Don't lose your rewards if your credit card is discontinued

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Don't lose your rewards if your credit card is discontinuedWe told you earlier this year how Starbucks dissolved its partnership with Visa and discontinued its Duetto rewards card. As it turns out, it's not uncommon for issuers to discontinue a card in order to roll out a "new and improved" product. So what do you do if your card is discontinued? To find out, WalletPop spoke with Beverly Harzog, spokeswoman for CardRatings.com, for some expert advice.

While consumers fear being stuck at a cash register with a card that suddenly doesn't work, Harzog says this is unlikely to happen if you've been monitoring your mail. Issuers will notify you about changes to your account by mail or email (however you've elected to have them ordinarily communicate with you). Just be sure to read any and all messages your issuer sends you, and you won't be stuck at a register with a nonfunctional card.

According to the CARD Act that passed in February, issuers have to give 45 days' notice for major account changes; however, Harzog says it's not clear that this includes card discontinuation (ironic though that is). It's unlikely they'll give you less than 30 days' warning, though, so plan accordingly. If you have any bills automatically paid on that card, transfer them over to another one as soon as possible.

Most issuers issue a new, replacement card for the one they're discontinuing, but Harzog says it's not smart just to blindly accept a card the company sends you. "The consumer should approach this just as if they were applying fora new card and look at the terms and the interest rate and make a decision if this card is right for them," she advises. The new card may come with a higher interest rate or rewards that don't suit your lifestyle anymore.

When Starbucks canceled the Duetto, we heard from some unhappy customers who wanted their coffee rewards back, not the general-purpose points the replacement card offered. If you don't want the replacement card, you can contact your issuer to have your account closed and pay off your balance under the old terms.

One more word about those rewards: Don't lose them! If you get word that your card is being phased out, use your reward points promptly, says Harzog. Some issuers will mail you a check for the cash value of your rewards if you call and ask, so get on the phone immediately. For miles cards, check with the issuer to see if the miles can be rolled over into your airline frequent flyer account. Even if you take the replacement card, don't assume that your points will roll over along with your balance, Harzog says.

"Consumers need to be an advocate for themselves," she advises, "and make sure they get their points."
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