Reader Question: Do You Still Get Points if You Pay Off Your Credit Card Early?

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The rules of travel rewards can be scary and intimidating with all of the loopholes and gotchas. When you are using a credit card that offers airline miles or hotel points, you want to make sure that you actually receive the rewards you’ve earned from using the card. One of the fears people have is whether you still get points if you pay credit card early. Let’s discuss this situation further.

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What’s in your wallet?

How travel rewards credit cards work

Travel credit cards are one of the most powerful ways you can earn airline miles and hotel points. These travel rewards are generally earned in one of three ways:

  • Bonus points when you first open the card and meet the minimum spend within a specific timeframe (usually 90 days from opening).
  • From the regular use of the credit card to pay bills or purchase goods and services.
  • When you hit spending thresholds which trigger one-time bonuses.

There are other one-off situations where you can earn travel rewards with your credit card, but these three generate the vast majority of airline miles and hotel points earned.

Related posts:

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Do you still get points if you pay off your credit card early?

The short answer is yes.

Earning airline miles and hotel points are not based on when you pay your bill. Whether you pay the bill off in full before the statement closes (like I do) or pay the minimum payment required on the due date, you will receive all of the rewards you earned based on your spending.

If you don’t pay off your card each month, the interest you pay is not worth the rewards you earn. Interest rates continue to rise and can easily be 15% to 30% (or higher) annually. Yikes!

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Keep earning those points, and you’re next vacation could be free.

Why should you pay your credit card early?

One of the simple tricks I use to boost my credit score is to pay off my balance early. Instead of waiting for the statement to close and paying the credit card off on the due date, I pay off my credit card BEFORE the statement closes.

This does two things for me:

  • Lowers my utilization
  • Lowers my monthly debt service

Utilization Ratio

The utilization ratio is a huge factor in credit scores. It makes up 30% of your credit score. It is the ratio between your balance vs. credit limit on your credit cards and lines of credit… and the lower, the better!

For example, if you have a $2500 balance on a $5000 limit credit card, you have 50% utilization. Many credit guides recommend keeping utilization below 30%. And optimally it would be under 10%.

When you pay off a credit card before the statement closes, your utilization will be 0%. How awesome is that?

Monthly Debt Service

Monthly debt service (or debt-to-income ratio) is something that underwriters look at when reviewing loan applications. It is the total amount of minimum payments you must make to stay current on all of your loans, credit cards, and lines of credit.

Typically, credit card companies will have a minimum payment due of 2% to 3% of your statement balance. And this amount generally won’t go lower than $25.

When you pay off your credit card in full before the statement closes, since there is no balance, there is no minimum payment due. Therefore, your debt service will be that much lower.

The Bald Thoughts

If you pay off your credit card early, you will not lose your airline miles or hotel points. If you are carrying debt, please quit focusing on travel rewards and make every effort to pay it off as soon as possible. You can use free software from Empower to help track your bank accounts, credit cards, and investments. If you pay off your credit cards in full each month, congratulations! I’m proud of you!!!

As long as you are making your payments on time, don’t worry about your travel rewards. When you pay off credit cards early, you will still earn your airline miles and hotel points.

Thinking of getting a new credit card?

To see the best credit card offers available, go to our credit card marketplace to find your next card.

This article originally appeared on on April 6, 2018.


  1. In order to receive bonus on a credit card with a low limit ($5,000), my husband charged $3,000. Even though our total credit utilization across all of our cards is extremely low, this one card being too high dinged his credit by roughly 30 points. We were shocked!

    • Yeah, even if your utilization across all cards is low, if your utilization on one card is high (aka close to maxing it out), your credit score could crater. By paying off (or paying down) cards before the statement date, you’ll improve your credit score quite a bit.

  2. I try to keep the balance as close to zero as possible so I tend to make payments to the cards multiple times a month.

    I’ve had seasons where I couldn’t and just made the statement balance before the due date to avoid interest. Those seasons were definitely stressful.

    • Making multiple payments throughout the month is a great way to keep your balances low, the balance manageable, and utilization low. Kudos to you for keeping on track with your credit card balances and avoiding interest!

  3. I have a credit card with a close date of 6/6. The balance due is $250. I have over $14,000 charges on card now & need 17,000 points for a return trip from Africa. If I pay this $14,000 will those points be applied to my AA account when card closes on 6/6 or will they not show up until next month. Trying to figure out what is the most effective way & cheapest way to accomplish this.
    Thx for any assistance!

  4. I have a credit card with a close date of 6/6. The balance due is $250. I have over $14,000 charges on card now & need 17,000 points for a return trip from Africa. If I pay this $14,000 will those points be applied to my AA account when card closes on 6/6 or will they not show up until next month. Trying to figure out what is the most effective way & cheapest way to accomplish this

    • Hey Nancy, miles are earned based on eligible charges throughout the month. Typically, the miles post to your loyalty program (in this case American Airlines AAdvantage) within a few days after the statement closes. Based on what you say, you may still be short of the 17,000 miles needed, unless your $14,000 worth of purchases qualified for bonus miles.

      The balance due is most likely your minimum monthly payment. That payment has nothing to do with how many miles you’ll earn or when they post. The only exception is if you stop paying your bill. When you stop making payments, the bank can forfeit the miles earned so you won’t receive them.

      Does this make sense?

  5. I wasn’t 100% sure how that worked I actually called Citi. I have another card that I paid off on 6/2 but because the close date is 6/13 they won’t be applied until a couple of days after that date, same with this one if I pay the $14,000 then card closes on 6/6 so they said a couple of days after. I have used Air miles for ever, & I’m having a heck of a time getting reward flights to Africa. I secured a flight there but getting back has been a hassle especially trying to fly with Qatar air. Thx for your help!

    • I’m glad that Citi customer service was able to help you out. Award flights to and from Africa can be a challenge. I’m glad that you’re getting it sorted out. Best of luck to you! I hope you have an amazing trip.

  6. It seems now that the pandemic is over, that the airlines are not releasing as many award seats as they used to. Really first time I’ve had an issue. Thx for your help!

    • Yup, with planes full of cash-paying customers, there’s less incentive to open award space. This is why you see so many programs devaluing their programs when demand exceeds supply. American Airlines (and most others) are having a hard time finding pilots, which is why they have fewer available flights.

  7. It sucks I’ve been a loyal Advantage customer for over 20 yrs & never really had to pay for a flight especially in business class. Oh well, it is what it is my friend!

  8. ok, so if I have a debt worth $20,000 and a credit card with a limit of $5000 which gives me mileage can I use the credit card to pay off the other debt, max out the card…then pay it off and do this until the $20,000 debit is paid off?

    How many miles would I get credit for? $5000 or $20,000?

    • Yes, if your credit limit isn’t large enough to pay off the debt in one transaction, you can use the card and pay it off multiple times in order to earn the miles and complete your purchase. Just remember that balance transfers do not earn rewards, so this will need to be coded as a purchase. To really maximize this scenario, I’d recommend getting a new credit card and use these larger transactions to earn a welcome bonus in addition to the rewards earned from each transaction.


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