Retaining my Citi ThankYou Premier


I’ll be on vacation until January 6th.  Until then, I’ll publish a series of “mini posts” with an occasional regular post if something interesting comes up.  I may or may not answer blog comments or emails during this time.  Thanks for understanding! 

Recently, the annual fee for my Citi ThankYou Premier card came due.  $125.  Ouch.  The Premier card is a good one to have if you have a lot of ThankYou points, which I do.  With the Premier card, each point is worth 1.25 cents towards airfare.  The much more expensive Prestige card offers slightly better 1.33 cents per point, but that’s another story…  Without one of these premium cards, ThankYou points are worth, at best, 1 cent each.

So, I like the improved redemption value given by the Premier card, but I don’t like the annual fee.  I called to cancel.  I figured that if I cancelled the card, I could easily sign up my wife for the card so that she would get get a sign-up bonus and the first year free, and we’d still be able to book flights with ThankYou points for 1.25 cents per point.  Fortunately, ThankYou points can be transferred at no cost from one person to another (but they must be used within 90 days of transfer).

My call went something like this:

Me: I’d like to cancel my account

Rep: I see that you have XXX,XXX ThankYou points. Would you like to downgrade to the no annual fee ThankYou Preferred card so that you can keep your points?

Me: No, thank you.  I already have the Preferred card.

Rep: I see.  Would you like me to conference in a ThankYou representative to find out how many of your existing ThankYou points were earned with the Premier card since those points would go away if you cancel?

Me: No, thank you.

Rep: Since you’ve been an outstanding customer and have had this card for two years, we can offer to refund your annual fee if you spend $4500 in 3 months with this card.  Would you be interested in this offer?

Me: Hmmm, let me think about that.  Are there any other offers available?

Rep: Yes, if $4500 is too much to spend, we can offer you $75 credit after spending just $1000 on the card.

Me: Hmmm, let me think about that.  Are there any other offers available?

Rep: Yes, [he described the next offer]

Me: Hmmm, let me think about that.  Are there any other offers available?

Rep: Yes, [he described the next offer]

Me: Hmmm, let me think about that.  Are there any other offers available?

Rep: Yes, we can refund the annual fee with no spend requirement and give you a 500 point bonus for every billing cycle in which you spend $500 or more, for 16 billing cycles.

I was pretty happy with that last offer, but I continued to ask him about other offers until he ran out of them.  The next offers were not as good as the last one described above, so I ultimately accepted that one.

Thanks to this phone call, I can keep my Premier card for free for another year, plus I can earn 500 bonus points each month.  If I spend exactly $500 per month on the card, I’ll earn an extra 1 point per dollar over the base earning rate of the card.  Base earnings are: 3X dining and entertainment; 2X airfare and hotels; and 1X elsewhere.  If I didn’t already earn 5X for dining with my Citi Forward card (a perk which is no longer offered for new applicants), I’d be pretty happy about the idea of earning 4X in that category.  As things stand, though, I can do just as well with other cards even with this additional 1X perk, so I’m unlikely to go for this 500 points per month bonus.

Lesson learned

When calling to cancel a card, don’t accept the first retention offer given to you.  Instead, ask if they can do more.  I had a similar experience in March with Chase where I called to cancel my Ink Bold card.  I was first offered $95 to offset the annual fee, but when I asked about other offers, I was told that I could get 20,000 points instead!

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