Last week, annual fees appeared on two of my Amex cards: $595 for my Business Platinum card (Update January 2022: this offer has expired — the annual fee is now $695) and $95 for my Everyday Preferred card. I didn’t necessarily want to keep either card and so I called Amex to check my options. This turned out to be a very lucrative 40 minute phone call…
The Business Platinum card has many valuable perks (see our Platinum guide for details), but it also has a hefty
$595 annual fee (expired – now $695 as of 2022). And since I recently picked up a new Business Platinum card (see: Bypass Amex’s lifetime rule when you “expand your membership”), I really didn’t need this one.
One hesitation I had before calling was that I haven’t yet used my this card’s $200 airline fee credit for 2021 nor the $100 Dell credit for July to December 2021 (this benefit has since been increased to $200 from January to June and $200 from July to December). Rather than rush to use those credits, I decided to call anyway. If Amex were to convince me to keep the card with a great retention offer, then I’d have plenty of time to use those credits. If not, I could always tell them that I’ll hold onto the card for a few more weeks before cancelling and then I could rush to use the credits.
After telling the first phone rep that I wanted to close my Business Platinum card, she transferred me to another department. A friendly account manager took over the call and made a half hearted attempt to get me to keep the card. I explained that I have multiple Platinum cards, including another Business Platinum card, and so the overlapping benefits don’t interest me. He completely understood, and then checked the system for retention offers. He found two offers worth mentioning (in either case I had to commit to keeping the card for another year):
- $595 statement credit
- 80K points: Get 30K Membership Rewards points plus 50K more after $40K spend in 3 months
While I value 80K points more than $595, I don’t like the idea of having to spend $40,000 to earn those points. So the comparison was really between getting $595 or 30K points without spend. I took the $595.
The agent then proactively offered to look at my other Amex business cards. He seemed to like this game! He didn’t find any offers tied to my Delta or Marriott business cards, but he did find one tied to my fee-free Blue Business Plus card…
Blue Business Plus
The Blue Business Plus card has no annual fee, but still there was an offer on my account as follows:
- Get $100 up front plus $200 more after $4K spend in 3 months
Obviously I accepted this offer. In order to get $100, all I had to do was commit to keeping this card for another year. I would have done so anyway. The second part of the offer required a bit more thought. Is it worth spending $4,000 in order to get $200 back? That’s a 5% return on spend in addition to the 2 points per dollar I’ll earn with this card in general (on up to $50k spend per year). Yes, I’ll do it. That’s a good deal. It’s not “signup bonus good”, but still good.
I then asked the agent about my Everyday Preferred card, but he only handles business cards. He transferred me to the right department on the consumer side…
The consumer agent I then spoke with tried to convince me not to close my Everyday Preferred card because it has great category bonuses and offers 50% more rewards when you make 30 purchases each billing cycle. I explained that I had other cards that offered better return on spend. She then looked for retention offers and found the following:
- Spend $1,500 in 3 months, get a $100 statement credit; or
- Get 15,000 Membership Rewards points (no spend requirement)
I would have taken the points option even if there was a spend requirement, but since there wasn’t one, it was completely a no-brainer. Yes, thank you, I’ll commit to paying the $95 annual fee and keeping the Everyday Preferred for another year in exchange for 15,000 effortless points. Thanks! It’s worth noting that I may have done even better by declining the offer, downgrading to the fee-free Everyday card, and then waiting for a lucrative upgrade offer. But I preferred the effortless bird-in-hand 15K points option.
This agent didn’t proactively offer to look at my other cards, so I asked her about only one other one. My Schwab Platinum card’s annual fee isn’t due until December, but I figured that Amex may be eager for me to keep the card that I’ve had now for several years…
Schwab Platinum Card
The consumer agent explained some of the great features of the Schwab Platinum card and got a bit hung up on the fact that my annual fee wouldn’t be due until the end of the year and so there was no reason to cancel now. She was more right about that than she knew. My next renewal will be at the old $550 rate rather than the new $695 rate and so I wouldn’t want to give up another year with the card anyway. But I still wanted her to check for retention offers, so I said that I might not cancel now but I do want to know if there are any offers similar to what she found on the Everyday Preferred card. She finally checked and found the following:
- Spend $4,000 in 3 months, get $650 statement credit; or
- Spend $4,000 in 3 months, get 60K points
This one took a little thought (not much, but a little). Both spend requirements were the same so it simply came down to whether I preferred $650 cash or 60,000 points. The Schwab Platinum card has the great ability to cash out points for more than 1 cent each via “Invest with Rewards“. Currently Schwab Platinum cardholders get 1.25 cents per point but starting September 1 Schwab will offer only 1.1 cents per point.
At 1.1 cents per point, the 60K points option is a tiny bit better than the $650 cash option. 60,000 points at 1.1 cents each equals $660. But if I earn the 60K points fast enough, I may be able to cash them out for 1.25 cents each. 60,000 points at 1.25 cents each equals $750.
Regardless of whether I rush to cash out my points, wait to cash them out later, or use them for more valuable rewards, the 60K point offer is better than the $650 cash offer. I chose the points.
Here’s the list of retention offers that I accepted:
- Business Platinum: Full rebate of annual fee ($595)
- Blue Business Plus: Get $100 up front plus $200 more after $4K spend in 3 months
- Everyday Preferred: Get 15,000 Membership Rewards points (no spend requirement)
- Schwab Platinum: Spend $4,000 in 3 months, get 60K points
After $4,000 spend on my Blue Business Plus and another $4,000 spend on my Schwab Platinum, my total haul should come to the following (not including points earned on spend):
- $895 in statement credits
- 75,000 Membership Rewards points
Your Mileage May Vary
If you have any of the same cards, don’t expect to get the same results if you call. You might get the same offers, you might get better or worse offers, or you might not get any at all. Amex has its own mysterious way of deciding who gets what.