After living through more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic and upended travel plans, travelers are taking a hard look at what’s in their wallets. “Is this card worth paying the annual fee again? How about that one?”
But before rushing to cancel a credit card, there’s one critical question to ask yourself: “Can I get a retention offer?”
Whether it’s a stash of bonus points, a discounted – or waived – annual fee, or a statement credit, these offers can take the sting out of paying another year of fees. And banks are always eager to keep customers (and continue collecting annual fees) during the pandemic.
We’ll explain how these offers work and give you a script to maximize your chances of getting one. And even if you’re not thinking of canceling one of your credit cards, learn how you can get something extra out of keeping your card open for another year.
What’s a Retention Offer?
Whether you’ve got a card from Chase, Capital One, Citi, or American Express, every major bank has a department dedicated to keeping customers around.
But here’s the critical thing: You have to ask to get one of these retention offers.
Banks don’t go out of their way offering new perks, points, or discounts to each and every customer. They’re a last-case resort, a way to retain customers that are considering dropping a card.
You can simply call up the customer service line on the back of your card and let them know you’re thinking about canceling a credit card unless there’s a discount or other incentive to keep your card open. Otherwise, most banks have a dedicated phone line you can call:
- American Express: 1-800-528-4800
- Capital One: 1-877-513-9959
- Citi: 1-800-444-2568
- Chase: 1-800-432-3117
But just because you ask doesn’t mean you’ll get a retention offer. It varies by bank, what card you have and how long you’ve had it, how much you spend on it per year, and other factors. If you’ve accepted a retention offer on a card in recent years, odds are you won’t get another one.
Thrifty Tip: Wait until just before (or just after) your annual fee hits your account to maximize your retention offer. Banks typically give you at least a month after paying an annual fee to decide to cancel a card and get that fee refunded.
Nonetheless, it’s always worth asking before ponying up for another annual fee – whether you’re truly considering dropping a card or not. And that’s especially true right now…
What are Banks Doing for Retention Offers?
With most travel on hold this time last year, we saw banks were desperate to retain credit cardholders. Credit card companies understood they needed to sweeten the deal to keep cardholders around.
And that meant going beyond the slew of new perks and benefits banks they added to tide travelers over during the pandemic. Our team has saw some of the best retention offers just in the last few months on some of the top travel cards. Here’s a small list of
- Our team received retention offers of 20,000 and even 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points to keep the Platinum Card® from American Express open – without spending another dime. We’ve even heard of 50,000-point retention offers. I was also offered a $200 statement credit if I spent $3,000 on my Platinum card, but took the points.
- Delta SkyMiles American Express credit cardholders got some relief, too. We heard from readers and Thrifty Traveler Premium members that they’ve received bonuses of 7,500 SkyMiles on the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card or 15,000 miles on the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card just for keeping the card open another year.
- Several Thrifty Traveler readers reported that Capital One agreed to waive the $95 annual fee for one year on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
- Even Chase opened its wallets to keep customers happy, offering statement credits of $100, $150, or even $250 to Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders to renew for another year.
In 2021, things have changed. While still far from normal, travel is on the upswing again. And that means credit card companies are being less generous with retention offers than they were a year ago, generally speaking.
But your business is still important to them, and it never hurts to try for a retention offer. The worst they can say is no.
Once again, just what offer you get will depend on your bank, which card you hold, how much you spend on that card each year, and more. Banks make these decisions based upon how valuable your continued business is to them. And you may not get an offer, period.
One word of warning: If you accepted a retention offer last year, your odds of getting another on that same card this year are much lower.
What Should I Say During My Retention Call?
Calling up a bank and asking for a retention offer can feel daunting, but it’s simple.
Start by dialing the number on the back of your card or the retention number(s) listed above. When it’s time to get down to business, say something like:
“I’m considering canceling this card because I’m just not getting enough value to justify paying the large annual fee again, especially since I’m still not traveling nearly as much as prior to the pandemic.”
Your customer service agent will almost certainly respond by diving into the card’s current benefits – including any recent additions – in an attempt to get you to reconsider. Counter by saying something along the lines of:
“I’m aware of those benefits and have used some of them, but it’s still not enough for me to justify keeping the card open for another year. Are there any additional incentives or offers available to convince me to renew my credit card?”
That’s when you get into the potential retention offers. It’s typically a computerized process, so your agent will likely give you one or more retention offers – if any are available. Don’t be afraid to ask if any others are available after the first offer.
A big points bonus, annual fee discount, or statement credit could make it easy to decide to renew. If you agree, you’re agreeing to pay the annual fee in exchange for whatever retention offer you landed on. Cancel the card before paying the annual fee, and you’ll forfeit that offer.
If you’re not liking your offers (or got none), you can simply say you’ll continue thinking about it and hang up.
What If I Don’t Get a Retention Offer?
Don’t despair: You’re not alone. And you’ve still got options.
If you come up empty-handed, it may be worth trying again later on for a retention offer – but probably not. Unless if you called well ahead of your card renewal date, the odds that a retention offer will become available on a second (or third) try are slim.
If you were never serious about canceling your credit card … well, your bluff failed. Better luck next year. But if you’re still considering canceling the card, there are some important questions to ask yourself.
- Do the benefits on the card outweigh the annual fee? Don’t just think about airline and travel credits, but the bonus earning categories that can add up fast on groceries, dining, and more.
- What will happen to your points or miles if you cancel your card?
- Will your credit score take a dive because you cancel your card? It might…
- Rather than cancel the account outright, can you downgrade it to a cheaper (or free) credit card?
Retention offers can be the difference-maker between a straightforward decision to dump a credit card and a no-brainer to keep it open. Whether you’re seriously considering canceling a card or not, make these retention calls part of your routine.
The benefits can be huge. It’s the epitome of a low-risk, high-reward play.