When a payment is returned, what happens to the credit card sign up bonus? One of our readers asked about that, and it was an excellent question.

I recently got the Hilton Aspire Amex card and had to spend $4k in order to receive the 150,000 bonus Hilton Honors points. I spent well over $4k on the card in the first month alone on flights, rental cars and hotels for a trip I had coming up in November. The entire trip ended up getting canceled … and almost all of the spend I had generated was refunded back to me. However, I had already been awarded the Hilton bonus points and they were in my Hilton account. My question is: Was this just a fluke? I have to imagine credit card companies usually take your points away and make you spend more…. If I already transferred the bonus from the card to a partner airline, would the card company then get the airline to send back the miles?

The Points Guy did not collect the information for the AmexHiltonAspire. The card issuer did not review or provide the card details on this page.

The good news is that credit card issuers don't usually cancel a sign-up bonus after they've given it. Most of the other major issuers have a similar policy to American Express.

I contacted the major US issuers to inquire about their policies on the subject.

American Express

The reader question is about a credit card. In the case of a refund, Amex's policy states that rewards will be withdrawn.

This also includes welcome bonuses. The welcome bonus will be revoked if you don't meet the spending requirement before the deadline, according to an Amex representative.

Bank of America

If you received a refunds for purchases that helped you attain the bonus, Bank of America will not take your bonus away.


Credit card sign-up bonuses are not revoked after they are given. If you complete the spending requirements, receive the bonus, and then get a refund for purchases that may have aided you in meeting the requirements, you will still keep your bonus.

Capital One

We reached out to Capital One, but they didn't tell us about their sign-up bonus policy.

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If you met the spending requirement and received your points, you would keep your sign-up bonus. I was told by a representative that refunds made before you received your bonus would be deductible against the spending target. The customers have to make up the difference in order to get the bonus.

Warning: Don’t abuse these policies

This is great to hear, but make sure you don't abuse these policies. If you apply for a card, make large purchases, or get a sign-up bonus, you will be flagged by the issuer for suspicious behavior, and they will give you a refund after you get your bonus. When Chase suspects foul play, it shuts down accounts without warning.

You should have no worries if it is a random occurrence. If you use these policies to cheat the system, you risk a shutdown and will hurt everyone.

Bottom line

Recent years have seen a lot of airline cancelations, leading to refunds and headaches. If you meet the minimum spend requirement for a welcome bonus, your sign-up bonus should be safe, but American Express is not.

Ryan Wilcox reports additional information.