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Pay late, risk your reward points

Failing to pay your credit card bill on time can cost you more than a late fee.

You could also forfeit all of the reward points or miles you earned that month — and every month until you catch up.

Sometimes those points or miles are gone for good.

Credit card rewardsMost cards also forbid customers from redeeming any of the points or miles they’ve previously earned until they’re current with their payments.

Capital One seems to have the most stringent policy.

If a late fee is charged to any of its Visa or MasterCards, the customer loses all points or miles they earned that month.

And once they’re gone, they’re gone. Paying the bill won’t reinstate the rewards.

Nor can delinquent Capital One customers redeem any previously earned points or miles until the account is current.

Bank of America cardholders also forfeit any points they earned during a billing cycle if they’re more than 30 days late with a payment.

The same is true for American Express cardholders who miss a payment deadline. (That’s been a long-standing policy for all American Express cards except the Blue and Blue Sky cards, and it’s being extended to those products in September.)

The big difference is that American Express allows customers to recover forfeited points — once their account is current — for a $29 reinstatement fee.

Citi seems to have the most lenient policy.

Cardholders that earn Thank You reward points can’t have any new Thank You points added to their balance, or redeem merchandise using existing points, until their account is current.

But once Citi receives a cardholder’s late payment, all’s forgiven and the Thank You points earned that month are added to the account.

The story is much the same with Citi Dividend cards, which offers cash back rewards.

A late payment means no Dividend Dollars are added to that account and no rebate checks can be requested. Once the account is current, any rewards that cardholders earn while in arrears are added to their accounts.

The rewards program for Citi’s AAdvantage cards, which allow customers to earn American Airline miles, has no penalty for late payments.

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