10 Tips: Retention Bonus Offers

I've covered current AMEX and Citi retention bonus offers as well as select Chase retention bonus offers, but it's worth going over some tips for a successfully getting a retention bonus offer. Today, I spent just a couple minutes to get 10,000 points as a retention offer on a credit card, so just a few minutes of your time for each card can make it very worth it to keep the card, at least for another year.

Why Should I Care About Credit Card Retention Bonus Offers?

While you may be most focused on large signup bonuses, retention bonuses are nothing to sneeze at: they can cover or exceed the annual fee for the card, giving you another free year of having the card. And as you'll remember from our Understand How Your Credit Score Works post, it's best to keep your credit cards as long as possible, to increase the average age of accounts. Best of all, often these retention calls are just a few minutes of your time, so the potential benefit is well worth it.

1. Use Your Card Even After Getting the Signup Bonus

I'm guilty of not always doing this, but ideally you should continue to use your card regularly, even if for just small purchases, even after you earn the signup bonus. If it's hard to remember to do, consider putting a small recurring subscription such as Hulu or Netflix on the card–just don't forget to move the subscription over should you ever close the card. 

You want to demonstrate, come time for your retention call, that you've been regularly using the card–this can increase your chances of a retention bonus.

2. Look Up the Current Retention Bonus Offers for the Card You're Calling About

You want to be prepared and knowledgeable about what kind of retention bonus, if any, to expect. That way you don't waste time banging your head against a wall trying to get a Chase Sapphire Preferred retention bonus or fee waiver, and also have some perspective on different retention bonus offer choices, should you be presented with 2 or 3 to choose among. Check out our posts Citi AAdvantage and AMEX Retention Bonus Offers and Chase Retention Bonus Offers and also review these FlyerTalk threads (go to “last” to see the most recent posts, and use the thread search function to search for a specific card):

Chase Retention Bonus Offer Reports – All Cards

AMEX Retention Bonus Offer Reports – All Cards

Citi Retention Bonus Offer Reports – All Cards

3. Call 2-3 Months Before Your Annual Fee Comes Due

9 months in is a a good time to call, since it's not too early and by that point there can be retention bonus offers for your account (note that you don't just negotiate these with the retention specialist–there are typically retention offers you're preapproved for). And by not waiting until the annual fee is actually due, you still have a chance to decide whether to keep the card if you so choose: you can accept a retention bonus offer, even one that requires some spend to receive, and then if you really opt not to keep the card, still can close it.

I'd suggest you use this sparingly if at all–you really should accept retention offers in good faith and should plan to keep the card if you accept one. But as sometimes happens, if you apply for another card and are forced to use that card's credit line in order to get approved for the new card, you'll have that option.

4. Get to The Retention Specialist or a Rep Who Can Provide Retention Bonus Offers

You need to ensure you reach a person who can view your retention offers and offer them to you. Typically you'll need to speak to a retention specialist at AMEX, not the front line customer service rep. On the other hand, with Chase's own cards such as the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Cards, you'll speak to the front line representative for retention.

5. Elicit Offers, Don't State You're Going to Cancel

So how should you begin the discussion? Some advise you to compliment the cards, but I'm usually a bit more direct. I mention that I'm looking at all of my cards, and thinking about which ones to concentrate most of my spend on in the coming months. By saying this, I haven't said anything like I'm going to cancel, but I have put the rep on notice that I'm evaluating the value of each card, which segues nicely to a discussion of whether there may be any offers I'm approved for. 

Note that some reps, AMEX in particular, will stick rather rigidly to their script of extolling the card's benefits. If you get one where it's like pulling teeth to get what your retention offers are, I would politely wrap up the call and call back later. The process is much easier with a knowledgeable and more friendly representative.

6. If You're Given a Choice Between an Annual Fee Waiver and Points, Don't Automatically Pick the Fee Waiver

Particularly if you're new to miles and points, don't only focus on the annual fee waiver. Try to figure out first what the points or miles are worth to you. Check out our posts How Much Is a Mile Worth? Value of United Airlines Miles and How Much is a Mile Worth? Value of American AAdvantage Miles to help you think through what a mile or point is worth for your travel.

In my case, for the Ink Bold card I was offered a fee waiver of $95 or 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points. It was an easy choice to pick the 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points, given that I'll end up transferring them to United and redeem them in a way worth 2 cents to 4 cents per point to my family, meaning that the 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $200-400 to me.

7. If There's No Retention Bonus Offer, Call Back

Don't give up if you're not offered a retention bonus by the first agent you speak with. Thank them politely and call back later. That's another benefit of starting this process well before your annual fee comes due–plenty of time to call again. Of course, if you're getting the same answer after 4-5 calls, you may well not be approved for retention bonus offers that you want.

8. Don't Close a Card Without Transferring the Credit Line to Another Card

If you haven't been approved for a retention bonus offer and decide to close the card, don't forget to transfer your credit line to another card from the same issuer first. You don't want to lose any of your credit lines, as having plenty of credit helps keep your utilization ratio low, which is good for your credit score. Plus, it helps to have as a bargaining chip to use when calling reconsideration to get approved for new credit cards.


9. Do the Legwork for a Reluctant Spouse or Partner

My husband doesn't like to get involved more than he has to where credit cards are concerned, and since I've already done the prep for my own cards, it's no big deal to call for him. He calls, verifies his identity, and passes the phone to me. 

10. Track Any Retention Bonus Offers That Require Spend to Receive the Bonus

Sometimes the retention bonus requires some spend on the card to receive it, a mini version of what you did to receive the signup bonus. Make sure to track this so that you can complete the requisite spend by the deadline.

Have more retention bonus offer tips? Share them in the comments!

Related Posts

Citi AAdvantage and AMEX Retention Bonus Offers

Chase Retention Bonus Offers

Which Credit Cards to Keep, Close, Trade and Apply For

When to Cancel or Close a Credit Card

Downgrade Your AMEX, Chase or Citi Card to a No Fee Card?


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