a person working on a laptop

Media / Blog

Protecting Your Credit Card Rewards Amid Rising Customer Complaints


The Art of the Upsell: How Airlines Maximize Every Mile

June 16, 2024

Credit card rewards can feel like free money - a little bonus for the spending you were already going to do. However, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) responds to a surge in customer complaints, it's more important than ever to protect your rewards. Understanding the role of the CFPB and the nature of these complaints can help you better manage and protect your rewards. In this article, we'll explore the strategies you can use to safeguard your hard-earned points, miles, and cashback.

Understanding the Surge in Complaints

The CFPB is a government agency responsible for protecting consumers in the financial sector. Compared to pre-pandemic numbers, consumer complaints about credit card rewards have increased by 70%.1 In response, the CFPB released a report in May highlighting common issues related to credit card rewards, including issues with redemption, value changes, and unauthorized transactions.

Common Issues with Credit Card Rewards

  • Lost or Expired Rewards: Many cardholders feel misled when they sign up for a card based on advertised rewards that they never receive. This often occurs due to unexpected promotional conditions, such as different bonus offers depending on where you apply for the card or being ineligible for targeted offers.
  • Rewards Devaluation: Devaluation is a major issue, especially with travel rewards. Changes in airline and hotel loyalty programs can significantly reduce the value of your points and miles already earned by increasing the number of points or miles needed for a redemption, making it harder to book travel. This issue isn't limited to travel rewards; it can affect any rewards program.
  • Complicated Redemption Processes: Some cardholders find it difficult or impossible to redeem their rewards. Long hold times with customer service, unresolved account issues, and technical problems with online portals are common complaints.
  • Losing Rewards Access: Rewards may be forfeited, expired, or revoked, often through expiration policies, often without advance notice from the financial institution. Inactivity or account closures can lead to significant losses in earned rewards.

Strategies to Protect Your Credit Card Rewards

To safeguard your rewards and ensure you get the most out of your credit card programs, consider the following strategies:

Always read the full terms and conditions of your credit card offers. Marketing materials often don't provide the complete picture. Understand the requirements for earning and redeeming rewards, and any limitations or restrictions.

  • Introductory Offers: Know the details of 0% APR periods, balance transfer fees, and ongoing APR after the intro period.
  • Welcome Bonuses: Be clear on spending thresholds, eligible purchases, and how often you can earn bonuses.
  • Rewards Program Specifics: Look for eligibility requirements, qualifying purchases, expiration details, and other important aspects.

Redeem Rewards Regularly

Using your points and miles regularly can help prevent devaluation and expiration. Set goals for your rewards and redeem them as soon as possible to avoid losing their value. Plan your redemptions around significant events, such as trips or large purchases, to maximize the value of your rewards.

Monitor Your Rewards and Account Activity

Regularly check your rewards balance and account activity to catch any discrepancies early. This practice can help you address issues promptly and prevent unauthorized transactions. Consider using dedicated apps to track your rewards and receive alerts for any changes or upcoming expirations.

Understand Rewards Program Changes

Stay updated on any changes to your rewards programs. Credit card companies can alter terms and conditions, often with little notice. By staying informed, you can adjust your strategy to protect your rewards. Pay attention to emails and notices from your credit card issuer to stay ahead of any changes that could impact your rewards.

Maintain Secure Accounts

Protect your account information with strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Avoid accessing your accounts on public Wi-Fi to prevent unauthorized access.

  • Strong Passwords: Use unique, complex passwords for your accounts.
  • Two-Factor Authentication: Enable this feature for added security.
  • Secure Networks: Only access your accounts on secure, private networks.

Be Flexible with Redemptions

Flexibility can help you get the most value from your points and miles. Be open to traveling during off-peak times or adjusting your plans to find better redemption rates. Avoid booking travel during peak times and explore alternative options to stretch your rewards further.

Choose the Right Rewards Card for You

Select a rewards card that aligns with your spending habits and redemption preferences. Cash-back cards offer simplicity with fixed-value rewards that are easy to understand and redeem, while travel rewards can provide significant value for frequent travelers but require more strategy.

What Regulators Are Watching Now

In addition to credit card rewards, the CFPB is also focusing on interest rates and the buy now, pay later (BNPL) industry. Regulators are concerned about high interest rates on popular rewards cards and the lack of transparency in interest rate competition. Additionally, the CFPB has classified BNPL companies as credit card companies, ensuring consumers have the same protections as with traditional credit cards. Understanding all of these regulatory concerns can help you make more informed decisions about your credit card usage.

Conclusion and Best Practices

Protecting your credit card rewards requires vigilance and proactive management. By staying informed, regularly redeeming your rewards, and maintaining secure accounts, you can maximize the value of your points, miles, and cashback. Remember to read the fine print and stay flexible with your redemption plans to navigate the complexities of rewards programs effectively.


1. How can I prevent my credit card rewards from expiring? Set reminders for expiration dates and redeem your rewards regularly. Engage in activities that keep your account active to extend the life of your points.

2. What should I do if I notice unauthorized transactions on my account? Report any unauthorized transactions to your credit card company immediately. They can help you investigate and potentially recover lost rewards.

3. How often should I check my credit card rewards balance? It's a good idea to check your rewards balance at least once a month, just as you would with your bank statements.

4. Are there apps that can help me manage my credit card rewards? Yes, there are several apps available that can track your points, remind you of expiration dates, and help you find the best ways to redeem your rewards. AwardWallet and MaxRewards are a couple examples but do some research to find out which app will work best for your needs.

5. What steps can I take to protect my credit card account information? Use strong, unique passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and avoid accessing your account on public Wi-Fi. Always verify the source before providing any account information.


Top Tech Trends Shaping the Future of Financial Planning

About the author

Guest Author

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

Investor Disclosures: https://bit.ly/KF-Disclosures

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation.

Sign Up

Sign up for our exclusive Sunday Paper with a weekly market commentary, insightful personal finance blogs, and life changing education guides.

Email sign up

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice. https://Bit.ly/KF-Disclosures

This site is published for residents of the United States only. Registered Representatives of Kestra IS and Investment Advisor Representatives of Kestra AS may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered. Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed. Not all products and services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every representative or advisor listed. For additional information, please contact Kestra IS Compliance Department at 844-553-7872.

PLEASE NOTE: The information being provided is strictly as a courtesy. When you link to any of the web sites provided here, you are leaving this web site. Kestra IS and Kestra AS makes no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these web sites. Nor is Kestra IS and Kestra AS liable for any direct or indirect technical or system issues or any consequences arising out of your access to or your use of third-party technologies, web sites, information and programs made available through this web site. When you access one of these web sites, you are leaving our web site and assume total responsibility and risk for your use of the web sites you are linking to.