Annual Fee Coming Up on a Credit Card? How to Get a Retention Bonus!

While I love the perks that premium travel cards provide, I am always conscious of the fact that most of these cards charge a fairly hefty annual fee.  Sometimes this fee is waived the first year, and it is easy to conveniently forget about it…until your card anniversary rolls around, and the fee hits your account.  I can just imagine it (the fee) lurking and waiting for a chance to pop out and yell, “Surprise!”

But I digress.

The annual fee on the Platinum AmEx is a whopping $450.  While there is no question that this is a big chunk of change, if you know how to maximize the benefits provided by the card, you can easily make up that $450 (and more).  In fact, I just posted on this topic!  However, no matter how amazing the benefits are, the fact remains that the fee is gigantic.

So what to do?

Well, you could always cancel the card to avoid paying the fee.  This is typically the best option if the card is a recent addition to your wallet and you got it mainly for the sign-up bonus.  I personally would not cancel a card that has been part of my credit history for several years, because a big part of your credit score is based on how long you’ve had your credit accounts.

Another option is to just pay the fee and be done with it.  Then you don’t have to think about it for another year (see above).

The last option (I’ve saved the best for last, here) is to call the bank and see if you can wrangle a retention bonus.  Your success will depend on several factors: how long you’ve had the card, how much spend you put on it annually, and of course how receptive your customer service representative is.

Josh recently called AmEx to ask for a retention bonus to offset the big, bad $450 annual fee on his Platinum card.  He was successful – they offered him 20,000 Membership Rewards points.  Here is what he said on the call – a sample script in case you need to make a similar call.

Customer Service Rep:  “Welcome to American Express, may I take your order?”

Josh:  “Yes!  I’m reviewing my most recent statement and I see that it’s time for me to pay the annual fee on this card.  I’ve been an American Express cardholder for over seven years now, and while I’m really pleased with all of the benefits and the level of service I get from AmEx, I haven’t been reaching for this card as frequently these days because I recently got a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and I’ve been really pleased with those benefits as well.  I’m not sure I need both the Chase card and the Amex, so I’m looking for a really good reason to keep the Platinum card.  I’m wondering if you could offer me a retention bonus?  That would make my choice an easy one.”

CSR:  “I’m not authorized to give you a retention bonus!”

Josh:  “All right.  Could you please connect me with someone who has that ability?  Do you have a retention department?”

CSR:  “One moment, please.”

Josh:  “Sure.”

New CSR:  “Hello, sir.  I understand you are interested in a retention bonus?”

Josh:  “Yes.  (Repeats statement above).

CSR: “Let me see what I can do for you.  (Pause).  Sir, I can offer you 20,000 Membership Rewards Points.”

Josh:  “Great.”

The main points here are:

1.  Highlight your relationship with the bank.  Are you a long-term customer?  Do you have several accounts with the bank?  Do you always pay your bills on time?  Your goal is to remind the CSR why the bank wants to keep you as a loyal and happy customer.

2.  If the first CSR you talk to does not show you any love, ask to speak to someone else.  Or hang up (politely, of course) and try again later!

3.  Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot.  If you need some time to consider the offer, say so.  Make sure to get the CSR’s information so you can refer to it when you call back, if necessary.

Hopefully this strategy will save you some cash.  Feel free to post if you’ve got a retention bonus story to share!

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