Woman loses 300,000 reward points

September 1, 2011 8:35:01 PM PDT
Last year, Americans racked up $48 billion in reward points by buying things with credit cards. In fact, the average household belongs to 18 loyalty programs that offer miles or points, but nearly a third of those points are never redeemed. 7 On Your Side shows one case in point.

Barbara Kohn still remembers the vacations she took with her husband Malcolm many years ago.

"We traveled a great deal in Europe, the Caribbean, many places you know as often as we could," said Kohn.

She says they racked up thousands of reward points over three decades by using their American Express platinum card, which they used to take even more trips.

"Well I'm very glad that we did travel, since I lost my husband," said Kohn.

Things changed when Malcolm died 14 years ago. Kohn stopped traveling, and now in her 80s, she found the platinum card a little too expensive.

"$450 a year which was a great deal to pay for something you're not using constantly," said Kohn.

She canceled the card, but figured she'd still use the 320,349 reward points left in the account. This year, she began to plan a rare trip.

"To Monte Carlo... I'm not a gambler, but it's fun to look around and that area is so beautiful," said Kohn.

However, when she tried to book a flight, she found all 320,349 points were now gone. American Express had taken them away when she canceled the card.

"I didn't think that was fair. They're supposed to be rewards, you're supposed to have rewards for using the card so why can they just take them away?" said Kohn.

She told the company she had earned those points and besides, she still keeps two other American Express cards. She says she never got a reply.

"Finally decided to call 7 On Your Side," said Kohn.

We contacted American Express and it tells us, this is all part of the card agreement. If you cancel a rewards card, and you don't have any other American Express cards, you lose all points immediately.

If you cancel a card but keep at least one other American Express card, you have 30 days to use your points.

Barbara's 30 days expired long ago. However American Express agreed to make an exception and it restored all 320,349 of her points. Now she's headed for Monte Carlo.

"So I was very pleased and very grateful. I will enjoy them you can be assured," said Kohn.

The key is to read the terms of your agreements to make sure you don't lose your points.

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