Credit Card Cash Back Doesn’t Last Forever. This Is How Long You Have Before Your Rewards Expire, by Issuer

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Accidentally letting your credit card cash back rewards expire can feel like losing hard-earned money — especially if you were saving up your points to redeem for something special. That’s why it’s important to understand the terms and conditions of your credit card agreement to avoid missing out on free cash. 

The good news is that cash back programs from most credit card issuers allow you to use your points indefinitely, as long as your account is in good standing. But, there are always exceptions. If you’re wondering whether your particular credit card’s cash back rewards will expire, read on. We’ll go over each issuer’s policy in detail and provide some expert advice for maximizing your credit card rewards earnings and redemptions. 

When Cash Back Rewards Expire by Credit Card Issuer

“Most cash back rewards from the major credit card issuers don’t expire, but there are some that do, so you really have to pay attention to the rewards program so you understand what the rule is,” says Beverly Harzog, bestselling author and credit card expert for U.S. News and World Report. 

Some issuers may freeze your access to earning and redeeming rewards while your account is delinquent. With others, you may lose your points irrevocably if you make a late payment or otherwise violate the terms of your agreement. “It’s important that cardholders remain in good standing so that they can continue to take advantage of their credit card’s rewards program, in addition to avoiding other implications from having a delinquent account,” says Paramita Pal, head of U.S. Bankcard at TD Bank.

If you’re planning to close a credit card, Harzog recommends redeeming your rewards before you close your account, since you typically won’t have access to them afterward. 

Here’s what you need to know about cash back rewards expiration by issuer: 

Chase

Chase Ultimate Rewards points never expire as long as your account remains open. But you’ll immediately lose all your rewards without the possibility of getting them reinstated if:

  • You close your account and don’t redeem your points within 30 days
  • Your account becomes more than 60 days past due
  • You violate the terms of your Chase agreement
  • You file for bankruptcy
  • Chase believes you are unwilling or unable to pay or that you’ve engaged in fraudulent activity related to the program (like buying or selling points) or misused the program in any way

If you die, Chase automatically redeems your rewards as a statement credit. 

Capital One

Capital One rewards never expire as long as your account remains open, and there’s no limit on what you can earn. The only way to lose your Capital One rewards is to close your account. However, you won’t be able to redeem your rewards during a time when your account is “suspended, restricted, delinquent, or otherwise in default.”

Wells Fargo

If you close your last remaining Wells Fargo credit card account, Wells Fargo will close your rewards account and you’ll immediately forfeit any points you’ve earned in your entire account. If you have multiple Wells Fargo credit cards and close one of them, your rewards will remain in your rewards account. If you have multiple cards and Wells Fargo closes one of them, you’ll lose any points on the card being closed, but no other rewards in your account will be affected.

You also can’t earn or redeem rewards while your account is delinquent, which happens if you do not make a minimum payment on time. But you’ll have access to them once your account is returned to good standing. 

If your card is closed due to your death, your estate must notify Wells Fargo within one year to redeem any rewards on the account. 

American Express

If you cancel your American Express credit card, you’ll immediately lose your points, unless you have another linked product in your rewards account. If American Express cancels your card due to inactivity, you’ll still have 90 days to redeem your rewards. If you don’t pay your bill on-time, you’ll forfeit the points earned during that billing period — to get them back, you must pay applicable late fees and return your account to good standing before requesting your rewards from American Express. 

Discover

With Discover, your account must be in good standing to earn rewards, but your points never expire. If you close your account or don’t use your card for 18 months, Discover will send you a check or credit your account with your rewards. 

Bank of America

As long as your account is in good standing, which means your account is open and you have the privilege of making charges, your Bank of America rewards don’t expire. If you close your account voluntarily or if Bank of America closes it due to a violation, you’ll immediately forfeit your points. 

U.S. Bank

Your cash back rewards expire 36 months after the billing cycle in which they were earned. You’ll also immediately lose all of your cash back if you close your account voluntarily or if your account is closed due to program misuse, delinquency, bankruptcy, or death. If you violate the terms of your agreement or pay late, you won’t be able to redeem your points until your account is once again in good standing. 

Barclays

With Barclays credit cards, minimum and maximum redemption requirements apply, but you won’t lose your points unless your account is closed, you engage in fraudulent or illegal activity related to the program, or your account is not in good standing according to the terms of your agreement. 

USAA

If you close your account voluntarily, you’ll have 90 days to redeem your points. If your account becomes delinquent, your only option for redeeming your rewards is to call and request a statement credit. You also will not be able to earn points while you’re in default or if you are suspected of fraud or abuse of the program. Otherwise, your rewards won’t expire

Transferring Points to Other Programs

Bear in mind that if you transfer your points to a partner airline or other program, you’ll also be bound by that program’s expiration rules. So if you plan to transfer your points to an airline or hotel loyalty program, make sure you understand the airline or hotel’s rules for expiration of points. 

Should I Use My Cash Back Rewards?

“I would usually recommend credit cardholders to use your points sooner than later,” says Pal. “It’s money today as opposed to money tomorrow, so the value is better.” 

Harzog agrees. “Sometimes a credit card issuer will change the rewards program, and it’s their right to do that,” she says. “Since things are always subject to change, I don’t recommend hanging on to your cash back.” 

There are a few instances when you may want to hold onto your rewards, however. You might want to redeem them for travel, but you may not be ready to book a trip. You may be saving up for a larger redemption. Or, you may be aware of a promotion coming soon that allows you to redeem your points for boosted value. If you’re in any of those situations, it’s okay to hold onto your points — just make sure you understand your issuer’s expiration rules. 

How Do I Redeem Cash Back Rewards?

Earning and redeeming credit card rewards is simple in theory, but some thought is needed to get the most value out of your cards. “It’s very important to use your credit cards strategically,” says Harzog. That means maximizing your both earnings and redemptions. 

Pro Tip

Often, your points will be worth relatively more or less depending on what you redeem them for. Do the math to determine which redemption option will deliver the maximum value for your points.

To maximize your point earnings on your everyday spending, make sure you’re picking the right rewards card for your lifestyle. “The best way to start is by tracking your expenses and knowing your own spending pattern,” says Pal. “Then you can go for a credit card that rewards you in your highest spending category.” 

“If you’re not finding your rewards valuable,” Pal adds, “it’s an opportunity for cardholders to reevaluate their credit card and consider an option that aligns more closely with their spending.”

Once you’re ready to redeem your rewards, follow these steps:

  1. Decide how to use your points. Some issuers will offer multiple options for redeeming your rewards points — such as cash back, statement credit, gift cards, travel, and more — so you should look at all your redemption options and determine how to get the maximum value. For example, your points might be worth more if you use them to book travel. 
  2. Log in to your online account and look for a link to redeem your rewards, or head directly to the credit card issuer’s rewards portal. 
  3. Follow any prompts and complete the necessary steps to redeem your points for travel, gift cards, a statement credit, or whatever option you choose. You can choose how many points you want to redeem.