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

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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.

 

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