My $895 plus 75,000 points retention call

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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…

Business Platinum

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):

  1. $595 statement credit
  2. 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…

Everyday Preferred

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.

Final Tally

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

Not bad!

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.

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[…] $100 statement credit immediately, plus another $200 credit after spending $4,000 within 3 months (HT FM) […]

Frank

Well, Greg, you did better than I did on my recon call on the first of my AMEX business cards to come due. All I was offered was $100 off the $595 fee. I could have kept it for the Dell $400 (what a hassle to get value now that eBay is sending out 1099s) and the Cell phone $120 (that I can get full value on) and the airline $200 (I am awash in those particular airline points that I don’t seem to use anymore and give them to my kids) but I am getting tired of this coupon style and I decided to give up the card. Maybe I’ll keep the next one coming up for renewal soon.

Frank

Inspired by this post, today I called on my AmEx Morgan Stanley Platinum which just posted the annual fee of $550. After 10 minutes of talking about why I’m not impressed with the benefits, I was offered $150 statement credit. I asked if there was something better, and (after waiting on hold) was then offered $550 if I spend $4K in 3 months. Took it. I was just finishing up my first year with this particular card.

And, since I meet MS’s investment requirements, I’m assuming that I will also get their $550 Annual Engagement Bonus as well.

dizzy

IDK how you got these, but congrats! I had to call a few times to get the standard biz plat offer of 30k points or $300 off the AF. I declined bc I have a 2nd biz plat, year 2 the value on that card is way down and I just didn’t want to bother with keeping track of another card

Pre

I got ZERO on both my Schwab and BBP last week.

Akuma

Great write up. Always helpful to get good datapoints on retention offers for cards, especially when it’s my turn to start making calls. If only there was some rhyme or reason to what triggers a retention offer on each card.

R Johnson

Yes- I got 30K points / no spend on the Gold last year. It’s always worth the call I’m learning.

wanderlust

So amex actually announced they are doing very well this year:
https://www.barrons.com/articles/american-express-stock-earnings-report-51627053686?adobe_mc=MCMID%3D17956757087505159321500313734944680015%7CMCORGID%3DCB68E4BA55144CAA0A4C98A5%2540AdobeOrg%7CTS%3D1627321634

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/american-express-beats-earnings-expectations-as-card-spending-accelerates-11627038434?adobe_mc=MCMID%3D17956757087505159321500313734944680015%7CMCORGID%3DCB68E4BA55144CAA0A4C98A5%2540AdobeOrg%7CTS%3D1627321661

Its not surprising they have retention offers. Consumer credit scores are at all time highs as well (a product of bail outs, not spending earlier in the pandemic, and eviction restrictions). Im sure they are betting correctly on the massive travel spend resurgence coupled with inefficient use of MR by the average customer. They also likely rightly realize that the average person will not call to argue over an annual fee or immediately downgrade. The few who do they effectively buy off like this, probably in the hopes of draining some spend from rivals.

Joel

I found that a determining factor is whether you received a previous retention bonus on the specific card. If you got one, they’re very unlikely to give you a second one

R Johnson

From what I understand you can only get a retention offer on the same card every other year – they won’t do back to back years on a specific card.

Sco

Do you put charges on these cards every month?

I’ve got a Platinum with an annual fee due in a couple months. I was planning to cancel, but I’d prefer one of these retention bonuses. Currently I’m not putting any spend on the card, so I’m wondering if I’d have a better chance with a history of spending a couple hundred dollars on the card for a couple months.

Jags

What a haul! Although I would have downgraded the EDP. My P2 and I both downgraded and within a week had 40k for $2k spend offers on our accounts.

Tyler

It’s amazing that AmEx seems to put their customers in two buckets lately: giving points away like each customer is a casino whale ready to lose $200k at the craps table, or putting them in pop-up jail, “you’re lucky we don’t shut you down and confiscate your points.”

Perhaps we just don’t hear about all the folks in between, but I can’t see how the same team that uses algorithm to isolate unprofitable customers and blackball them would also spend excessively to acquire or retain so many others. Their math may rationally consider Greg’s family to be profitable customers thanks to all his organic business-related spend and MS that AmEx doesn’t consider MS in excess of his family’s multiple Platinum bonuses each and retention offers, but that can’t realistically be the case for lots of the other data points we see, can it?

VIS

All I got was 10k Hilton points to keep my Aspire card, $450 fee, for another year, last month and I used chat feature. May be I need to call. Enjoyed reading this success story.

HoKo

Hey Greg, it would be helpful if you included the amount of spending that you put on each of these cards over the past 12, or even 24, months.

also, was there any particular reason that you chose to call them instead of doing it via chat?

HoKo

Got it. WRT the spending patterns, that’s interesting (and counter-intuitive)

NK3

I don’t think it’s that counter-intuitive. Retention offers are not a bonus for spending; its an algorithm meant to calculate the likelihood of you cancelling your card, the value of you as a customer, and what it would take for you to keep the card and make it worth it for them.

I get the impression that Greg spends big $$ on his Delta Amex cards year after year to maintain his Delta Medallion status. They do not need to coax him to keep the card. But they know he has money to spend, and he’s not putting that much on his other cards. So they are calculating that its worth giving him bonuses to keep the cards. Maybe he’ll even move them to the front of his wallet.

Personally, I have found the best retention bonuses on cards where I once spent a lot, but haven’t lately.

Avi

Absent from your final tally is the $1240 you had to spend (or commit to spending later) on annual fees. What would you say your net profit was from accepting these offers, including the value you assign to another year of Business Platinum and Schwab Platinum benefits? Extra credit if you include the (minimal) opportunity cost of that $8k spend.

John Doe

I’m sure you already realized this, but then you also need to account for the benefits of the card themselves. But you’re right, might not be as lucrative as it sounds

Avi

Yep, “including the value you assign to another year of Business Platinum and Schwab Platinum benefits.”

Jieyu camel

hahaha

Avi

So if Amex were selling a special $295 limited-time voucher redeemable for $200 in airline fees + $200 in Dell credits doled out as $100 six months apart, you’d buy one? How many would you buy at that price?

And continuing with my best Nick impression, I thought your cost of spend is 2.62%? https://frequentmiler.com/why-2x-everywhere-cards-arent-in-my-wallet/

LarryInNYC

I have no idea how you achieve these results from retention calls (maybe something to do with your genuinely large amount of spending on these issuers’ cards?) If it’s just you, however, maybe you should consider starting a service to make retention calls on behalf of other people, for a 10% commission.

LarryInNYC

I’m remembering the time last year you held some Chase representative upside down and shook them until all the change fell out of their pockets, then sent them home to look under the cushions on their sofa. That’s not everyone!

Harry

I would think in Greg’s case or anyone for that matter, it’s simple – the spend. Simple math for any cc issuer, you spend I get it back and quick. Obviously even suggesting $40K spend in 3 months tells you all you need to know.