lose your credit card rewardsCredit cards and rewards usually go hand-in-hand. After all, it’s a major plus if you can earn cash back, points or miles for using your credit card responsibly. That said, while certain credit cards can give you the opportunity to reap huge rewards, if you aren’t careful, you can find yourself being caught unawares and losing those hard-earned perks. To prevent you from having to experience such a loss, we’re explaining three ways you can lose your credit card rewards — and how to avoid making those missteps.

Not knowing your rewards program well

If you aren’t familiar with your credit card’s rewards program and haven’t been staying up-to-date on its offerings, you might want to do a 180. Not knowing your card’s term and conditions can cost you major rewards. That’s because your card’s terms note specific policies associated with your rewards, meaning they explain what could block you from earning rewards, decrease the value of the rewards you’ve earned or cause you to lose them altogether. As such, it’s beneficial to always know your rewards program’s terms inside and out.

If you would like a specific example, just take one of our top-rated rewards credit cards, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card. Its terms and conditions state, “Cash Rewards do not expire while this Credit Card account is open,” which means cardholders won’t have to worry about their rewards expiring if their account is open. Since terms and conditions can change at any time, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for any updates to your card’s terms or program (your issuer will alert you of such changes), as they could impact your rewards — or more.

How to avoid losing your credit card rewards in this way: Simply read whatever credit card agreements and terms come your way. We know that reading these terms can be difficult, so make sure to check out our guide to reading these agreements when you’re trying to learn more about your cards. Additionally, before you apply for a card, make sure you completely understand the rewards program, as you don’t want any surprises along the way.

You miss payments or break the rules

Other blunders that can result in lost credit cards rewards are missing payments or breaking rules. When you open a credit card, you agree to make payments to the card and repay the balance. As such, it’s really no surprise that if you miss a payment or default on the card, your issuer may opt to take your rewards away from you as a form of punishment.

Also, it probably goes without saying, but breaking other rules can also land you in hot water, and it could lead to a loss of credit card rewards. For example, if you complete a cash advance with your card, and fail to pay it within the terms, you may end up losing any rewards you earned on purchases. While each card comes with a separate set of rules and policies, some examples of breaking the rules could include violations of the card’s terms and conditions, gaming the program or carrying out fraud — all of which are things you should avoid.

How to avoid losing your credit card rewards in this way: If you abide by the rules your card notes in its terms and conditions, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your credit card rewards. Those who worry they may miss payments should budget to make sure they can afford anything they are charging to their credit card. If you do miss a payment, contact the issuer of your card to let them know. Want to learn more? Read our guide to preventing missed payments.

Your card is canceled before you redeem rewards

If your credit card account is canceled, either because you canceled it or the issuer did, you might lose your rewards. In many cases (but not all), the rewards you earn stay put for the life of the account if it’s in “good standing.” However, you could lose the rewards that you haven’t redeemed if your account is closed — whether by you or by the issuer due to inactivity. Keep in mind that some cards’ rewards could expire even before an account is closed, depending on the card. While some issuers may cut a check or credit your account with unused rewards balances, that isn’t a guarantee. As noted in the first point of this post, knowing your rewards program inside out can give you a heads-up and save you many headaches down the road.

How to avoid losing your credit card rewards in this way: Try to avoid canceling your credit card accounts, as doing so can result in a loss of your rewards and some damage to your credit history. If you do plan to cancel a credit card, make sure you redeem all of the rewards beforehand.

Now that you know more about how to avoid losing your credit card rewards, you’re ready to enjoy credit cards and all that they can offer you! To learn about some of the top rewards credit cards, read our reviews of the best credit cards. Additionally, follow our credit cards blog to learn more about how you can make the most of your credit card membership.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.