Travel credit cards are amazing. They have allowed us to travel more often without sacrificing other necessities, like hard seltzer and dental visits. But what about all those annual fees? Should you really spend several hundred dollars per year to keep the cards? No. Enter retention offers.
Some people wonder how to get a retention offer, an incentive to hold onto your credit card for another year. It’s not difficult. Just pick up the phone and ask. Like when you ordered that football phone from QVC in 1990.
What Should You Know About Retention Offers?
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Retention Offers Explained
1. What Does Retention Offer Mean?
Miles and points credit cards offer amazing introductory bonuses. Even if you have to pay the annual fee for credit cards the first year, the value of the incentive more than makes up for it. But what about the second year when there is no large bonus coming your way?
If you like the card and get value out of it, keep it. Some cards will be worth the annual fee to you. Rather than canceling the ones that aren’t, you can ask the credit card company for a retention offer, an incentive for you to keep the card open.
Some retention offer types include annual fee waivers, statement credits, or additional miles and points if you meet a spending requirement. A retention bonus offer may not always be available, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
There is no official instruction manual on how to ask for retention offers, but generally speaking, you should be polite and relay that you’re not sure you are getting enough value out of the card given your spending habits.
2. Wait for Annual Fees to Post Before Asking for Retention Offers
You will have the best chance to get a retention offer after your annual fee posts. Some offers do not become available until after that time.
For example, I called Capital One the day my annual fee posted. The representative was unable to see the annual fee on the statement and said there were no retention offers available. I called the next morning, the representative could see the annual fee, and a retention offer magically appeared in the system.
Even worse, if you do not wait, you could risk losing your miles and points. American Express is notorious for clawing back introductory bonuses if you make changes to your product when the account is less than a year old. Always wait for the annual fee to post before you call.
Annual Fee Will be Refunded or Pro-rated
Do not worry about having to pay the annual fee if you wait until it posts to call. The vast majority of the time, it can be refunded, either in full or pro-rated. If you call right after it posts, even if you get a pro-rated refund, you will have to pay a few dollars at most.
3. Spending Matters When it Comes to Retention Offers
You are more likely to get a retention offer on a credit card you have actually used. If you only charge enough to get your introductory bonus, you are much less likely to get an offer than when you use the card regularly every month.
If your one year anniversary is coming up and it makes sense to do so, consider using the card a few times before you make the call.
4. Check FlyerTalk Before You Call for Retention Offers
Miles and points people are a tight-knit community. The internet is replete with information about how to
beat the system earn miles and points. I would never recommend doing anything sketchy (your toaster doesn’t need a credit card in its name), but a little information is a good thing.
FlyerTalk routinely has updated threads about current retention offers. Figure out what others were offered before you make your call.
5. Downgrading Your Card is Better Than Canceling
What if there is no annual fee waiver? Should you cancel then? Not if you can help it. Try to do a product change to credit cards with no annual fee.
The age of your accounts is a big factor in your credit score. You want to let those suckers age like New Kids on the Block. If all of your accounts are closed after a year, that will certainly not help.
Most credit card companies offer no annual fee credit cards within their product line. If there is no other offer available, ask to do a product change to one of those. The earnings will not be as good, but if it isn’t your main card, what do you care? This way, your account stays open and you don’t have to pay the annual fee.
6. Our Retention Offers to Date
We have made a lot of call over the past couple of years. Most have been worthwhile. These have been our results to date:
6a. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Chase Ultimate Rewards travel points. You can use these points to book travel directly through Chase bank’s portal or transfer the points to Chase travel partners. Transferring points to partners can be a great value for Ultimate Rewards points. Although not the best value, this is a great way to get your rental car covered. As of the time of this writing, Chase Visa credit card travel partners are:
1. Aer Lingus, Aer Club
2. British Airways Executive Club
3. Emirates Skywards
4. Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
5. Iberia Plus
6. IHG Rewards Club
7. JetBlue TrueBlue
8. Marriott Bonvoy
9. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
10. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
11. United MileagePlus
12. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
13. World of Hyatt
Introductory Bonus: 60,000 points (worth approximately $750) after spending $4,000 in the first three months
Earnings: Two Chase travel rewards points per dollar on travel and dining and one point per dollar on everything else
1. One to one point transfers with Chase’s travel partners
2. DoorDash $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees for orders over $12
3. Earn five points per dollar on Lyft rides
4. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
5. Auto rental collision damage waiver
6. Baggage delay insurance
7. Trip delay reimbursement
8. Travel and emergency assistance services
9. Purchase protection
10. Extended warranty protection
11. Chase 0 foreign transaction fees
12. Chase Rewards are worth 25% more when redeemed through Chase credit card’s portal
Annual Fee Chase Sapphire Preferred: $95
Retention Offer Chase Sapphire Preferred: Product change to the no annual fee Chase Freedom credit card
I didn’t use this Chase account much at all after meeting the minimum spend. Most of the card benefits weren’t important to us, and we don’t spend all that much on travel because we can cover the most of it with miles and points.
The no annual fee Chase Freedom credit card, however, works well for us. I use this card much more than I used Chase Sapphire Preferred because of the Chase Freedom categories that pay five points per dollar.
6b. Barclays Credit Card AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite
The AAdvantage Barclays Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard earns American Airlines frequent flyer miles (AAdvantage miles). The introductory bonus is stupid great, but the earnings aren’t, and they are stingy with Barclay retention offers.
Introductory Bonus: 60,000 AAdvantage miles (worth approximately $960) after making any purchase and paying the annual fee
Earnings: Two AAdvantage miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and one AAdvantage mile per dollar on everything else
1. First checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to four companions
2. Preferred boarding
3. Up to $25 statement credit for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases
4. Anniversary companion certificate that lets a guest fly for $99 after you spend $20,000 on the card in a year
5. 25% off in-flight food and beverages
6. Travel and lifestyle services
7. Flight cents which round up your purchases to the nearest dollar
8. No foreign transaction fees
9. Travel coverage
10. Liability fraud protection
11. 0% APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of opening the account
Annual Fee Barclaycard: $99
Barclaycard Credit Card Retention Offer: None. I closed the account.
This was the one and only time I have been told to pound sand. The thing about this card is the introductory bonus is amazing, but that is where it ends. Most of the benefits are fluff. Other than free checked bags (which you can get with many other credit cards and in first class), we didn’t really use any of it.
6c. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card from Chase earns Southwest Rapid Rewards miles. Southwest is one of Chase’s travel partners, so in addition to earning miles with this card, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points into your Southwest loyalty account.
Introductory Bonus: 65,000 Rapid Rewards points (worth approximately $975) after you spend $2,000 in the first three months
Earnings: Two Rapid Rewards points per dollar on Southwest and Southwest travel partner purchases, one Rapid Rewards point per dollar on everything else
1. 3,000 Rapid Rewards points (worth approximately $45) on each card anniversary
Annual Fee for Southwest Credit Card: $69
Southwest Retention Offer: $35 statement credit for my card and $70 statement credit for that of my husband
Chase offered a larger statement credit on my husband’s account because we spent much more with his credit card. This credit card doesn’t have as many benefits as some other airlines, but that is because Southwest already offers things like free checked bags and no change fees to all of its customers.
Between the statement credit and the 3,000 Rapid Rewards miles we got for the card anniversary, we felt this retention offer was fair.
6d. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass is my favorite American Express Rewards card. We are loyal to Hilton. This card has great benefits and earnings that more than justify the annual fee for our family.
Introductory American Express Offers Bonus: 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points (worth approximately $625) after spending $2,000 in the first three months
Earnings: Twelve points per dollar on Hilton purchases, six points per dollar on dining, groceries and gas, and three points per dollar on everything else
1. Gold status with Hilton which comes with perks including free breakfast, no resort fees on rewards stays, free Wi-Fi, fifth night free on rewards stays, bottles of water, and room upgrades
2. Upgrade to Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 on the card in a year which includes lounge access and upgrades to suites
3. A free weekend night stay after spending $15,000 on the card in a year
4. No foreign transaction American Express fees
5. 10 Priority Pass airport lounge visits
6. Car rental loss and damage insurance
7. Global assist hotline
8. American Express Experiences including events and access to ticket presales
9. Fraud protection
Annual Fee for American Express Surpass: $95
American Express Retention Offer: Downgrade to a no annual fee Hilton card (I declined and kept the Surpass)
I was going to keep this one no matter what, but I wanted to see what they would offer. I love this card because the earnings are good at places we spend money frequently, like the grocery store. Most of the benefits are actually benefits and not fluff.
I could have downgraded to a card with lower earnings and saved the annual fee, but it would not have made financial sense to do so given how much we spend on this card.
6e. American Express Delta Card SkyMiles Gold
Introductory Bonus: 35,000 SkyMiles (worth approximately $385) after spending $1,000 in the first three months
Earnings: Two SkyMiles per dollar on Delta purchases, dining, and grocery stores, one SkyMile per dollar on everything else
Additional Delta American Express Benefits:
1. First checked bag free for cardholder and passengers (up to nine bags)
2. $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year
3. Pay with miles
4. American Express foreign transaction fees waived
5. 20% back on in-flight purchases
6. Priority boarding
7. Delta American Express rental car loss and damage insurance
8. Global assist hotline
9. Purchase protection
10. American Express extended warranty
11. Entertainment access that includes ticket presales and events
12. Fraud protection
Annual Fee Delta SkyMiles Credit Card: $99
Delta American Express Gold Retention Offer: Downgrade to no annual fee Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Rewards Credit Card
We don’t fly Delta very often, and I’m not overly impressed with this Delta American Express card’s earnings. The no annual fee version allows our account to continue to age. American Express pro-rates the annual fee rather than refunding it completely, so try to call as soon as it posts.
6f. Delta American Express Platinum
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express also earns Delta SkyMiles.
Introductory Bonus: 40,000 SkyMiles (worth approximately $440) after spending $2,000 in the first three months
Earnings: Three SkyMiles per dollar on Delta purchases and hotels, two SkyMiles per dollar on dining and grocery stores, and one SkyMile per dollar on everything else
Additional Delta American Express Platinum Benefits:
1. First checked bag free for cardholder and passengers (up to nine bags)
2. Delta American Express $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within the first three months
3. Delta American Express companion ticket certificate for a domestic flight on each card anniversary
4. Delta American Express TSA Precheck credit of $85 or $100 Global Entry fee credit
5. Delta American Express Sky Club access for $39
6. Priority boarding
7. Status boost
8. 20% back on in-flight purchases
9. Trip delay insurance
10. Car rental loss and damage American Express insurance
11. Baggage insurance plan
12. Global assist hotline
13. Delta American Express foreign transaction fees waived
14. Purchase protection
15. Delta American Express warranty extension
16. Entertainment access that includes ticket presales and events
Annual Fee American Express Delta: $250
Delta Retention Offer: Delta American Express downgrade to no annual fee Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Rewards Credit Card (which means I now hold two Delta SkyMiles Blue cards)
Again, we don’t spend much time on Delta. If you do, this card may be worthwhile. American Express pro-rates the annual fee, so call as soon as it posts if you want to do a product change.
6g. Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Citi AAdvantage Card Platinum Select World Elite earns American Airlines AAdvantage Miles. It is similar to the Barclays Mastercard, but I prefer the Citi American Airlines credit card. It has more options and the annual fee is waived the first year.
Introductory Bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage Bonus miles (worth approximately $800) after spending $2,500 in the first three months
Earnings: Two AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases, gas, and dining, and one AAdvantage mile per dollar on everything else
Additional American Airlines Citi Benefits:
1. No foreign transaction fees
2. First checked bag free for cardholder and four companions
3. Preferred boarding
4. 25% off in-flight purchases
5. $125 American Airlines flight discount after spending $20,000 in a calendar year and renew the card
6. Citi Bank Entertainment which includes presale tickets and events
Annual Fee: $99
Retention Offer: Downgrade to no annual fee American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
We didn’t use this American Airlines Citi card enough to justify the annual fee. We did the product change to keep the account open to let it age.
6h. Citi ThankYou Premier
Citi Premier card earns Citi ThankYou points which can be redeemed in Citi credit card’s travel portal. You can also transfer ThankYou points to Citi’s travel partners. As of the time of this writing, Citicard’s partners are:
1. Aeromexico Club Premier
2. Avianca LifeMiles
3. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
4. Emirates Skywards
5. Etihad Guest
6. EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
7. Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
8. Jet Airways JetPrivilege
9. JetBlue TrueBlue
10. Malaysia Airlines Enrich
11. Qantas Frequent Flyer
12. Qatar Airways Privilege Club
13. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
14. Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
15. Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
16. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Introductory Bonus: 60,000 Citi ThankYou Premier points (worth as much as $1,020 depending upon your choice of redemption) after spending $4,000 in the first three months
Citi Rewards Earnings: Three ThankYou points per dollar on dining, grocery stores, gas, and travel, and one ThankYou point per dollar on everything else
Additional Citi Premier Card Benefits:
1. $100 off $500 single hotel stay booked through Citibank credit card’s portal
2. Citi Premier foreign transaction fees waived
Citi Premier Card Annual Fee: $95
Retention Offer: 1,000 ThankYou points plus a $95 statement credit after spending $1,000 per month for three months
This card has some great earnings, and we love the flexibility of not being tied to a single brand. We book rental cars through the portal frequently. With the retention offer, keeping it was a no brainer.
6i. Disney Chase Visa Premier Card
Lord knows we love our Disney, but Disney Premier Visa kind of blows. The earnings are terrible and it has almost no benefits. It’s almost like Disney is trying to make a really large profit, but that would be so unlike Disney, so that can’t be right.
Introductory Bonus: $200 after spending $500 in the first three months
Earnings: Two Chase Disney Rewards Dollars per dollar on Disney purchases, gas, dining, and grocery stores, and one Disney Chase Visa Reward Dollar per dollar on everything else
Additional Disney Chase Card Benefits:
1. Vacation financing
2. 10% off some dining and shopping at the theme parks
3. Character experiences at the theme parks
4. 10% off some purchases at the Disney store
5. Card member events at the Disney store (come on)
Annual Fee: $49
Retention Offer: $50 statement credit
I hold onto this Chase Disney card because of the character experience at the theme parks, but that is really it. You can do much better with other cards and use those rewards to book Disney travel. I will definitely downgrade to the no annual fee version in the future.
6j. Capital One Venture Card Rewards
Venture Rewards from Capital One allows you to erase travel expenses from your credit card statement, including flights, hotels, and rental cars. The flexibility to use the rewards for any brand of travel is convenient.
You can also transfer miles to Capital One Venture travel partners. As of the time of this writing, Capital One Venture airline partners and hotel partners are:
1. Aeromexico Club Premier
2. Air Canada Aeroplan
3. Alitalia MilleMiglia
4. ALL Accor Live Limitless
5. Avianca Life Miles
6. Cathay Pacific Asia miles
7. Emirates Skywards
8. Etihad Guest
9. EVA Infinity MileageLands
10. Finnair Plus
11. Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
12. Qantas Frequent Flyer
13. Singapore KrisFlyer
14. JetBlue TrueBlue
15. Wyndham Rewards
Capital One Venture Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 Capital One Venture Miles (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first three months
Earnings: Two Capital One Venture points per dollar on all purchases
Additional Capital One Venture Benefits:
1. Five miles per dollar on Capital One Venture Uber Eats purchases
2. Capital One Venture foreign transaction fees waived
3. Capital One Venture TSA Precheck or Global Entry $100 credit
4. Travel assistance services
5. Auto rental collision damage waiver
7. Capital One Venture travel accident insurance
8. Capital One Venture extended warranty
Capital One Venture Visa Annual Fee: $95
Retention Offer: $95 statement credit
I like the flexibility of this card, but there are better options for earnings. I will likely downgrade this one to a no annual fee Capital One VentureOne in the future.
Retention Offers – Final Thoughts
Miles and points have taken our travel to another level. We travel more often with better accommodations, and we do not need to make substantial sacrifices in our daily lives.
Do not let annual fees deter you from taking out several credit cards. You can earn miles and points without spending several hundred dollars per year by asking for retention offers. Travel and make memories with your family. You will not regret it.