There have been several reports in recent weeks of Chase canceling the Sapphire Preferred cards of people who have combined points between individuals. (To clarify, when points are moved between people Chase calls this “combining,” and when points are moved between Ultimate Rewards and a loyalty program this is called “transferring.”)
The terms and conditions forbidding this weren’t always very clear, especially since Chase did nothing to stop you whether you tried to transfer over the phone or online. It’s only now that their fraud department is auditing these points combinations that they have decided to close accounts and made the language more explicit.
In my case, I got in trouble for receiving Ultimate Rewards points from other people who were not my spouse or domestic partner. That’s it, and it seems silly because other people were the active participants initiating the transfers. I was not sending points to other people. I was not transferring them into the partner accounts of other people. And in fact, the vast majority of these combinations were from Megan, who probably qualifies as a domestic partner (at least, her employer’s health insurance plan seems to think so). Other people included family members, and I’ll admit that’s still against Chase’s rules. Just not rules I was aware of.
In my case, I was very fortunate that I got a letter from Chase before the account was closed. Many people only found out when their cards were rejected during a purchase. In my letter, I was told:
Eligible points can be accessed over three full months from the date that your account is closed. For example, if your account was closed on October 30, your points are accessible until January 30. Any rewards remaining after that time will no longer be available.
If your rewards program requires using your Chase credit card to redeem rewards, those rewards are no longer eligible for redemption once the account is closed.
This language is pretty vague. So I called the number on the back of my card to figure out my options. My priorities were:
- Keep the card open. The fact Megan wasn’t flagged as my domestic partner might sway their willingness to hear an appeal.
- Move the Ultimate Rewards points to a different card. Not Megan’s Sapphire Preferred since they’ll close hers, too. But I heard that some people were successful moving them to an Ink Bold card.
In my experience with the customer service representative, I found there is no obvious indication on your account that the card will be closed. It wasn’t until I told her about the letter that she pulled up a copy of it and learned what was going on. Her computer provided instruction not to escalate to a supervisor if I asked, and that there was no way to save the card. A decision was made.
Finally, I could only redeem the points for cash or gift cards. I could not transfer them to any other Ultimate Rewards card or redeem them into my United MileagePlus or Hyatt Gold Passport accounts.
Prioritize on the Points
I was not happy about this last bit of news. I had consolidated all the points from my own Ink Bold and from Megan’s Sapphire Preferred into this one account to make it easier to track them, and now they would all be useless. These were the same points we were saving for our honeymoon.
So I asked again if I really had no option to transfer them to United or Hyatt, even if it was my own loyalty account. It seemed odd to cut off those options and force me to redeem for cash. That’s when the customer service representative volunteered to contact a supervisor for clarification.
I have read of other people arguing over the phone that Chase was complicit in these transfers since it didn’t prevent them earlier, or arguing that they should be allowed to speak to a supervisor anyway. My advice is don’t risk pissing off the agent. Be calm and work your way to a situation where he or she volunteers to contact a supervisor. It’s always good to keep the customer service representative on your side.
I had given up at this point on saving the card, and I made that clear both to the agent and her supervisor. I didn’t need to make it hard on them if they could focus on other priorities. Now I just wanted to save the points. No one signs up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card hoping to redeem the points for cash.
The supervisor listened to my argument that Megan was my domestic partner and offered to escalate further. He thought I had a good chance of keeping my Sapphire Preferred if that was the only issue, and he offered to request at the same time that the points be transferred to my Ink Bold if the card still had to be closed. However, I would not get a response for two or three days …after my account was due to be closed. My options might become less flexible after that happened.
I appreciated his gesture but explained why I was concerned. He put me on hold before coming back to say he thought he could just transfer my points to my Ink Bold and avoid escalating to another supervisor. In a few minutes, that combination was complete, and I should be receiving a letter in the next few days confirming the combination. They already show in my Ink Bold account.
What Happens Next?
I’m not done. I remain wary that Chase may revoke them from my Ink Bold account or do something to prevent me from using them. At least I had a supervisor combine the points for me, to another account in my own name, so I have that to fall back on.
I feel tempted to transfer them from my Ink Bold to United or Hyatt, but I will probably hold off. The purpose of having these points is flexibility so that I can transfer them later when necessary.
My Sapphire Preferred card still has a significant credit line and remains open for a few days. I don’t want the bank to close my card for me (that’s never a good sign on your credit report), so I will close it myself the day before and see if that helps at all. I’ll also transfer the credit line to another Chase card.
Finally, I asked the supervisor about my options for getting another Sapphire Preferred card in the future. He first thanked me for being a loyal Chase customer. It’s worth noting I have only once cancelled a Chase card; I pay the fees on the others to keep them open, and those fees are worth the benefits they provide, like a free hotel night or some bonus points.
However, these decisions to close Sapphire Preferred accounts are being made by an unemotional department focused on security and fraud. I can apply again, but the T&C violation in Chase’s files will be permanent. He recommended waiting six months. In the meantime, I can be added as an authorized user on Megan’s card. This actually works out pretty well since the annual fee on my Sapphire Preferred was due next month, and now I don’t need to pay it.
I don’t hate Chase for doing this. Assuming I can keep the points in my Ink Bold account, that works out well. I realize many people will not have that option, and they are probably more upset. Chase is doing its part to stamp out fraud, and when it comes to banks, they have to be more careful than most companies. Someone who really is rigging the system can probably come up with a more plausible excuse than mine, even though mine is true. So I’ll take my licks, wait a few months, and apply again at some point in the future. I may even get another bonus.
And I will never, ever transfer points again unless they are between Megan and me …after the wedding and official name change take place!