One of my favorite cards for the past year has been the Sapphire Preferred from Chase.
I absolutely love the Ultimate Rewards program due to the flexibility of its 1:1 point transfers to a variety of partners, including Southwest, United, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott and several more.
Even so, after a year with the card, I decided the time had come to move on. I also hold the Chase Freedom and Chase Ink Bold cards, both of which earn Ultimate Rewards points. Chase Freedom alone can’t take advantage of the 1:1 transfer feature, but it’s possible to earn points with that card and combine them with points earned on Sapphire Preferred or Ink, both of which do offer this option. As such, I can still earn Ultimate Rewards points with Freedom and Ink and then, via Ink, transfer them out to other programs.
Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel purchases, but from April to June, Freedom will be offering 5x points at restaurants. As for travel, my Ink card earns 2x points on hotel expenses, and nearly all of my flights these days are paid for using points.
In the few cases where I might have a paid travel expense other than hotels, I can always use my Arrival card and earn double points that I can turn around and use to wipe out some or all of the expense later on, or earn double miles on my Citi AAdvantage card thanks to a promotion I negotiated when its annual fee came due last month.
As such, there just wasn’t room in my portfolio to keep Sapphire Preferred if Chase couldn’t give me a good reason to stick around. I spoke with them about waiving the annual fee, offering some bonus points or a spending challenge that might give me the extra motivation needed to keep the card around, but each of these were promptly denied. It seems Chase tows a hard line on Sapphire Preferred and isn’t willing to wheel and deal on the card the way they might with other products.
Having decided to shut the card down, I took steps to make releasing the card as pain-free as possible:
Preparing To Cancel A Card
First, I went through my last few statements to identify any recurring expenses I had charged to my Sapphire Preferred. I called each vendor and moved the monthly charges to a different card, starting with the next payments coming up. This was important to ensure I didn’t accidentally run into any late charges or payment issues when they tried to charge the card the next month.
Pay All But The Fee
Next, I went to Chase’s website and paid off my card’s balance except for the $95 annual fee, which had already posted to my account. If I had paid this as well, I’d still be due a refund for the fee, since I was canceling the card within 60 days of the fee posting.
Rather than dealing with the hassle of a check, by paying off all of the balance on the card except the annual fee, Chase could simply close the account without any additional steps.
Transfer Out Points
This is a step that applies only to cards that earn “bank” points like Ultimate Rewards cards by Chase and Membership Rewards cards by American Express. When closing a Citi AAdvantage card, for example, you won’t lose any AAdvantage miles, because these miles are kept with your American Airlines account, not with Citi. However, when closing an Ultimate Rewards account, you can lose your points if you don’t first transfer them out.
If you only hold one such card, transferring them to a partner program, like Southwest or Hyatt, might be the best option. Since I hold Freedom and Ink, I instead transferred all of the points in my Sapphire Preferred account over to my Ink account, where they could be safely sheltered, since I have no plans to close it anytime soon.
I spoke with someone recently who called Chase to close an Ultimate Rewards card before moving out their points, and they were saddened by the fact that they lost several thousand points’ worth of free travel due to the mistake. Make sure that point balance reads zero before making your call to officially close your card!
Transferring Credit Limit To Another Card
This is a step that many people also don’t consider, but can help in a number of ways. When closing a card, you obviously lose access to the credit it provided. That can cause your credit utilization ratio to rise, given that your same spending is now applied to a lower total amount of credit. This can impact your credit score, as explained here.
Also, if you plan on applying for another card within a few months of closing one, the amount of available credit from the closed card might still count against you. Let’s say Chase is willing to grant no more than $10,000 of credit to you, and you had a credit line of $6,000 on a Sapphire Preferred. If you were to close the Sapphire Preferred, for the next several months, you’d only have a maximum of $4,000 in other credit available with Chase in total, which could be too little to open a new account if you already have another Chase card.
It’s always better to have more credit with a company than less, as shifting credit line from an existing card to a new one is one of the easiest ways for card operators to approve you for a new card. As such, before shutting a card down, you should request to move most of its credit line to another card if you have more than one with the same company.
In my case, I sent a secure message to Chase on their website requesting they move all but $1,000 of my Sapphire Preferred’s credit line to my Freedom card. They took care of this in less than 24 hours with no fuss. While I don’t really need that much credit space on my Freedom, it gives me a tool I can use to negotiate opening, say, one of Chase’s Southwest cards later in the year if I’d like.
A Fond Farewell
After completing these housekeeping steps, I called Chase and the phone rep quickly took me through the process of closing out the card, with no muss or fuss. There were no last minute deals to be had, as Chase truly wasn’t making any special offers to stick around, so the whole process took less than five minutes.
I’ll miss my Sapphire Preferred, but with a variety of other ways on hand to also earn valuable points, there was simply no real justification for paying its $95 annual fee. That’s money better spent on future travel plans! While I’m grateful for the free travel I was able to accrue with the card, and I’d be happy to sign up for it again in the future if any opportunity presents itself, it was time to move on. In the miles and points game, there’s no room for sentimentality; only for the next great deal!
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