Canceling a Credit Card is like Breaking up with a Girlfriend

Apologies to those local followers who couldn’t attend our last-minute WorldWanderlusting BBQ last night to celebrate good times, discuss our strategies, and dream about our next vacations and how we’re going to get there.  The next time we put one together we’ll offer more advanced notice.  [Want us to do a WorldWanderlusting seminar with you?  Comment below and we’ll make it happen!]

One of the questions that came up was, “What do you say when you’re canceling a credit card?  It felt really awkward, like breaking up with a girlfriend.”  We all had a good laugh at Jared’s comment, (He was the one who did the guest post about taking his son to Columbia) but afterward I’ve given it a lot of thought.  He’s totally right.

awkward break up

Taylor Swift is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER getting back together with you. (Photo Courtesy of

Forgive my male perspective on this, but I’m sure you women can relate just as easily. Simply replace “girlfriend” with “boyfriend,” and you can laugh along with us. Here is a direct correlation between canceling a credit card and breaking up with your girlfriend:

Breaking Up Canceling the Credit Card
You got what you wanted from the relationship.  You’ve already kissed her and now the thrill of trying to catch the prey is over.  The magic is gone now and you’re moving on. The sign on bonus from your Sapphire Preferred was so exciting when it arrived.  Now that the bonus is over, your relationship with the card has completely fizzled.
Having the conversation with your “girlfriend” is going to be tough.  You stew about it for days and finally decide to call her instead of seeing her face to face.  You don’t want to hurt feelings. You put it off for as long as you can. The customer service rep acts hurt when you tell them you want to cancel the card.  They ask what it was that made the relationship go sour.
You struggle on the phone to explain how things just “aren’t the same anymore.” You’re sure to tell her that it isn’t her fault.  She has been great, but the problem is your mother doesn’t want you to “seriously” date anyone before you turn 18.  If it were your choice you’d plan on staying with her forever. You explain to the CSR that it isn’t American Express’ fault.  They had nothing to do with your decision to cancel the card.  In fact, their service was great.  The problem was that SPG moved 142 properties to higher tiers this year, while only moving down 35.  This has seriously devalued the points that you’re working so hard to accrue.  You’d be willing to keep the card and pay the annual fee if SPG wouldn’t constantly devalue the points.
In reality, you’re now really excited about this “new girl” in school.  Your “ex” is a thing of the past. Now you’ve got your eyes set on the new chick in your biology class.  She was looking really good the other day in that silver dress. The silver Barclaycard Arrival is looking downright sexy.  You’re not as enthusiastic about 1 point for every dollar you spend on the last card when you can get 40k for $440 in free travel after meeting the $1000 spending requirement.

Canceling a credit card is a bit tough on your first experience.  Once you get the hang of it you’ll be playin’ all the Customer Service Reps.  Here are a few tips for making it as smooth as possible when canceling a credit card.

Don’t Blame The Issuer

This doesn’t work when canceling a bank-point card like BarclayCard Arrival, or a Chase Sapphire, but if you have a co-branded card like a United, Marriott, Delta, SPG, etc. this is a way to make it easier.

This happened to me when I went to cancel my SPG Amex just a month ago.  The CSR asked me why I was canceling.  I simply explained that SPG had increased the amount of points it required on over 120 of their properties.  That devalued my chances of using the points that American Express was so willing to give me.  The Customer Service was excellent and the card was great.  The rep was speechless.  He told me that he agreed with my decision to cancel the card.  Imagine if it were that easy to sideline a needy girlfriend!

This is important because it sends the right message back to American Express.  Hopefully when 1000 people call to cancel their cards they go back to SPG and say, “Come on, you guys are making us lose all of our customers.  STOP DEVALUING YOUR POINTS.”

For Airline Cards: No Availability

This point is similar to the one listed above.   The problem is finding availability on the airline partner.  What CSR that has some points himself wouldn’t agree with you?  When was the last time you looked at the Delta award tiers leaving your small town?  They’re so dang stingy on usage – take the opportunity to complain about it.

It will tell Citi, Chase, or Amex that they’re doing fine. Tell them that you love earning the points and are excited about taking vacations.  Go as far as to say that you’d pay double the annual fee if you could simply use the points on the lower level redemptions.

Other Totally Valid Reasons to Cancel a Credit Card

  • You travel a lot, and the card you have doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees.
  • Your Chase Marriott Card offers a free night for keeping the card every year.  Your SPG doesn’t.
  • Your card only offers 1 point per dollar(Delta, United, US Aiways, etc), but the _________ gives me two points per dollar.

Treat Them Nicely – You May Need Them Back

It’s important to keep in the good graces of all ex-girlfriends.  You never know when you might get a hankering for 30,000 more Delta SkyMiles.  That’s why it is important for the issuer to realize that you appreciate them, you just need a sweeter pot.  Try not to blame them, or the annual fee.  Redirect the blame at something over which they have less control – it’s a soft let down, just like you would do to a girlfriend you’re having to dump.

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10 Responses to Canceling a Credit Card is like Breaking up with a Girlfriend

  1. Collin Beck says:

    Please do a world wanderlusting seminar near me in San Antonio, Texan.

  2. Gens says:

    Hi Brad & Sheldon,

    Let me preface this email in that my twin brother, Hans, and I are avid readers of your blog! Great site and info!

    I know you’re busy guys with families, but I just helped my wife do an App-o-Rama, a little over a week ago, and just received the 4 cards that she applied for.

    I must have made an error when applying for several cards, because the Barclay Arrival card came back in my name (and not my wife’s – even though it’s under her SS#). I went back and looked at the “Approved” email right after she applied and it says my name.

    So basically it’s under her SS#, but I accidentally (or auto-fill) put my name on the card.

    Is it worth correcting or will they cancel the card if she calls in to switch the name?

    We don’t care that it’s in my name. In fact, I’ll probably use it more. Just want to know if there might be any problems to her credit report in the future, being that it was applied in my name, but with her SS#, etc. Nor do we want to lose the card and have to re-apply.

    Worse thing, I guess, would be to keep it as-is and if they give us a problem in the future, just say we thought it was an extra card on the account, in my – her husband’s name.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Thanks so much!


    • Sheldon says:

      @Gene-Thanks for your comment and question. It is always great to know that someone out there is reading and enjoying our material. We really enjoy sharing our stuff and hope that we can share our passion, which is travel, with you and everyone else. This whole process has opened my eyes to amazing possibilities and helped me to reach many places that were once dreams.

      That is an interesting dilemma on the card there. I’ve never heard of that happening before. It would seem like they would question the social as it didn’t match the applicant name. Simply hilarious.

      The biggest issue that I would see would be the potential of getting you the Arrival at a later date. The Arrival card is new enough that it hasn’t even been out for more than a year. It will be interesting to see if they allow double dipping on the bonus.

      I don’t have any experience to share with you, but my recommendation would be to call and fix the card to her name, which would hopefully allow you to get the Arrival at a later date without a problem. Anyone else out there ran into this issue?

      You could also do your free credit report from TransUnion to ensure that it pulled her credit, and that it shows up on her credit report. I would recommend you wait at least a month before doing this to be sure that it has completed an entire billing cycle that could be reported.

      What other cards did you get?

  3. Gens says:

    I knew it pulled her credit because when we called into activate the card it accepted her last 4 of her social security number (I tried mine before hers).

    The challenge is I plan on doing some Big spend on her new card (like $20k, for biz), but afraid that if we call in to correct it they’ll cancel her card, as opposed to just correct the problem, and send out a new card with her name, which would be fine. Or If we call in, after we’ve done some Big spend, Barclay might negate all the points.

    She also applied for the Chase Sapphire, Starwood & Club Carlson.

  4. Sarah Thomas says:

    I am fairly new to your site and I am so excited! I knew there must be a way for me to travel the way I wanted! I started a few months ago and have nearly 400,000 miles/points right now. In regards to cancelling credit cards, is there some reason I should hang on to them for the full year? Why not cancel as soon as I have met my obligation to earn the promised rewards? Thanks so much for spreading the good word of travel.

    • Sheldon says:

      @Sarah. Thanks for Worldwandelusting with us.

      Looks like you’ve been working really hard to get some major points. Nice work!

      There are two reasons that I think you should keep the card for a year:

    • Credit- It is best on your credit history if you have longer stretches of credit history than shorter. Look at it this way. If you’ve got two credit cards that you’ve had for 10 years, then you open a new card and keep it for two months. At this point you cancel the card. Your average credit history just decreased from 10 years down to 6.72 years. If you did that with an App-O-Rama and did it with four cards it would change the average credit history to 3.44 years. To keep your score high you should have the longest credit history possible.
    • Bank- The banks are more likely to target you as an abuser of the program if you keep the card until you get the bonus and then cancel the card. Keeping it the full year gives them more time to see if you really used the card and gave their program a chance. Then when you cancel you try not to mention the annual fee, but blame the loyalty program as not having availability. That way when you apply again for another one of their cards you can justify why you’ve been switching so often.
    • Hopefully that answers your questions.