Never had an issue with Chase either, but again I think my relationship goes back even further in time than Barclays. Who knows. They can certainly see what I’m spending on competitor’s accounts when they pull the credit report and I’m often given similar or higher credit lines, so maybe it’s simply a “when banks compete, you win” situation.

    • @Erik Barclays is a unique kind of beast. I don’t think anyone has successfully cracked their code (Enigma?) yet. Some like Stefan from Rapid Travel Chai can’t seem to get approval no matter what they do. Others seem to get cards without an issue. Barclays has shut down my husband’s apps a few times, but we did get Wyndham card via instant approval. I think it does depend on a product. And yes, they are very good at sending out those targeted offers when you stop using their cards. Love them!
      Chase is a bit more predictable, I think. If you have good history with them, you are usually “in.” That said, the latest developments indicate that they are cracking down even on longtime customers when it comes to new apps.

  2. Pingback: Is Credit Line Reallocation a No-Brainer? | Miles For Family

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