Credit Card Retention Offers: How to Save Money on Annual Fees

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Many of the best credit cards on the market come with annual fees. Some are reasonable  at $99 a year or less. Others are more staggering – $450, $550 or more. Whenever these lofty annual fees post to our statements, we must decide – is the card worth keeping? Should I cancel it? Well, there may be a third option: credit card retention offers.

credit card retention offers

What are Credit Card Retention Offers?

In short, retention offers are a credit card issuer’s way to keep you as a customer. They may consist of bonus points, waived fees, cash credits, etc.

Retention offers almost always require you to call in and talk to a rep. Specific offers will vary, and sometimes you may not be offered anything at all.

In some cases, credit card issuers will simply wave the annual fee if you call in and ask. Other times they will offer you bonus points, a partial refund of the annual fee, or some other sort of olive branch to keep you on board.

For example, on a card with a $99 annual fee, you may be offered a full refund ($99), a partial refund ($50), a bonus offer with no requirements (3,000 points), or a bonus offer with a spend requirement (10,000 points after spending $1,000 in the next 2 months).

You can actually check to see what other people have received as retention offers by heading over to FlyerTalk. Here are some helpful links:

How Do I Get a Retention Offer?

It may seem silly, but often times getting a credit card retention offer involves nothing more than calling in and asking nicely.

The retention department exists to keep you as a customer – it cost a lot to obtain your business, so they are often willing to throw some bonus points your way to keep you as a cardholder. Simply calling in and asking for bonus points or a waived annual fee works surprisingly often.

Basically, just call in and say that you’re not sure if you’re going to keep your card or not. Mention the annual fee and that you’re unsure if it’s worth keeping. If necessary, compare the card to others you hold – i.e., “My Sapphire Reserve has a better earning rate, so I don’t use this card much any more”.

You will likely be transferred to the retention department. If you aren’t, you may need to be more direct, and say that you wish to cancel the card. Front-line reps rarely handle card cancellations, so if you say those words you will almost certainly be transferred to the retention department.

Most people call in shortly before or shortly after their annual fee posts. Each bank has different rules and best practices, as outlined here. Keep in mind these are basically unwritten rules/guidelines that are subject to change.

Retention Offer Best Practices

  • Be kind and courteous to the reps you speak with
  • Call around the time your annual fee posts
  • Call during business hours (retention reps aren’t available 24/7)
  • Ask for the annual fee to be waived
  • If that doesn’t work, ask for bonus points or courtesy credit
  • If that still doesn’t work, ask to cancel the card
  • If you are still not offered anything, decide whether to keep the card or cancel it right there
  • If you don’t succeed at first, it may be worthwhile to call again and try a different rep

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