Know When to Fold ’em: My Retention Bonus Call Results

As points and miles enthusiasts, I think we can all agree that a good credit card churn is a little bit of an adrenaline rush. Knowing that you just got hundreds of thousands of points…for free…is a very good feeling.

On the other side of the coin, a low point of the churn cycle is the dreaded retention bonus call. It’s never fun to call and ask for more points “to help offset the annual fee” on a card. However, actually paying these fees on a card is even less fun, so in my opinion, these “bite the bullet” calls are must-do’s.

In preparation for the New Year, I’m going all out with the old, in with the new over here. I’m cleaning out closets, straightening my desk, and making a big Goodwill run to drop off a carload of donations. So – in keeping with my theme – I decided it was time to make a bunch of retention bonus calls this afternoon. My goal was to clear out some of the unused credit cards out of both my and Josh’s wallet in order to make room for new, fresh cards (with nice big sign-up bonuses).

Our marathon call session took about half an hour, but it was totally worth it. We got an extra 27,500 points for our time, plus it was such a great bonding experience for us (just kidding about that part).

Here are the results of our calls:

Chase

1. Southwest Premier Visa – Personal. Annual fee: $99.

Notes: I’ve had this card for a little over a year, and I would say that I’ve used it on a fairly regular basis, but haven’t put a ton of spend onto it. I just got an “anniversary bonus” of 6,000 points on this card.

Retention bonus offered: 3,000 miles “as a thank you for being a valued customer.”

Verdict: I’m going to keep this card, mainly because it’s a Chase card and I want to use it as a bargaining chip for my next Chase application (Chase will often approve an application for a new card if you agree to close an existing account, or they will sometimes let you transfer credit from an existing card to your new card).

2. Southwest Premier Visa – Business. Annual fee: $99.

Notes: I’m in exactly the same situation with this card, and was offered the exact same 3,000 mile retention bonus, along with the 6,000 mile “anniversary bonus.”

Verdict: Keep, for the same reasons. Also, since this card is a business card, the credit line does not show in my personal credit report and impact my credit utilization or credit aging, so it doesn’t impact my personal credit score.

3. British Airways Visa – Josh’s card. Annual fee: $95.

Notes: Josh has had this card for over a year. We didn’t cancel it at the one-year mark because we wanted to get the remaining 50K Avios (he signed up for the deal where he got 50K Avios on sign-up and an additional 50K at the one-year mark). We do not put much spend at all on this card. The annual fee is not actually coming up until May.

Retention bonus offered: If Josh spends $1500/month on this card for the next 3 months, he will get an additional 9,000 Avios. Since we can fly to Mexico for 10,000 Avios, this is a good deal for us.

Verdict: Keep. After earning the 9,000 bonus Avios, he can use this card as a bargaining chip.

Citi

1. Citi HHonors Visa – Josh’s card. No annual fee.

Notes: we got this card to earn massive amounts of Hilton points a couple of years ago. We haven’t used it in months.

Retention bonus offered: if Josh spends $1000 on this card within the next 3 months, he will get an additional 5,000 Hilton points.

Verdict: Keep for now. Since there is no annual fee, we might as well get the 5,000 points, and then cancel the card.

2. Citi HHonors Visa – Josh’s card. No annual fee

Notes: this is a duplicate of the exact same card. Josh got two because we wanted as many Hilton points as we could get at the time.

Retention bonus offered: for the next 16 months, each month that Josh spends $750 or more on this card, he will get an additional 750 Hilton points.

Verdict: Close. $750/month is a big spend for a wimpy return.

3. Citi AAdvantage Visa – Josh’s card. $95 annual fee.

Notes: we haven’t used this card in months.

Retention bonus offered: convert to the Citi Bronze Advantage card. This card is not available except as a downgrade from a current card. There is no annual fee on the Bronze card, and you earn 1 point for every $2 you spend on the card.

Verdict: Close!

4. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve. $95 annual fee. 

Notes: I got 2 of these cards when we were on our Hilton bender. On this one, I’ve spent over $10,000 this past year, so I will receive an anniversary bonus of 1 free night. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’m not sure that it was worth the spend. Live and learn. Actually, maybe we can use the free night in Asia or Europe. I’m going to look into that.

Retention bonus offered: none.

Verdict: Keep. I’m kind of racing the clock on this one. If I get the free night certificate before my annual fee is due, I will cancel this card immediately. If they keep dragging their feet on sending me the free night, I might have to pay the fee, which would be super annoying but also maybe just the cost of doing business.

5. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve. $95 annual fee. 

Notes: I haven’t used this card in months, plus I did not spend anywhere near $10,000 on it this year.

Retention bonus offered: none.

Verdict: Close!

American Express

1. Amex HHonors Surpass – Josh’s card. Annual fee: $75.

Notes: also part of our Hilton bender. Haven’t used it in months, except for during the Great Amex Bonus Flurry of 2013.

Retention bonus offered: none.

Verdict: Close!

2. Amex Business Gold – Josh’s card. Annual fee: $175.

Notes: Josh rarely uses this card. Annual fee isn’t due until May.

Retention bonus offered: 7,500 points, or $100.

Verdict: Jury is out on this one, because the customer service rep kind of hinted around that there might be a better retention offer available if Josh spent more money on the card. Hmmm.

The Final Tally

At the end of our marathon call session, we were 27,500 points richer, just for asking. We’ve also got “anniversary bonuses” of a free Hilton night and 12,000 additional Rapid Rewards points. We kept five cards open, closed four cards, and are pondering the fate of one card. We have total annual fees of $200 for the five cards we kept…with another possible fee of $95 depending on the timing of when the free Hilton night hits my account.

Prepping for Your Own Retention Calls – a Few Tips

  • You can call the Citi Retention line directly at 800-444-2568.
  • For Chase and Citi, if you already know that you just want to cancel the card (for example, if you have already received a retention bonus on the card within the past couple of months, and now it’s time to close the account), you can send a secure message asking to cancel the card instead of calling.
  • If you decide to cancel a card, always ask to consolidate your credit by transferring the existing credit line to another credit card. This gives you some leverage when you apply for your next card with the same bank.

Anyone else planning a credit card housecleaning session? What are you thinking of canceling?

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Comments

  1. Good breakdown. Keep in mind that transferring credit lines works great with most banks before closing but not with Bank of America. They will tend to hard pull you to do this and the net result can be as bad as just closing one of their cards!

  2. Did you transfer out all your membership rewards points before making a call to cancel Amex Business Gold? And if you did, where did you transfer. I have 80k points sitting in my account and don’t know what to do before I make such a call.

  3. Arlington Traveler says:

    My experience with Citi is the following. They generally waive the annual fee the year you apply. When your first annual fee hits, you can usually get a very lucrative retention offer out of them. However, when your second annual fee hits, if they gave you a retention offer the first time, they won’t provide you one the next time.

    Chase is a mixed bag. They generally do offer retention bonuses on their cobranded airline cards. However, they offer nothing or a very modest retention bonus on their hotel cards because they come with elite status and a free night.

  4. I have never heard of this! In the past I have just cancelled the card. Do you have a “script” of what you should say to the CC companies?

  5. Points Pixie says:

    Amazed1 – There are many different strategies for a successful retention bonus call. Here is a script that has worked for us in the past:

    http://pointsandpixiedust.boardingarea.com/annual-fee-coming-up-on-a-credit-card-how-to-get-a-retention-bonus/#sthash.EOo5uugT.dpbs

    Good luck!

  6. I called on the ctit aadv. business that has a $75 an. fee coming due.
    I was offered a $50 stmt credit to keep card open and I hung up and called back and was offered 10,000 for 5grand spend in next 6mo.

    I took the offer!!

    Thanks Kendra!

  7. 2thepoints says:

    Are you sure they offer 1500/month for 3 months for BA (Chase card) as they offered me the same 9000 avios if I spend 1500 in 3 months

    • Points Pixie says:

      2thepoints – That’s so great! Retention offers vary by account – not everyone gets the same offer. You got a really good one! 🙂

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