Passing up a card retention bonus — reader mistake story

Oct 23, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Dariusz, who missed an opportunity to earn rewards when his credit card annual fee came due:

The renewal date for my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card was approaching, and the high annual fee led me to call about canceling the account. During the discussion of the card’s value, the agent offered me 20,000 Marriott points if I completed $2,000 of spending within 90 days. I thought this sounded great, but wanted to talk it over with my wife before deciding.

She agreed the offer was worth taking, but when I called back, that offer was no longer available. Apparently, a computer system is what pops up retention offers for the agents to see. None of the agents I spoke with had any ability to bring back that previous offer. If I had to do the whole thing over again, I would have accepted the offer right away, or at least made sure the agent noted the offer on my account so I could call back and another agent could see the same offer.

Like the line from Ghostbusters, if someone offers you 20,000 points to keep your credit card, you say YES! This cost me about $160 in Marriott points, so hopefully other people can avoid making the same mistake!

Credit card issuers use retention offers (like bonus rewards and fee waivers) as incentives to keep your account open and active, and you should always find out what offers are available before you cancel a card. Agents will sometimes present a second offer if you decline the first, but once you hear an offer you like, you should accept it. That’s partly because retention bonuses may be available only for the duration of your call. As Dariusz experienced, there’s no guarantee the same offer will be extended again once you hang up; biding your time could mean having to settle for a lesser offer or none at all.

The more compelling reason to accept a quality offer is that agreeing to the terms doesn’t put you under any obligation whatsoever to fulfill them. Once an offer has been added to your card, you’re still free to change your mind and close your account — you could even do so on the same phone call. You could also opt for a product change, or simply keep your account open and ignore the bonus offer if it no longer interests you (though I don’t recommend taking that route). In short, there’s no downside to accepting a retention offer, so you might as well agree to it. You can then decide whether it’s worthwhile after you’ve had time to crunch the numbers.

Related: Should I cancel my credit cards if I don’t use them anymore?

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Dariusz a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Hannah Wei/Unsplash.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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