Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
Ask Tony a question, or see if your question has already been answered in the Cashing In answer archive.
Thieves stole my credit card rewards. Why won’t the bank help?
While banks won’t make you pay for fraudulent purchases on your card, they won’t necessarily help if fraudsters steal your rewards. You should use a rewards tracker to receive alerts if any purchases have been made with your points.
Dear Cashing In,
On three different occasions, thieves hacked
my Barclaycard account and converted my 400,000 miles to gift cards. The last
two times, I caught the thieves, and they didn’t get the cards. That saved
Barclaycard a total of about $3,600. Police have one of the suspects in
When I told Barclaycard about my efforts and asked if they would like
to waive my annual fee, all they did was offer to downgrade me to a card with
no annual fee. Ever run across something like this? – Kent
I suppose it was only a matter of time until
crafty thieves realized that reward points and miles can have significant
value. I have never heard of any case like yours, but it is probably not
By now, we probably all have heard the
admonition to check our credit card statements regularly to look for fraudulent
charges. But your experience is a helpful reminder that the same is true of our
rewards. People track their rewards in a variety of ways, from spreadsheets to
financial software to a service such as AwardWallet.
AwardWallet takes your
login information and compiles it in one centralized place, and you can set it
up so that it notifies you of changes to your reward balances. That could
provide a helpful alert system if somebody hacks into your account and steals
Over the years, banks have become more
sophisticated in their ability to track fraudulent activity on your credit card and
alert you. And they have improved their efforts to thwart thieves from hacking
into your account. But my guess is they have not invested similar resources in
tracking and weeding out cases of thieves redeeming points improperly and
You’d like to think that Barclaycard would
recognize your efforts to catch the point thief and at least waive your annual
fee. But understand a couple things about how banks operate: The anti-fraud
unit is a separate division from the retention unit.
If you have been hacked,
that’s a matter for a bank’s anti-fraud unit. If you ask to have a fee waived,
that’s a matter for a different division. And often, the agent you talk with –
even if he or she wanted to help you – lacks the discretion to waive your
It is true that your efforts probably saved
Barclaycard a lot of money, because the bank likely would have reinstated your
points if it could be proven they were taken illegally. But companies don’t
always show their gratitude.
The situation is similar to a burglar breaking
into your house and stealing thousands of dollars of jewelry. If the police go to a
local pawnshop and recover the jewelry the next day, that’s great – but your
insurance company doesn’t waive your premiums or send you a check to thank you
for saving them money.
If you wanted to press the annual fee issue
with Barclaycard, you could ask to talk to a supervisor, who might have more
authority to waive the annual fee. You might also tell the agent that you are
considering canceling the card – banks sometimes waive fees in that
circumstance, or at least make you an offer to earn additional points.
Tip: AwardWallet takes your login information and compiles it in one centralized place, and you can set it up so that it notifies you of changes to your reward balances.
See related: Crooks’ new target: Your reward points
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