I love getting questions from Points and Pixie Dust readers! I got a great question from a reader today about how to get a fee waiver (AKA a retention bonus) on her Chase Sapphire Card:
I called Chase to see if I could get the annual fee waived for my Chase Sapphire card. They told me the fee isn’t actually due until 3/1, but that they do not have the power to ever waive the annual fee. Is there anything I can do? And should I pay it? (Just as an FYI, they said I could pay the fee and use the card for 90 days before canceling and they’d refund the fee.)
I give this savvy reader props for knowing that asking for a fee waiver is always a good idea. Actually getting a fee waiver is definitely more challenging with some cards than with others; success with the Chase Sapphire card is notoriously difficult. However, you might as well try.
If you have a credit card fee looming and you want to ask for a retention bonus, here are the steps to take:
- Call the number on the back of your card. Be as friendly as possible. A little kindness goes a long way here. These customer service reps have to listen to annoyed, angry people all day long, so when you are cheerful and positive, it will usually help your cause.
- Don’t come right out and state that you are going to cancel the card. Soft-pedal a bit. You can say something like, “I’m not sure if the annual fee is worth keeping the card, and I wanted to see what my options were.”
- When the rep reviews all the many benefits of the card, listen politely. Then you can take a turn. List all of the reasons why you are a great customer. Have you been with the bank for a long time? Do you put a lot of spend on the card annually? Do you have multiple accounts with the bank (mortgage, car loan, checking/savings)? Now is the time for you to mention all of those things.
- If the rep doesn’t volunteer a retention bonus, suggest it…but don’t call it a fee waiver! Since the annual fee is part of the contract, you are obligated to pay it. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t offer you a one-time statement credit.
- You can request a statement credit in either points/miles or cash. For example, in the above example, the reader could request 9,500 Ultimate Rewards Points or $95. Ask for your preference, and if the rep declines, ask for the other option. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
- If that particular rep will not give you a retention bonus, you can ask then to send a request to the appropriate department (usually marketing) for a statement credit.
- You can also ask to speak to a senior specialist.
- If all of the above fails and the rep will not offer you a credit, hang up politely and call back.
- As last resort, send a secure message to the bank outlining your request.
Since I’ve also got an annual fee coming due on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I decided to make the same phone call this morning. The rep was quick to tell me that I was out of luck. He explained that since the Sapphire Preferred card is “so unique,” Chase is confident that it is worth every penny of the $95 fee. He went on to offer that if I wanted to pay the annual fee with points, that was an option. I almost had a heart attack thinking about using 9,500 points this way and I couldn’t decline his offer fast enough. He also mentioned that I could downgrade the card to a no-fee version, which I also declined, because really, Chase is correct: the Sapphire Preferred is the card to have and to hold. In fact, I’m inspired to write a post on this card, so in case you are wondering why I’m such a fan, tune in tomorrow to find out more.
To sum up: while you should definitely ask for an annual retention bonus, you should also have a good sense of how valuable the card is to you. The fee might be well worth it.
And as for my call to Chase customer service, The Rolling Stones said it perfectly: you can’t always get what you want; but if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.