Monday, March 17, 2014

Retention Bonuses: Thinking about cancelling your card? Call first!

So, you signed up for a great credit card bonus.  You met your spending requirement, got the points, and now a year has gone by.  Your offer may or may not have come with an annual fee for the first year, but now the first renewal fee is coming due.  Should you cancel the card?  The answer is "maybe."  Many card companies are interested in retaining your business and will sometimes make quite attractive offers to get you to stay.

For the most part, American's are not a haggling people.  We don't like to negotiate prices, upgrades, or services.  That tendency can cost us and just a little moxy can save a lot of money.  This principle applies to credit card annual fees just as much as it does to furniture purchases, cable bills, or any other transaction.

I'll give you a specific example.  For several years, I've had an American Express Business Platinum card.  It carries a hefty $450 annual fee, but generally the benefits were worth keeping the card.  Well, since the card lost AA lounge access and the Delta lounge access benefit was reduced to 1 person per card, I've been slightly less enthusiastic about it.  So, when my annual fee posted recently, I decided to call in and see what Amex could do for me.

I called the number on the back of the card and reached a representative.  I explained that the fee had just posted and that I was considering cancelling.  He tried to push the option of downgrading to a card that had a lower fee, but that's not what I was interested in.  I either wanted to cancel the card or keep the card but get a statement credit or Membership Rewards points to offset it.  It quickly became clear that I wasn't going to get anywhere with the guy, though.

So, what to do?  Assume that no offer is available?  NO.  One of the most frequently cited axioms in the points & miles world is:  "You don't like the answer the representative gave you?  Then hang up and call back."  So, I politely ended the call and called back.

This time I explicitly asked for the retention department.  When I reached someone in "Membership Consulting" I explained the situation and asked if there was anything Amex could do for me.  The result?  50,000 Membership Rewards points as a thank-you for keeping the card.  Since the value of the points far exceeds the annual fee (not to mention the value of the card's other features) I thanked her and accepted the offer.  But you know what I would have gotten if I hadn't called to ask?  Nothing, that's what.

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