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BIG Benefits for Canceling and NOT Using Credit Cards

9:00 AM

As most of you know introductory credit card offers are one of the main strategies we use to collect miles and points that allow us to travel cheap.  The bonus miles we've collected by signing up for credit cards over the years have provided us with trips all over the world and saved us thousands of dollars.  For someone who is such an advocate for introductory credit card offers this post might seem out of place, but let me explain.

BIG Benefits for Canceling Credit Cards 
  • Special Offers
    • Last week I canceled my AAdvantage CITI AMEX credit card.  Whenever you call to cancel a credit card you are sent to the retention department because they want to keep your business.  The agent on the phone was very polite and offered to waive the annual fee for the AMEX plus give me 3 miles per dollar for the next 12 months if I spent at least $750 per month.  It sounded like a good deal to me so I kept the card.
  •  Bonus Miles
    • One of the things I used to do is call the bank about 10 after I had received it to cancel my card to make sure I didn't pay the annual fee.  One time I was canceling a AMEX Skymiles card and they offered me 10,000-15,000 bonus miles if I didn't cancel right then so I didn't.
  •  Anniversary Gifts
    • Banks often times give card holders anniversary gifts like $99 companion flights (with full price purchase), free night stays, anniversary points or miles and more.  Weigh to options to see if these anniversary gifts make it worth it to keep the card.  The only card I pay the annual fee on is my Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card.  I pay $99 per year and receive 6,000 Rapid Rewards ($96 worth of points).  It's pretty much a wash on the reward so I have elected to keep that card since I'll end up using the points anyway.
BIG Benefits for Not Using Credit Cards 
  • First Purchase Cards
    • Some of the travel credit cards I've signed for give you big introductory bonuses after you have made your first purchase.  I usually fill up my car with a dollar worth of gas and then shelve the card until its one year anniversary.  The reason I don't use it again is because I'm usually already using a card that requires a minimum spend each month to get the introductory card offer. 
  •   Special Offers
    • At the beginning of March I signed up for the U.S. Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard and received 35,000 miles after my first purchased.  I didn't use the card again after that first purchase and at the end of April I received a mailer that said if I charged $750 per month for May, June and July I would get an additional 15,000 miles added to my account.  By not using the card I was eligible for this promotion which probably wasn't offered to frequent card users. 
Canceling Credit Cards 101
  • Annual Fees
    • Many travel related credit cards require an annual fee of $50-$100+ just to retain the card and keep using it.  The good news is most of the time this annual fee is waived for the first year, but what do you do after the first year?  Generally I will cancel the card prior to the one year anniversary to avoid paying the annual fee.  If you forget to cancel and you notice the annual fee on your one year anniversary statement then call the bank and I've never had a problem with them crediting the annual fee and canceling the card.
  • Stepping Down
    • Often times when you have a travel credit card there is a similar card offered by the bank that has no annual fee, but doesn't have fewer benefits than the paid card.  I will usually keep the card if I can step down to a card with no annual fee.  I probably won't ever use the card, but I take the free card because I keeping the credit card open is healthy for my credit.  I've done this with the Chase Sapphire and AAdvantage CITI Visa card. 
  • Careful to Cancel
    • You definitely don't want to cancel a rewards credit card prior to actually getting your miles or points.  When your airline or hotel miles or points are transferred successfully to the airline or hotel rewards programs within the airline or hotel the points are now yours and the bank can't take them away from you.  The exception to this is Chase Ultimate Rewards, CITI Thank You Points, Discover Card, AMEX Memebership Rewards and there may be others.  If you cancel your card and you haven't transfered your points out of these 'bank' rewards programs when you cancel you will lose your points, so you need to transfer them.
  • When to Cancel
    • You don't want to cancel your credit card any earlier than 9-12 months prior to the one year anniversary.  If you only sign up for credit cards, get the points and then cancel soon after you get your points then your reputation with the bank may be jeopardized for future credit card approvals.  
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Disclaimer: Ideas in this blog post are from my own personal experiences and actual results may vary based on offers available at the time.  This is not professional advice. Reader to verify all information and offers are subject to change without notice.

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  1. So, you don't routinely cancel your cards before the 9-12 month mark or you do? I thought you SHOULD cancel it so you can be eligible for another bonus miles opportunity on that same kind of card 12 months after you cancel.

  2. I got the same offer on the US Airways card. Have you gotten your 15,000 bonus points yet? I haven't. I'm waiting on that before canceling the card, as I have quite a few already.

  3. Thanks Mike, this is really good info. By stepping down, do you mean you keep the card and its number but it actually becomes a different card? Or do they send you a new one with different number? Also are you saying for Chase Ultimate Rewards, CITI Thank You Points, Discover Card and AMEX Memebership Rewards you will lose those points after cancelling the card even if you transferred the points to those programs? Thanks.

  4. Thanks for your comment. Stepping down means that they downgrade you to another card that has no annual fee. You get a new card and a new number. As far as losing points it depends on the program, but I know you need to transfer your AMEX Memebership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to another points program or you will lose them.

  5. Mrs. Diner - I keep my cards open as long as possible because it's better for your credit. If you decide to cancel do so at the end of the year. If you are constantly signing up for new cards, getting the bonus offers and then canceling, the banks will catch on and you may be blacklisted for future credit card offers.

  6. Hi Jessie - I called Barclays about the U.S. Airways promotion and they said it takes two billing cycles until the rewards show up so watch for it in September. Thanks!


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