8 cards due for renewal. Keep, cancel, or product change?

8 credit cardsLast August, my wife did a big app-o-rama.  All in one day she signed up for 8 cards:

Update: These offers have expired.

  • Amex Business Gold Rewards 75K offer
  • Amex SPG Consumer 30K offer
  • Amex SPG Business 30K offer
  • Bank of America Virgin Atlantic card with its so-called 90K offer
  • Bank of America Virgin Atlantic card #2 with its 90K offer
  • Bank of America Alaska Business card 25K offer
  • Citibank ThankYou Premier 50K offer
  • Citibusiness AAdvantage card 50K offer

Recently I abandoned this giant all-in-one-day app-o-rama approach in favor of a more incremental approach. See: My revised approach to earning miles through credit card bonuses and App-No-Rama in action: Over 700K and counting.  But, clearly we did well with the old approach too.

Now that a year has passed, it is time to decide what to do with each of these cards.  Annual fees are starting to trickle in.  Should we pay the fees?  Cancel the cards?  Product change to no-fee cards?  Here’s our thought process — hopefully you’ll find it helpful in making similar decisions…

Amex cards: Keep, cancel, or product change?

We never use the Business Gold Rewards card so we might as well cancel it.  One reason to consider keeping it around would be to keep Membership Rewards points alive.  But, my wife has at least one other Membership Rewards card, so her points will be automatically preserved.  If she didn’t have another Membership Rewards card I would have looked for a good new Membership Rewards card for her to open before closing the Business Gold Rewards card.  For many, a good option for keeping Membership Rewards points alive is to open the no-fee Everyday card.  That is the one Membership Rewards card that has no fee, but still allows point transfers to airline miles.

With the SPG cards, we don’t have to worry about losing Starpoints since those points are stored with the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, not with the credit card account. The only reason that I can think of to keep both of her SPG cards open would be to help earn elite status.  Each card contributes 5 elite nights and 2 elite stays to the cardholder’s quest for status.  We’ve been satisfied though in getting SPG Gold status from Amex Platinum cards instead.  So, we’ll cancel the SPG personal card.

The SPG business card is a tougher call.  In exchange for its $95 annual fee it offers Sheraton lounge access.  That can be valuable.  On the other hand, we don’t have any known plans to stay at Sheraton hotels so it’s probably not worth paying just for the off-chance we’ll use that benefit.  And while SPG cards offer pretty good value for everyday spend, I’m planning instead to downgrade my Sapphire Preferred card to a Freedom Unlimited card which arguably offers even better value (when paired with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card).

Another consideration is that rumors are afoot that Amex will soon offer an increased signup bonus for their SPG cards again.  If so, I plan to try out signing up with a second business.  That will give us another year of Sheraton lounge access, if needed.  So, yes, we’ll cancel my wife’s SPG Business card too.

Since Amex only allows people to earn signup bonuses if they’ve never had the same card before, product changes are rarely a good idea.  A product change to a card my wife hasn’t had before would prohibit her from earning a signup bonus for that card in the future.

Decision: Cancel all three

Bank of America cards: Keep, cancel, or product change?

I didn’t see any reason to keep the Alaska business card around, so we went ahead and cancelled that one.  As long as my wife has some form of activity in her Alaska account (either earning or spending miles), her account will remain open and her miles will be safe.

With my wife’s two Virgin Atlantic cards, we tried to product change both to Better Balance Rewards cards.  The reason?  No-fee Better Balance Rewards cards let you earn $25 for every 3 months in which you pay the card’s balance in full every month.  And, with a Bank of America checking or savings account, they kick in another $5.  It’s possible to get the equivalent of $10 free every month simply by charging a small amount to the card, and making sure to pay the full balance.  I realize that this is a tiny amount of money and hardly worth worrying about, but I like using these cards to auto pay things like a Netflix subscription, or certain blog subscriptions, in order to indirectly get an automatic $10 discount on those charges.

The Bank of America specialist allowed my wife to change one card to a Better Balance Rewards card, but didn’t give us that option on the other card.  Instead, the other card was changed to the no-fee Travel Rewards card, which can be a great card in its own right, but our intention is to later product change the Travel Rewards card to a second Better Balance Rewards card.

Decision: Cancel the Alaska business card; product change the Virgin Atlantic cards to no-fee cards.

Citibank cards: Keep, cancel, or product change?

With Citi, cancelling a card causes the 24 month clock to reset before you can get another signup bonus for any card within the same brand.  The CitiBusiness AAdvantage card is a bit of an exception.  The signup bonus page for the regular AA card states:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

We decided to close this card.  Now my wife will have to wait 24 months before she can get the signup bonus on the same card again, but it doesn’t affect her ability to signup for personal AAdvantage cards.

The Premier card was a tougher decision.  It had become our go-to travel card since it offers 3X rewards for all travel and gas station purchases.  But we now plan to move to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card as our primary travel card thanks to its 3X travel and dining rewards, and better value point redemptions with Chase.  That leaves 3X gas as the biggest incentive for keeping the Premier card.  We don’t tend to spend a lot on gas, though.  So, our plan is to call to see if they’ll offer a nice retention offer that is worth as much or more than the card’s $95 annual fee.  If so, we’ll keep the card for another year.  If not, we’ll downgrade it to become my wife’s third no-fee ThankYou Preferred card (that way she can keep her points alive).  See: Cancelling your Prestige or Premier card? Here’s how to keep your ThankYou points alive.

Decision: Cancel CitiBusiness AAdvantage card. Ask for retention offer for Premier card, otherwise downgrade.

 

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.

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  1. Very useful article! A question…with the downgrade to the Citi TY Preferred, can you still transfer points to airlines? Is the expiration date affected?

    • @ Kate, no you can not transfer to airline with Preferred. I think most people go to Preferred until they want to travel then upgrade/reapply to Premier when ready to transfer.

      I have the Premier and Prestige fees coming up. Am I able to sign up for a bonus next year if i decide to pay the fees? If not, I dont think the fees are worth me only being able to apply for the Preferred assuming there is a bonus at the time. Basically, is it possible to have two of either of these cards?

      • Yes. I can’t guarantee that this will remain true, but it has been true in the past that Citi will let you sign up for a card again even if you already have one active. So, that’s a good strategy and a good reason to keep a card, especially if you get a retention offer. It will be interesting to see if the Premier signup bonus returns. I hope so!

    • With the City ThankYou Preferred, you can’t directly transfer points to airlines, but you can do so indirectly. Either:
      1) Upgrade your card when you’re ready to transfer; or
      2) Apply for a new Premier or Prestige card and ideally get a big signup bonus (currently only the Prestige offers a bonus). Then move points from Preferred to your Prestige card in order to transfer to airlines.
      3) Move your points to a family or friend who has the Premier or Prestige so that they can transfer points to a loyalty program to book for you.

      In my case, I still have the Prestige card open so we can move my wife’s points to me when we’re ready to redeem them.

      Once you move points they expire in 90 days, so you need to be sure that you’ll use them right away.

  2. Great article. Though not covered above, could you recommend a good no-fee card to product change Chase Mileageplus Explorer to? It’s been a couple of months since the annual fee hit my MPE card. Is it still possible to get the refund if I PC it to a no-fee card?Thanks.

    • I don’t remember how long Chase gives you to cancel and still refund the annual fee, but it’s worth asking them. You can downgrade to the no-fee MileagePlus Awards card, but I’m not sure there’s any benefit to that other than keeping your credit line with Chase intact. Unfortunately, I don’t think Chase will let you product change from a co-branded card like the United card to a different type of card like the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited (both of which are good picks for Chase no-fee cards)

  3. I notice that you say that your go-to travel card will be the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I thought you couldn’t get one (and for sure your wife is over the 5/24 limit!). Please tell how you did it….

  4. Greg, I am surprised you did not call (or mention calling) for retention offers. Please share with us your rational. Also, I know your are a big Amex offer fan, so I gather you plan to pick up 3 new Amexs in the short term. But that SPG business card should have hit both the Office Max and Lowes recently plus any AUs, so if you can explain what your Amex offer strategy is overall and how relates to the cards, that would be great to know. Thanks.

    • The answer regarding retention offers isn’t too interesting: my wife hates calling banks (even if it is just to authorize me to speak on her behalf) so most retention calls are for my accounts rather than hers.

      That said, when we called to cancel the BOA cards, she wasn’t offered anything useful. For her Citibusiness AA card she was offered a choice of some miles or $95 statement credit after spending $95. If it had been my account, I would have accepted the latter, but with hers I found it simpler just to close the account.

      We haven’t called yet to cancel the Amex cards — the annual fees haven’t come due yet. Plus, I want to make sure we still have the SPG cards open if Amex increases the SPG offer so that we can refer people and earn more points.

      For Amex offers I don’t believe that they offset annual fees because one can always get no-fee Amex cards and many AU cards with just as good offers. The real limit, for me anyway, is how many cards I’m willing to bother with. As you get more Amex cards it’s more work to maximize Amex Offers. So my general strategy with Amex offers is to identify the Amex cards that I plan to keep long term and to add AUs to those cards so that I can have about 20 Amex cards eligible. 20 is about the limit that I’m willing to deal with.

      • My retention was 7,500 Starpoints for SPG Business. My Dad was $75 statement credit. My dad got $25 statement credit on personal as well. All posted right away without spend as data points.

  5. Hi Greg,
    I heard that signing up for new credit cards had a negative affect on your credit score. Is that true.
    Does cancelling a card or switching it to a no fee card also affect your credit score.
    Thanks for all your advice.

    • Signing up for new credit cards usually has a very small negative effect initially, but in most cases over time it has no effect or will increase your credit score as long as you pay the bill on time each month.

      Switching to a no fee card has no effect.

      Cancelling can negatively effect you a little bit by reducing your credit available. You can avoid this with some banks by transferring credit line to another card before cancelling.

  6. Citi was very smart in how they limit multiple signups. I have the Prestige and the Premier card, and I don’t know how I’m going to cancel them. The AF for the Premier is due in November, and the Prestige in January. I have healthy TYP balances in both accounts, and we all know they expire once the card is cancelled or even PC’d. I don’t want to commit to any specific airline program by transferring to avoid the AF. One thing I’m thinking of doing is combining the Premier and Prestige TYP accounts and keeping the Premier, while cancelling the Prestige. Will my Prestige points be safe at that point if I cancel?

    • I recently got a bonus on the Delta Platinum business card even though I had the card before. I think that the key is to sign up under a different business with a different EIN. I plan to test this with the SPG card once the offer increases again.

      • The targeted sign up usually can bypass the once per lifetime rule. I was able to get 75k bonus on Business Gold again when it’s offered to me in my AMEX online account. Now it offered me a 50k bonus for upgrading to Business Platinum after 10k spending. I got a 40k bonus previously upgrading from Business Gold to Business Platinum which I closed a few months ago. For Delta or SPG, I haven’t seen a targeted offer myself.

  7. I had the SPG AMEX business card before, can you get the bonus again if signing up with another business name with both being sole proprietorship?

  8. My Barclays Wyndham card is up for renewal. I wasn’t able to get them to waive the annual fee. There is no free night for renewal – and no downgrade card that I know of.

    Can anyone think of a good reason why I should keep this card? Thanks

  9. Amazed that you got a conversion to BBR! How’d you manage that? I have a few already, and have tried to convert each of my last few BoA closures but never get an agent willing to do it anymore.

    • The agent did specifically say that they would do the BBR only because we had switched to a different card as well. In other words, he wouldn’t have allowed it if we were product changing a single card, but for some reason since we were doing two he was willing to make one of them into a BBR. I should have noted that he said that it wasn’t guaranteed. He could guarantee the switch to the Travel Rewards card, but not the BBR. So we have to wait and see if it really goes through (I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t)

      • Thanks, that is great info — I’ll have a pair coming up to deal with soon and will try this approach. I’ve gotten the line about it not being guaranteed on conversions in the past, and then have watched it take seemingly months to convert over, but finally does. Once they gave me the number of some other dept that reviews the conversions, but they were pretty unhappy when I tried to call in to actually do the conversion through them.

    • I’m surprised you were able to do it. I’m trying to convert two cards at once too and I’ve had CS reps immediately reject me on the BBR, ones that say airline cards can’t be converted at all, and ones that research but ultimately come back saying BBR is the only one they’re not allowed to convert to.

    • Nope. Most business cards aren’t reported to the personal credit bureaus, so there is no effect in cancelling these. With personal cards, I usually do prefer to product change rather than cancel, but there isn’t much negative effect of cancelling anyway — especially if you first move credit line over to another card that with the same bank that is still open.

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