This month I had to make a tough decision. Annual fees either posted or were about to post for 3 of my credit cards. Retention offers can significantly offset these expenses, but they’ve gotten hard to get lately.
You know how much I like to pay for my free travel privileges – I don’t, and I like it even less when I’m not traveling, for who knows how long.
Something had to give. But what, or rather which one?
Just for the context, all of the accounts below are reasonably active.
My Citi Prestige is getting axed
Citi Prestige used to be my favorite card ever! Great bonus, fantastic perks, incredible insurance benefits, plus I used to pay the reduced Citigold $350 annual fee for many years. On top of that, the Citi retention department was my BFF ever year after year, always helping to reduce even the measly remainder of the annual fee to practically nothing. It was worth every penny.
My Citi Prestige glowing review from 2015
And then things went downhill fast. Gone is the Admiral Club access, gone is 1.6x ThankYou points on AA bookings. The 4th free hotel night – severely gutted. The Emergency Evacuation and all other insurance benefits – gone, gone, gone.
And then, in their infinite wisdom, Citi increased the annual fee from $450 to $495 and did away with the Citigold discount.
Still, I thought, it’s not like they aren’t trying at all. Among some other (lame) benefits, Citi added 5x points on dining. So maybe with the right retention offer, I thought…
Well, here are 2 retention offers they came up with when I called the other day.
- 10,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 a month for 3 consecutive months OR
- $150 statement credit ($50 per month after spending $3,000 per month for 3 consecutive months)
Wow, I’m not even sure I’ve ever heard retention offers as pathetic as those.
This card is a goner.
But my ThankYou points!
I can transfer my points to one of the partners’ FFPs, but not having any idea when and where I’m going to travel next, I’d rather not.
Here is what I remembered about the ThankYou program (my goodness, does it have to be so confusing?)
- When you cancel the Prestige (or Premier) you lose your points in 60 days.
- You will lose your points even if you also have another premium card.
- But you will not lose your points if you downgrade your Prestige rather than cancel.
What I didn’t remember, however, was whether or not I would be able to use the points from the downgraded Prestige for airline transfers if I pooled them with the Premier. So I turned to these Frequent Miler’s guides (1 and 2). Highly recommended reads if you’re facing a similar dilemma.
I’ve just been approved for the Citi Premier card (60,000 ThankYou points after spending $4K in 3 months) with an astonishing $2,000 credit limit. 🙂 So, I’m not concerned about losing my points. I’m planning to downgrade my Prestige to the Rewards+ card, which has an awesome 10,000-point redemption rebate feature I didn’t even know anything before checking out FM’s guides (#embarrassing).
My Amex Gold card stays
As a reminder, here are the Amex Gold card’s most valuable features:
- 4x on worldwide dining and groceries (U.S. supermarkets only)
- $10 monthly dining credit on food takeout and delivery from GrubHub and Seamless, and a few others
There are other bennies of course, but I couldn’t care less about those.
Now, the Gold’s $250 annual fee is not small change, but my monthly $10 dining credits help covering almost 50% of that. This benefit is very tangible to me since I would order food delivery whether I had this card or not.
But that only covers $120 out of $250, and while I’ve earned quite a few Membership Rewards points with the 4x on dining and groceries, the $130 difference doesn’t sit right with me.
So I called to ask Amex if they had any retention offers for me and got this option right away:
10,000 Amex points with no spending requirements
I thought that was fair but asked if there was a better offer they could come up with. The agent apologized profusely but the answer was no, so I took the points.
Is 10,000 Amex points worth $130? Sure. I value Membership Rewards points at at least 1.8x.
But would I pay $130 for 10,000 Amex points outright? No, I wouldn’t (but that’s just me).
Still, I’m happy that I’ve got to keep the card and keep earning points. That was a fair deal in my book.
My Chase Ink Business Plus stays too
I’ve had the Chase Ink Business Plus card forever. This is the only card I use for some consistent, albeit very modest, manufactured spending (because Hyatt!). Don’t ask me what method I use because it’s not without risks and I’ve mentally prepared myself that I can lose some money at some point (I’m sure I’ll still be upset if I do, though 🙂 ).
The Ink Business Plus card was changed to Ink Business Preferred a few years ago, but I’ve been grandfathered in under the old earning scheme. I’m still getting 5 points per $1 for internet, cable, phone, and office supplies for the first $50K spent annually. The current Ink Business Preferred card offers much weaker 3x earning bonuses, albeit there is a higher $150K cap and more bonus categories now (travel, shipping, internet advertising, and phone/cable/internet).
Still, since I’ve been separated from the Chase 5/24 ecosystem for quite a while, the Ink Business Plus has been the only way for me to earn some coveted Hyatt points. Which is why I still decided to keep it for another year despite not getting any retention offers. As in nothing at all (I called twice).
I’ve cut down on my credit cards — WAY DOWN!
At the top of my “churning career,” I think, I was carrying over 25 cards. Now there are fewer than 10 – first time in decades! I’ve been closing cards like there is no tomorrow without getting new ones.
(A word of caution: don’t close your credit cards willy-nilly without calculating your utilization rate. Mine is around 1%, so I really don’t care, but it has a potential to adversely affect your credit score).
And you know what else?
Just checked my Experian account, and found that I’d be under the Chase 5/24 threshold before the year’s end. That is if I don’t apply for anything between now and then. And I don’t know if I will – those rejection letters are really bad for morale. 😥
It’s funny how my credit score is getting higher every month for no apparent reason, while my ability to get new credit [card bonuses] is getting ruthlessly squashed time after time. It’s not just the pandemic, as banks began tightening the screws and their own belts well before then. The pandemic just exacerbated the general trend.
When was your last app-o-Rama / product change / retention request and how did it work out for you?