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…

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