My 130K phone call

phone callJune 4th was approaching quickly.  That’s the day that my Citi Forward card was scheduled to turn into a pumpkin.  Starting June 4th, the card will earn only 2X points for restaurants, music, movies, and books instead of the 5X points it had earned before.

I called Citi to see if there were any retention offers available to keep me from sock drawering the card.

The conversation with the front-line representative was a bit tricky.  In order to get transferred over to the retention department I had to state unequivocally that I wanted to close my card.  But, I didn’t want to.  I still have hundreds of thousands of points tied to the account.  I really didn’t want to risk having the account closed by the front-line agent.  There have been reports in the past that the automated system will close accounts if you ask it to rather than transferring you to retention.  It seemed possible to me that this could happen with the front-line agent as well.

I started by saying that I was thinking of cancelling the card and asked if I could talk with someone about options.  The agent explained that he couldn’t transfer me unless I explicitly said that I wanted to cancel the card.  I said something like “I do want to cancel, but I don’t want to risk losing my points.”  That seemed to be good enough.

The retention specialist was delightful.  She noticed that I was in Ann Arbor, and asked if I live anywhere near the Big House.  It turned out that she was a huge University of Michigan football fan.  Go Blue!

My Citi Forward Retention Offer: Up to 35K

The agent proactively noted that I always pay off my bill on time each month, so she didn’t think I’d be interested in offers for lower interest rates.  She was right.  She then found two interesting offers for me:

  • Get a 15,000 point bonus after $4500 spend within the next 6 months.
  • Earn an extra 2 bonus points per dollar for all spend over the next 6 months, with a maximum of 35,000 bonus points

This was a bit tricky.  With the first offer, if I spent exactly $4500, the resulting 15,000 points would be equal to 3.33 bonus points per dollar.  The bonus 2X offer, meanwhile, meant fewer bonus points per dollar but many more bonus points overall if I maxed out the promotion.  I decided to go with the 2X offer.

My Citi Prestige Retention Offer: Up to 50K

This agent was so nice that I didn’t even have to ask if there were retention offers available with my other cards.  She asked me if I was interested.  With my Prestige card, she found the following offers:

  • $200 statement credit after $4,000 spend per month in each of 3 months
  • Earn an extra 4 bonus points per dollar for airline spend over the next 6 months, with a maximum of 35,000 bonus points
  • Earn an extra 4 bonus points per dollar for restaurant spend over the next 6 months, with a maximum of 50,000 bonus points
  • Earn an extra 4 bonus points per dollar for grocery, drugstore, and gas spend over the next 6 months, with a maximum of 50,000 bonus points

There was no contest here.  A 4X bonus for grocery, drugstore, and gas spend sounds great to me!

My AT&T Access More Retention Offer: 10K

I’ve had this card for less than a year so I wasn’t sure I would get any offers, but I did:

  • 500 bonus points per billing cycle after $500 spend per billing cycle for 16 billing cycles
  • 10,000 bonus points after $3K spend in 6 months
  • 5,000 bonus points after $1k spend in 3 months

I was briefly tempted by the 500 points per month offer until I multiplied in my head: 500 x 16 = 8000 total bonus points after $8,000 total spend.  The 10K bonus point offer was clearly far superior.  I took it.

My Thank You Preferred Retention Offer: Up to 35K

The offers on this card were exactly the same as the offers on my Citi Forward card.  I made the same choice: Earn an extra 2 bonus points per dollar for all spend over the next 6 months, with a maximum of 35,000 bonus points.

Cards with no retention offers

I have two cash back cards and neither had any offers:

  • Citi Double Cash
  • Citi Dividend (this card is no longer available new, but you can still get it by downgrading from another card)

My Spend Strategy

With my Forward card, I’ll simply leave the card in my wallet and continue to use it for restaurants, movies, and books over the next 6 months.  In the final month, I’ll look to see how far I am from maxing out the promotion and then I’ll manufacture spend to top things off.

With the Prestige card, I’ll buy $500 Visa cards from drug stores or grocery stores.  There have been some rumors that CVS is going cash-only for all variable load cards.  If true, that will make life a bit tougher, but I’m lucky that other drugstores and grocery stores in my area continue to allow credit card purchases of gift cards.

I’ve been using my AT&T Access More card a lot recently thanks to its 3X categories so I won’t have to do anything special to earn that 10K bonus.

With the Preferred card, I’ll manufacture spend from home.

So, the phone call was just the start.  I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me…

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Do you have much spending on your Prestige? I received no retention offer for my card, but haven’t used it much. Much spending on premier? All I got on premier was statement credit of $95, to offset the fee, plus maybe 1000 points after spending $500 for three months.

    • A fair amount of spend, yes.
      That said, about 7 months ago, I called and got no retention offers at all. So its worth waiting several months and calling again, regardless of spend. I never put spend on my ThankYou Preferred card, for example, but that got an offer.

  2. Meanwhile, I couldn’t get any retention offer on my Citi AA Plat on two differ calls with my AF up. I ended up canceling. Far from their usual offer of $95 plus points each month for spend.

    • I had the same problem. So, I made the suggestion to convert my Citi AA Plat cards to Citi Preferred (both biz and personal). The CSA jumped at the idea. I got some nice bonuses, including Global Entry reimbursement for the personal card.

  3. Greg,
    Do you have any opinion regarding the current Amex Blue Cash Preferred offer? $150 sign-up bonus plus 10% cash back on cellular telephone services upto $200?

  4. Thanks for the details about Prestige. My annual fee is due tomorrow so I called them up and got the same offers. I took the 4x on supermarkets, gas and drug stores as well. Should help alleviate that $450 annual cost.

  5. You mentioned you have put spend on the ATT Access card. Since the points can not be transferred to ThankYou travel partners, can you explain what are the best ways to use those points. Thank you.

    • Sorry, I thought I had answered this before, but I don’t see my answer here. The key is to have a Premier or Prestige card. You can combine the points and then transfer the points to partners or use them for up to 1.6 cents / point value for travel.

  6. I’m thinking about cases where it’s worth it to pay a 2% fee to pay for things that aren’t normally paid by credit card (through services like Plastiq.) For example, for $100,000 the fee is $2000. Use Chase Freedom for 150,000 points, worth $4000-$6000 international first/business ticket.

    Wondering if I should also factor in annual fee waivers or points bonuses I might be able to get because I am putting a lot of spend on a card. Have you tried this with AmEx or Chase cards?

    • Yep, I frequently do exactly that. Freedom Unlimited is a Visa card so Plastiq would charge 2.5%. Since the card earns 1.5 points per dollar, you would be essentially buying points for 1.67 cents each. If you really do use them for something like an international business class ticket then it would probably be worth it. If you have other options (besides plastiq) where the fee is 2%, then the cost per point is only about 1.33 cents.

      You can also use this technique to get what I call “big spend bonuses” where credit card companies reward you for meeting big spend thresholds. You can find examples here:

      http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2012/12/10/best-big-spend-bonuses/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *