Cancelling my favorite cards

Every time an annual fee comes due on a credit card, I make a decision as to whether to keep, cancel, or downgrade the card.  Are the benefits that the card offers worth the annual fee?  If not, the card should be ditched.  It turns out, ironically, that I’m currently planning to cancel or downgrade a number of my favorite cards…

Chase Ink Plus

A few months after I started this blog in 2011, Chase overhauled the Ink family of business cards and added outstanding category bonuses: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for office supplies, phone, internet, and cable (each type of Ink card also offered a few 2X categories, but these varied a bit by type of Ink card).  This change vaulted Chase Ink cards to the top of my favorite cards list.  I use the cards to pay my phone, cable, and internet bills.  And, of course, I use the cards for every purchase (including gift cards) at Staples or Office Depot / OfficeMax.  It turns out that Ink cards are also a great option for buying select gift cards from eBay (see A new way to increase rewards beyond 5X).

So, why cancel?  I actually have two Ink Plus cards right now (Those with multiple businesses can sign up for Ink cards for each business and get the signup bonus each time).  Obviously, there’s no reason for me to pay the annual fee for both cards.  My plan, instead, is to signup for the no fee Ink Cash card which has the same 5X category bonuses.  The Ink Cash is limited to $25K of 5X spend per account year whereas the Ink Plus is limited to $50K.  In the past, when it was possible to buy $500 Visa cards or even $500 Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card at Office Depot, that extra $25K of eligible 5X spend was crucial.  Now, I’m sure I can make do with the $25K limit.  I’ll also juggle cards and signup bonuses so that, between my wife and I, at least one of us will have an active Ink Plus or Sapphire Preferred card at all times.  That way, we will always have the option of transferring our Ultimate Rewards points to various supported airline and hotel programs, or Amtrak.

I’ll wait until the annual fee is due before cancelling each Ink Plus card.  I’ll also make sure, first, to stop earning points on the card at least one statement cycle before cancelling; and I’ll transfer all of my points that are associated with that card to another Ultimate Rewards card (such as the Ink Cash or Freedom) in order to keep the points safe.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred card continues to have one of the best, consistent signup bonuses, especially for personal cards.  As far as rewards for spend, this card offers 2 valuable Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for all travel and dining purchases, and 1X elsewhere.  For those looking to simplify with a single credit card for all spend, I’d put this card high on the list of recommended cards… but only if the cardholder will take full advantage of the card’s transfer partners for high value redemptions: United, Hyatt, Southwest, Amtrak, etc.  Most others would do better with a no fee 2% cash back card (e.g. Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Investment Rewards) or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus which effectively earns 2.2% towards travel.  Many would even do better with the no-fee Chase Freedom card, thanks to its rotating 5X categories.  In my case, I’m willing to juggle multiple cards in order to get the best return for my spend, so I almost always have a card available that will earn as much or more than the Sapphire Preferred for any given purchase.  I don’t currently have a Sapphire Preferred card myself, but my wife has one.  In order to avoid the card’s $95 annual fee, my plan is to downgrade her card to the no-fee Chase Freedom card.  This way she’ll have two Freedom cards and there will then be more opportunity to take advantage of the card’s quarterly 5X category bonuses (which are limited to $1500 spend per quarter, per card).

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select

Chase’s IHG card has long been my favorite card… for keeping in a drawer.  In my opinion, the card offers poor value when used for spend, but… for only $49 per year the card gives you: A free night stay every year at any IHG property in the world; IHG Platinum status; a 10% rebate on awards booked with points; etc.  The free night alone makes this card well worth the annual $49 fee.  So why cancel?  Simply this: my wife and I signed up for the card at different times of the year and so our free night certificates expire at different times.  For the purpose of booking two night stays, it would be more convenient if our certificates had the same expiry dates.  And its worth pointing out that IHG free night certificate eligibility overlaps a bit each year.  If we wanted to do a four night free stay each year, we would be able to book it all at once during this overlapping period… if our certificate dates were lined up.  It’s been more than 2 years since my wife or I received a signup bonus for this card and so, by Chase rules, we can qualify for new signup bonuses.  That’s why I’m thinking of cancelling both of our cards.  We can sign up again, at the same time, to earn new signup bonuses and to align our free night certificates into the future.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus

This is a tough one. It’s hard to beat 2.2% rewards across the board (update: now 2.1% since they lowered the rebate from 10% to 5%).  Plus, I’m a fan of the card’s built-in PIN capability for use internationally where chip & signature cards aren’t accepted (primarily automated kiosks).  I even make good use of the free Tripit Pro membership that comes with the card (update: TripIt Pro is no longer offered automatically).  That said, at any given time, I tend to have cards in my wallet that offer more than 2.2% value for my spend.  This is true anytime I’m working on meeting minimum spend requirements for a new card, for example.  And, for the next 6 months, my Citi Forward card is giving me a minimum of 3 points per dollar for all spend, thanks to a very generous retention offer (detailed here).  So, while I really don’t want to cancel this card, I don’t think it makes financial sense for me to keep paying the annual fee.  Luckily, there have been many reports from readers who said that Barclaycard offered to waive their annual fee when they called (UPDATE: there are now many more reports saying the opposite — they won’t waive the fee).  If they do that for me, I’ll gladly keep the card for another year.

Last updated on November 19th, 2015

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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Brett
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Brett

How long after canceling your IHG card do you plan to reapply?

Matt E.
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Matt E.

With the CSP, since this the last year of the 7% dividend, does it make sense to hold on for another year and then cancel/reapply next February?

DanR NYC
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DanR NYC

@Brett

I called Chase yesterday to find out exactly when I could qualify for the BONUS (70k offers available these days) and they said that it was 24 months from closing the card. The terms (in my opinion) read that 24 months from earning the bonus itself, but they said otherwise. Finally, Chase claimed that the BONUS is managed by another internal dept, and they are NOT accessible by phone (only writing). Not sure if this is really the case, of not…..

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Yeah, I’m curious about how the bonus would work on the IHG card, too. My wife and I each have one. We earned hundreds of thousands of IHG points a few years ago in that insane promo (I think it only required a couple night’s stay), but we’ve now got only a year’s worth of points left and need to “restock.” Since I don’t know of another easy way to efficiently earn IHG points, I’d like to cancel our cards after we get our next free night cert and then reapply for the bonus. But before I do so, I want to know if this trick will work!

Yeshu
Guest
Yeshu

I am curious as well…I was always under the impression that we had to wait 2 years from the date of canceling the card and not 2 years from the date of getting the bonus. If this were the case, everyone would keep the Marriott, IHG and perhaps the Ritz cards for 2 years and cancel and then immediately reapply for those cards…Please keep us updated…

Bill
Guest
Bill

I don’t blame them for suggesting to you that churning won’t work, but I’ve often canceled a rewards card (including the IHG card), then reapplied approximately three months later, and I’ve ALWAYS gotten the repeat reward anyway. I read the small print where it may say I’m “technically” not eligible, but I hold my breath, and am always pleasantly surprised to see I’m rewarded a second, third, even fourth time.

Gaurav
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Gaurav

I’d be curious to hear the results of your call to Barclays. Couldn’t get them to waive fees no matter how many times I tried.

Points with a Crew
Guest

I had actually heard the opposite about Barclay waiving the annual fee if you called to cancel the Arrival card (from the Barclay Flyertalk wiki). If you do get the annual fee waive let me know – I have one coming up as well

HoKo
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HoKo

Yea I cancelled mine within the past month and they weren’t willing to waive the AF

Shannon
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Shannon

I tried several times to get my Barclay’s Arrival annual fee reversed and had absolutely no luck. I ended up canceling the card. It didn’t matter how much spend I had put on this card. I plan on reapplying for this card in a few months.

German
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German

Reapplying is my plan as well. For now I downgraded to the no fee version (got a 1000 point bonus) to not loose the points…

Seth
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Seth

I also had no luck getting Barclays to wave fee. Also there were no upgrade or downgrade options for the card for the same stated reason : “this is already the best card offered” which seemed like an odd reason not to have a downgrade option…. Oh well. I’m sad to close, but at the same time, I’m always a little happy to have one less card to keep track of.

HoKo
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HoKo

@FM How sure are you that the 2 year clock is based on the date you received the bonus (versus application date, closed date, etc)

DrSifu77
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DrSifu77

Downgrade to the no fee Arrival.

Maintain your TripIt Pro membership, free FICO score, Arrival pts, etc.

Lili
Guest
Lili

I have the Arrival+ and sign up for the TripIt Pro,but I just couldn’t figure it out how to get it for free. Called Barclay and the agent have no idea what I am talking about. Help please!

Neil
Guest
Neil

If I remember correctly, they (Barclays) give you a promo code that you enter at Tripit’s website.

They knew what I was talking about when I called (perhaps 8 months ago) so I’m guessing you just got a clueless agent. Call again or send a SM.

John
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John

Can you use Ink Cash same as Ink Plus to move your Chase UR points to partner airlines and hotels?

Shawn
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Shawn

When u get the annual IHG Free night certificate how long is it valid for please? Is it only 6 months?

Lynn
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Lynn

@Shawn – It’s good for a year.

trackback

[…] $89 annual fee recently came due and I was hoping that they would offer to waive that fee (see “Cancelling my favorite cards”).  The account specialist I spoke with said that there were no offers available at the […]

Kyle
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Kyle

What do you mean when you discuss booking 4 nights? Between you and your wife shouldn’t you only have 2 free nights, annually?

Moshe
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Moshe

There is a small overlap between bonuses. So if you time them correctly you should be able to stack 4 nights.

Chris
Guest

^I think ‘Stacking’ Tricks like this are KEY. Sure a ‘Free’ Night at any hotel is great… But who goes on vacation for just one day? Even if you had 3 different Free Nights across 3 chains, it would still be a pain to check in/out over and over again… a ‘4 Night Free’ Plan makes a lot more sense if you can pull it off.

Moshe
Guest
Moshe

Is the 2 year waiting period for bonuses relevant for all Chase cards or just IHG? There are a few more cards that I’d like to reapply for (United, BA, etc).
Please keep us updated on what happens when you apply for the IHG again.

Love reading your blog! Thanks!

Ryan
Guest

I called nearly a half dozen times over a two-month period to get them to waive my fee on the Barclays Arrival Plus card. The first call resulted in an increased credit line without an inquiry. Otherwise, they would do nothing to retain my card membership. At some points, I thought they were actually being rude to me. On my final call, they told me I wouldn’t even be allowed to downgrade, that I’d have to cancel and it was my only option. As I knew this couldn’t be the case, I asked to speak with a manager. This became a delicate dance of a conversation trying to downgrade my card to the no fee version and get the fee that had posted refunded. In the end, I got to downgrade and avoid paying the fee but it was the worst customer service experience with Barclays to date.

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[…] Cancelling my favorite cards – Why cancelling some very popular cards makes sense. […]

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[…] to find out if there were any useful downgrade options for my IHG card.  Remember that I’m planning on cancelling some of my favorite cards?  I was hoping to convert it either to the Freedom card or the Amtrak card.  It turns out […]

trackback

[…] the post “Cancelling my favorite cards” I said that I would try to get a retention offer for my Arrival Plus card or downgrade the card […]

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I got my Arrival plus waived annual fee one month ago and my wife got hers waived annual fee yesterday. Both two phone calls only took about 7 to 10 minutes.