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1. Missing payments

Missing a payment can result in all kinds of penalties or fees and damage your credit score, but many don’t realize it can also cost you your rewards.

If you’re late with your payments, most credit card issuers will withhold your rewards, according to Brex, a financial service and technology company. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your rewards back once you’re caught up on payments.

If you haven’t lost your credit card points after missing several payments, you could lose them when you file for bankruptcy. If your finances look like they’re heading that way, you may want to consider some alternatives before filing for bankruptcy.

When you’re managing a ton of high-interest debt, you may want to consider taking out a single lower-interest debt consolidation loan to get some relief and pay down what you owe sooner.

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2. Your account lapses

Letting your rewards credit card become inactive can also put your points in jeopardy.

To keep your rewards safe, make sure you use your card at least once every few months, says Equifax.

You can always make that easier by setting up a regular automatic payment on that specific card — just make sure you remember to pay it off every month.

3. You close down the account

Closing down a credit card will mean you forfeit any points you’ve accumulated, including any rewards that may have been earned between your last billing cycle and the date you close the account.

To avoid losing those points, before you close the credit card, look into whether you can transfer your rewards to another card with the same rewards program or a partner loyalty program.

It is also worth noting that credit card rewards are usually not transferable to other people.

Your credit card issuer should outline what happens to your points if something should happen to you in your terms and conditions. But a 2011 study found that most of the time, rewards are not considered property of the cardholder and therefore aren’t transferable upon death.

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4. Making a return

Returning items you’ve purchased also means returning the rewards you earned.

Credit card issuers impose this rule to prevent people from running up their cards to earn rewards only to get refunds on all their purchases.

And points aren’t a good reason to hold onto purchases you don’t need or can’t afford. Keep in mind that each point is generally worth about 1 cent. And any interest you pay on your card will generally be more expensive than the benefits of your rewards.

5. Breaking the rules

If you sign up for a card just to get a signup bonus (also known as credit card churning, you may think you’ve found a loophole into earning all kinds of free points.

But you’ll want to be careful you don’t violate the terms of your card. And there’s a chance if you close your card too soon after opening that you can lose any rewards you earned as a signup bonus.

To avoid that and any hits to your credit score, keep any new cards for at least a year.

6. Your points expire

Yes, some credit card points have an expiration date, especially co-branded credit cards that accrue hotel or airline miles or the rewards you collect is through a specific credit card issuer’s points program, according to Experian.

Make sure you read all the fine print when you sign up for a credit card and take a look at your statement to confirm if any of your rewards are about to expire.

7. The rules change

This is one situation you don’t have any control over. Sometimes, credit card companies change the terms of their rewards programs.

Any significant changes require giving you a heads up at least 45 days out, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

If you get a notice that your rewards program is changing or closing down, you should act immediately to prevent losing your points.

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Sigrid Forberg Associate Editor

Sigrid’s is Moneywise.com's associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the Moneywise team.

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