Barclays enforces its 6-month card activity rule

Barclays credit cards typically have a requirement of activity every 6 months. Many of us have credit cards we seldom or never use yet card issuers often take no action except the occasional targeted bonus offer to encourage spend. Barclays is explicit on the terms of many of its cards, with language such as this for the Priceline Rewards Visa:

Effective on September 10, 2010, to continue to participate in the rewards program, your account must remain open and in good standing, you must maintain your creditworthiness and you must use your card for at least one (1) purchase transaction every six (6) months (or have some type of account balance every six months).  Failure to meet these requirements may result in account closure and/or forfeiture of all outstanding points earned.  In addition, if your payment is late in a particular billing cycle, this may result in the forfeiture of points earned in that billing cycle.  If your points are forfeited for any reason, we will not reinstate these points to your account. (see full terms)

For cards where rewards are transferred to outside programs monthly, such as airlines and hotels, Barclays would not be able to claw back points already earned, so the primary risk is for cards like Priceline where the rewards accumulate within the Barclays account until redeemed.

I wondered if I should take this requirement seriously, and have found  reports of rewards indeed being forfeited and even accounts closed. An example is reader Dave, who wrote:

got choice card then airtran personal and business pre merger…they cancelled my Choice card without notice for being inactive for 6 months!!!! I then cancelled my airtran cards in retaliation (plus we got Southwest cards and companion pass and the merger still hasnt combined the FF programs)

I do not know if this rule is strictly enforced, as Barclays cards are not widely discussed.

An account closure on an inactive card might sound irrelevant but there are plenty of cards that are useful for the benefits rather than spend, and an account closure can impact credit score in terms of average age of accounts and credit utilization.

Rather than worry or deal with hassle, I set up quarterly calendar reminders, use each of my Barclays cards for a small purchase, and put them away again until the season changes.

Readers, do you have any experience with Barclays cards going past 6 months of inactivity?

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  • We have US Air cards with no activity for more than 6 months and they are still open. Having them cancelled in 6 months would save me a phone call!

  • I’m churning the USAir Card, and an automatic closure would save me a call – and probably result in losing the 10K point that post on the card member anniversary. I should remember to charge something to this card every few months or so.

  • @MMS – LOL, I was thinking the same thing!

  • @Million Mile Secrets – didn’t sign up with the 10k anniversary bonus offer?

  • I usually try to make a token charge on all my cards every few months. No evidence, but I think it will make the banks like me more. This is interesting. Thanks for passing it along, Stephan.

  • @Rapid Travel Chai – We did, but I’d rather get 40K more US Air miles for no annual fee than 10K for the $89 annual fee.

  • Gee – even if you pay an annual fee you could be subject to this? But fee or no fee, it’s still a good idea to keep it active. I lost two former Chase credit cards with super low interest rates because they became inactive.

    US Bank has a similar structure where the card is annual fee free as long as you make one purchase a year on their standard cards. I’m not sure about the co-branded reward cards with an annual fee.

  • @Million Mile Secrets – good point, people are having mixed experience with multiple US Air cards, so far I have 2, I suppose cleaning them out might not be a bad thing.

  • HikerT

    15K spend bonuses + 10K anniversary bonus is almost as good as churning. Actually if you get the 15K twice you’re better off. Sure, you could aggressively churn, but like russian roulette, once you lose you are done for good.

  • Shudog

    If a bank closes your card down, than it will appear on your credit report “close by issuer” which is a negative to have on your report.

  • Ryan H

    Happened to me about two years ago with a Barclays-issued Best Buy Rewardzone card. They wouldn’t reopen it when I called.

  • PedroNY

    From my experience, US Air card without activity for over 6 months is still open.

  • mileswhore

    It is absolutely not a negative to have closed by issuer. It is exactly that, it was simply closed by the issuer. You can have a perfect history with a credit card and they can close it down.

  • RakSiam

    Seems like the US Air card is one they would want to keep open since we are paying the annual fee. Or maybe those 10K bonus miles don’t make up for the fee we pay? Might be worth doing a little spend though once in a while though I guess.

  • Barclays is a PITA to deal with. They denied me for a Wyndham Rewards card because of sufficient credit already with Barclays (BW card and US MC). I tried to get them to swap the BW for the Wyndham and they wouldn’t do it, said they want to see more use of the cards I already have. They also pulled TU when I first applied, then pulled Experian during some internal review so they knew about my churn of 2 weeks ago. I’m keeping the US MC for the anniversary bonus but there is no way Barclays is giving me any more cards. I haven’t even gotten the spend x for 15k bonus. I went back through my emails, they have sent me lots of balance transfer discount offers but none of those 15k miles ones.

  • @Tara – thanks for that info, since I now have 5 of their cards and not using them, I will at least skip them one quarterly churn.

  • @RakSiam – and that and Priceline are about the only cards of theirs with benefits worth keeping.

  • @mileswhore – interesting, I wonder if the worry about “closed by issuer” is urban myth, I have heard it so many times.