It Never Hurts to Ask: Lucrative Citi Retention Bonuses

by on January 9, 2012 · 25 comments

in Citi, Credit Cards

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One of my favorite phrases in the miles and points game is, “It never hurts to ask.” In the past year I’ve gotten thousands of miles, better seats and even money – simply by being nice and asking your preferred credit card company or travel provider. While I recommend not pushing this to the extreme, it’s known that some credit card companies will do almost anything to keep your business. (FYI Chase is one that generally does not budge much on annual fees or retention bonuses).

TPG reader Molly recently told me a retention story in the vein of “The Three Little Pigs” that should help the rest of us good little boys and girls avoid some of the hefty annual fees on our cards without having to cancel them. The moral of the story? Banks don’t want you to cancel your credit cards, so don’t be afraid to ask for a fee waiver, and if you don’t get one, demand some points because at least you’ll get something out of it!

Here’s how Molly did it:

“Good afternoon TPG,

I just had to let you know about my success with Citicards waiving $85 fees, which sounds a lot like the story of the 3 Little Pigs!

To begin with, my Citicard Business was at it’s yearly point for charging me $85.  Since I have 4 AAdvantage Citicards, I thought that I wanted to get rid of one of them and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, as you have recommended.

When I spoke to a representative about the Business account, he was willing to give me 10,000 points to not cancel the card.  I still wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to do, so I had the agent look at my personal cards.  The AA Citicard MC, had an $85 fee,  but not until June.  The agent asked me if that bothered me (yes), so he said he would, “huff and puff & credit my account with $85,” as long as I made 5 charges on the card in the next 3 months.  Great. Done.

Next, he looked at my AA Citicard Visa, it also had an $85 fee, due in July.  He asked me if that bothered me, and I replied yes.  So, he said that he would, “huff and puff & credit my account with $85,” as long as I made 5 purchases on  the card in the next 3 months (even if they were only $1.). Great. Done.

Next, the agent looked at my AA Citicard American Express, it also had an $85. fee, due in August.  He asked me what bothered me about this one?  I told him the $85. fee, so he, “huffed and puffed & credited my account with $85,” as long as I charged 5 purchases to the account in the next 3 months. Great. Done.

Now, I started out going to cancel a Business card because of the $85. fee., and after all this huffing & puffing, I kept one fee, but gained 10,000 points, and $85 x 3= $255, one for each of my other cards.

I thought I should let you know so that other reader’s could be informed.  I would never have guessed that AAdvantage Citicards would pay me to keep all of their cards!  Wow!  $255. + 10,000 points, not bad for adding on to the original 75,000 pts. + 75,000 points that I got for opening my last 2 cards.  Thanks to TPG for helping me to get over 200,000 American Airline Points!  Great start to the New Year!

Happy New Year from the Big Bad Wolf (credit card company)!”

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Twiggers

    I did the same thing and got the credit PLUS miles :-)

  • Mike

    I did this several months ago. Seems to be pretty common thing with their cards. You can make any purchases. So just go charge pack of gums or bottle of water 5x.

  • Angel

    I’ve got 2 x $85 credits. One (Citi Amex) without any purchases and they will credit 750 extra miles if I spend $750 per month for 12 months (so basically I can get an extra 9,000 miles). The other one (Visa), they game me the $85 credit and I have to make 5 purchases in the next 3 months. Not bad but not as good as the ones you got.

  • Mac

    I went a step further and said that even an $85 statement credit wasn’t enough for me to keep my Citi AA Visa open. Citi countered by offering an add’l 3 miles/$ of spend on the next $5k I spent.

    Add that to the add’l .8mi/$ promo they were running and for the last 3 months my card has been earning 4.8 miles/$.

    In the end I earned 24,000 AA miles for only spending $5k. Not too shabby.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, interesting. I paid the fee, but got 4 add’l miles/$ of spend on the next $5k. In essence, I guess I paid 1.7 cpm for that extra mile /$ of spend, which is less than what AA sells them for, so I guess it’s not that bad of a deal.

    I hate negotiating over the phone — I’m so not an auditory person — plus I was tired. They first started with the offer that Angel mentioned, which I thought was rather meh, if the intent is to actually accrue miles.

  • Angel

    Yeah… I figured I could’ve probably pushed it but wasn’t in the mood, plus my main goal was to get $170 back! Good luck everyone!

  • Guest

    Not to be a Debbie Downer, but you didn’t actually get $255. They will charge your account, then credit it back. So you’re at zero, having neither gained nor lost. And that’s an awful lot of transactions to have to remember to make (15/per month), or else you’re out $85 on each card. I would’ve kept the biz but cancelled the others. You’re not gaining anything by keeping them, but risking $85 *3 if you forget to make the charges. Still the 10k for the biz was a great deal!

  • LarryInNYC

    I may be a little slow, but how does Molly end up $255 ahead? Aren’t the $85 credits simply a reimbursement for the annual fee that she would have avoided paying if she cancelled the cards? The 10,000 miles I understand, but the statement credits seem to me to be a wash.

  • mikes

    Well, you probably are going to take a (short term) credit score hit for cancelling 3 cards at once, especially if they represent a fair portion of the outstanding credit lines.

    Also, it’s not 15/month. It’s 5 per card within 3 months. Very easy to make if you hit Happy Hour at Sonic or get a $1 soda at McD’s a couple times a week.

    I had a similar experience to Molly, though Citi was willing to do the $85 credit 6 months after it had been billed. I was going to cancel after getting the 75k Visa and AMEX just to be rid of it, but they essentially did give me $85 since I had long since paid the fee. I’m glad I kept it since I was able to get the $20 on $200 and $10 on $100 promos over Christmas. That is free money… or an extra 10% back if you prefer. I’m definitely going to try to keep an MC in my wallet for just such occasions, as long as it’s free to keep. :)

  • Anonymous

    If you live in an area like L.A. that takes credit cards at parking meters, you can knock out 5 transactions at once. Just charge 25¢ repeatedly.

  • Mm

    To churn this card don’t you need to cancel the cards? The only reason I would want to cancel this card (even after getting offered statement credit + extra miles) is so that I could churn it again in 18-24 months. Has anyone successfuly churn this with 50K offer recently?

  • Jwsky

    I called to cancel last year and got the $85 back with five spends. This year I got that again plus 500 points a month for every spend over $500 plus 20% more points. I believe that was for the next 18 months.
    There was no haggling on my part. Just said i was going to cancel to avoid the payment. And I would have, too.

  • Benthelefty

    ditto that!

  • Benthelefty

    yes. It is a wash. She didn’t make that money, she just saved herself from paying the fees on all of them.

  • 4Health

    I was able to get just a $95 credit yesterday on the Chase BA card. I called up to cancel and I told them I didn’t need the BA card anymore because the Chase Sapphire card fulfilled all my needs. I was very surprised they offered a credit since Chase has never offered to waive the fee in the past. The best they ever offered was 5000 miles to retain the Continental card approximately 1.5 years ago.

  • Jade

    Her annual fees aren’t due until June-August, so presumably Molly could fulfill the criteria (5 charges/month x 3 months), collect the $85/card and still cancel before they charge the annual fee. So she does come out $255 ahead.

  • PJ

    I prefer the fun and cheerful moments with Reps from Chase Sapphire Preferred : “■24/7 direct access to expert service advisors (No voice recording)” if you call from your registered phone, they know you right away who is calling and phonecalls get picked up right on 1st ring. I called last night to look for the missing 2% Bonus on Travel in my last statement.. nice and ez all time share items I pointed out on the statement were quickly agreed .. i asked for ~2.5K I was slammed with 5K. Incidentally, Chase finally corrected to recognize Time Share expenses as TRAVEL; i did complain citing they were not in line with Discover ( sorry to see 5 % rebate on travel is a thing of history; you can double dip with bigcrumbs and you can prepay timeshare maintenance…) >>Hope you will agree this is NOT the card I would call to cancel when the annual fees fall due. What a fun card to carry when I was down in Mexico for 4 weeks !! I swiped Sapphire Preferred more than 50 times versus only one on Amex Platinum it took seonds to see purchase posted on Sapphire Preferred , days to see the solo amex platinum surfing up … lol

    Contrary to my late sour experienceS with AMEX: 1. I waited since the Sat. after last thanksgiving to claim the $25 ( 1 of 6) for supporting local business.. I was told the credit will come in after 6-8 weeks. despite the fact i told them 5 others showed up right away.. then yesterday something new came up: the local Getty Station is NOT a small business; the agent claimed it is a national was not on the list…I hung up the phone and googled it… IT IS STILL THERE I called back and the apologetc (?) Rep promised to get it fixed… 2. I, as account MANAGER , registered 75K singon bonus for FIVE new AMEX Gold Premier Rewards. ONE out of 5 is still stuck at 25K I had to register as account manager AGAIN on this one to talk to AMEX giving away my ss# phone# birthdays address etc ( how weird) 3. Amex is turning deaf ears to my request to claim refer bonus (1oK each) on 2 of my family members who applied AMEX GPR just hrs before I received the amex “refer a Premier” flyer in the us mail. 4. Amex failed to honor ” add on an AU get 10K” and ” swipe X times get 10K(?) monthly”.. no words of “sorry, we make mitakes” came back that is very amazing >> I highly doubt Amex will toss enough points to make me pay for the next membership fees.. I am paying on AMEX Platinum for getting more 100K MRs and Amex GOLD Premier for about 100K bonus since august 2009

  • Pettoneto

    What phone number did you guys call for Citi? I called the number on the back of my card and told the agent the same you did and she just told me if I wanted to cancel I should go ahead ad do it. “Sir, we have nothing to offer for you to keep the card”. Well, that is after she answered my call thanking me for being loyal to my AA Citi for the last 8 years. What a joke!!!!

  • Malkoinis

    Just wanted to add a comment here, I called Citi AAdvantage Visa CS and asked the CSR if she could waive my annual fee as AAdvantage card doesn’t give any annual bonuses from the card. I then asked to speak to the “retention” dept and spoke to a young man who said he would be glad to refund my $85 and give me an extra bonus a 750 AA miles for 16 months if I spend $750 on the card in each billing cycle, thus 750 points for the purchase of $750 and another 750 points making 1500 a month for 16 months or 24000 miles (almost a free domestic ticket). Not bad for “just asking” nicely. All I said is I have been a good customer and would like something to keep me that way. Good luck to all. The number you Pettoneto is on the back of your card like I did, but when the CSR says she/he can’t do nothing for you, ask for the “Retention Department” and they will take care of you. They got the power to do something. My first time with them. Good luck flyers!

  • zzd

    My AA Citicard was up for renewal this billing cycle, so I called and asked if the fee could be waived. They said no, but instead they graciously offered to roll my credit line onto any fee-free citicard without a hit to my credit. I chose the Hilton and the agent said I would indeed be eligible for the 40k honors points sign-up bonus. I would just need to pay the fee and then it will be credited back to me after the switch, which will take another month. This hasn’t happened yet, so I can’t yet say whether I received the points.

  • Guest

    Called today and they thanked me for being a loyal customer for the last 7 years. However, all they could offer me to keep the card was 3,000 miles if I spend $500 in 1 month. Tks but no tks!!!! Chase, here I go!!!

  • Shield

    I called the Retention Dept (800-444-2568) on Jan 27th and the rep said there were two current offers available.
    The first was an $85 statement credit to cover the annual fee, and also a bonus of 500 miles per billing cycle for the next 16 billing cycles whenever my spending was over $500 per billing cycle.
    The second offer was an additional 2 miles per dollar for next six months (so 3 miles per dollar in total), but no $85 credit.
    The whole phone call took five minutes, tops.
    From reading the below comments, it sounds like they make different offers available to you depending on what your spending history has been on the card.

  • Willy71

    Didn’t get the $85 annual fee waived, but was offered two options: 1. spend $500 in 3 months for 3000 pts or 2. earn an addition 4 pts per dollar spent for the next 6 months.

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  • Sean Colahan

    Just tried to cancel the Chase BA and got an agent who wouldn’t wage the fee or convert the card to a product w no annual fee. Gonna hang up and try again. Anyone have any tips for the right wording to say to an agent or the right department to be transferred to?

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