Getting Offers to Hang Onto a Card You Planned to Cancel

Reader Mike passes along his experiences cancelling a Citibank American Airlines credit card.

Hi Gary,

Wanted to thank you for all you do on your blog! I read it several times a day and have always found useful info even though I don’t travel as much as most if your readers.

I wanted to share my recent experience trying to cancel my Citibank AA card this past weekend in case it would be helpful to anyone else. I called to cancel after annual fee came due and they gave me the following offer: $95 statement credit to offset annual fee + 1000 bonus miles each month I spend $1000 on the card for the next 16 billing cycles (basically earning double miles for first $1000 in spend)

Thought I’d pass along. Thanks again for your blog!

I had a Citibank American Airlines card that I cancelled before they made it worth my while to hang onto one (with the 10% annual rebate on redeemed miles, up to 10,000 miles back — I view the 10,000 miles as worth more than the annual fee on the card), where they offered me just a credit in the amount of the then-$85 annual fee if I made five purchases on the card.

So I made 5 small purchases, I got the statement credit. And my annual fee still wasn’t even due yet so I went ahead and cancelled the card anyway. I was $85 ahead.

Nonetheless, card companies do understand that it’s more expensive to find a new customer than to retain an existing one much of the time so will bend over backwards to keep many (though not all) of their customers.

Often frontline telephone representatives aren’t able to process card cancellations, they’ll transfer you to a specialized department of agents whose job it is to look at your account, determine if the bank wants to try to keep you, and try to sell you on staying.

Of course if you really don’t want to be sold, you can cancel in writing by mail — or online through the card’s website, either if it’s an option on the site or via the bank’s “secure messaging” system.

What have you been offered to keep a Citibank card?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have a very old Chase United Milage Plus Card that is costing me, I believe, $160 annually and which is redundant in that I also have Chase Sapphire Preferred. There is no reason for me to keep the United Card as I put very few charges on it, so I’ve been thinking of canceling it and either have the credit line added to my Sapphire Plus or at some point get a Hyatt Card (in a year when I want to use the two night first year benefit).

    I’d welcome any feedback on what Chase may offer me to retain the card (which is no longer offered) or to “downgrade” it to their $95/year US card.

  2. I recently canceled a United MP card. The only offer they made was for two United Club passes, which were useless to me. They did move the credit line from the MP card to my CSP card.

  3. Thanks FF. I keep on delaying canceling it as it, along with an Amex SPG, is my oldest card, but it really serves no purpose now and I can easily find other ways not to lose my UA accrued milage.

  4. I got precisely that offer from citibank ($95 + 1000 bonus points/month) and it has worked out fine. The $95 happened immediately and the 1000 point showed up with the end of that billing period. It’s enough to encourage me to spend $1000 on that card until next year. I truly was going to cancel it as I’d just received the Citi Executive card and they were really keen that I keep them both.

  5. Don’t the older united mileage plus cards have the advantage of free bags and lounge access, as well as elite status through spending?

  6. I would say that my UA card is more valuable than the AA card because of the 10k spend bonus at 25k……..

  7. Just got offered 3500 AA miles if I spend $500 total to keep the card. Easy spend. Card expires in 3 months…

  8. @Frank – can do either. But I find I get better leverage when I’ve been charged the fee and then have some “righteous indignation” over being charged despite being a “good customer with lots of spendb (that it’s almost entirely MS doesn’t seem to matter). I received the $95 rebate plus 1000 bonus for $1K spend. So effectively turns the card into low cost 2x bonus card for first $1K in purchases. I put it on AP so it’s almost painless spend.

  9. I have cancelled a number of cards. There is no problem cancelling once the annual fee hits as long as you cancel before the due date…Routinely, the annual fee is dropped once cancelled…

  10. What’s your strategy on when to cancel credit cards? What is the effect on credit scores? How long does one have to wait to churn signup bonuses?

  11. In a perfect world, they’ll waive the fee. In a slightly less perfect world, they’ll waive the fee, but decrease miles earning ability (in some cases to zero). If you want to keep your credit scores up, hang onto those old cards if they’ll let you zero out the annual fees. I’ve had situations where that 2nd tier CSR spends 15 minutes making various offers to keep me as a customer; other times the first tier CSR just says “OK, we’ll cancel”. But unless a card is providing some really good reasons to keep it (Ink Bold and its 5X utility points is a good example which gives me over 25,000 extra miles per year for $95 would be a prime example; United’s got cards with free baggage and a couple of lounge passes, for example),
    you’re not playing the mileage game properly by keeping those $95 cards that provide little benefit after that initial bonus. Larry, I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule regarding churning signup bonuses; for instance, if you’ve got a high (750+) credit score vs a lower one, you might be allowed to churn more often. But even a high score is no guarantee; I’ve been turned down a few times by companies who know I’m playing the game and I’ve got a very high credit score.

  12. Thanks, Gary (and Mike!) for this post. Having just finished up spend on the AA Exec card I was in need of a bonus to chase. Dug up my old AA card and sure enough, got the same offer Mike reported. A free $10 and 16,000 AAdvantage miles for what is a very reasonable amount of monthly spend is not bad!

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