Credit cards with high annual fees have the best sign up bonuses and benefits. But at the end of your first year, how do you get rid of the annual fee on your credit card?
Getting a retention offer on your credit card can vary depending on when you ask. The best offer you can get will be having the entire annual fee waived. See our full list of retention offers for AMEX, Chase, Citi, Discover and more.
After 10 months of having a credit card with an annual fee, call your credit card company and tell them you are considering canceling due to the annual fee. The bank will then offer you a “retention offer” that fully or partially waives the annual fee.With the right strategy, your credit cards can be very lucrative in this post, we’ll cover:
- The 4 types of retention offers
- Best Retention Offers from AMEX, Barclays, Chase, Citi, Discover, US Bank and more
- What is a retention offer?
- How do you get a good retention offer?
- Retention Offer Script: What to say to the bank
The 4 Types of retention offers:
There are 4 types of credit card retention offers. The best you can hope for is getting the annual fee waived with the equivalent value in points:
- Annual Fee Waived: The annual fee for the credit card is completely waived without a spend bonus. Basically, you just call and ask about waiving the fee and the bank waives it.
- Courtesy Points: The bank offers you points or credits on your account without having to do a spend challenge. After you get the points, you can still close your account and keep those points.
- Spend Challenge: A spend challenge is the most common type of retention offer. You’ll have 90 days to spend the required amount to achieve the bonus. The provided bonus is a portion or up to the entire amount of the annual fee. Example: Spend $1500 in 90 days to get a $95 statement credit.
- Downgrade: Since the bank knows you are concerned about the annual fee; they will offer to downgrade your credit card to something that has no annual fee.
The bank wants to keep you as an active customer that spends money on their credit cards. That’s because the banks make money when you spend money so they use these customer retention strategies to keep you spending. When calling to ask about a retention offer, keep these types of retention offers in mind.
My favorite type of retention offer is the courtesy points. They just give you points to “keep the card open” and you can still close your credit card. Most of the time, the annual fee isn’t the issue for me, it’s the opportunity cost of having a credit card slot open to apply for a new credit card that has another big sign up bonus.
Best Retention Offers by Bank
The highest possible retention offer is to get the annual fee completely waived without having to do a spend challenge. Please see this chart of the retention offers for all banks.
In the chart, you’ll see that some credit cards offer a lot of different types of retention offers. To decipher the offer, the LEFT side is the bonus which is cash of points and the right side is the 90 day spend challenge. Example:
- American Express Bonvoy Retention Offer: 20k Bonvoy Points / $2000 Spend
- This gets you 20,000 hotel points after spending $2000 within 90 days
Which banks will give me a retention offer?
American Express, Chase and Citi each have credit cards with annual fees over $400. Since these credit cards have high annual fees, they will incentivize you with a retention offer so you keep the credit card for another year. I will only mention the best retention offer for each of the major credit cards. For details on all types of offers, please see the interactive chart of retention offers above.
American Express Retention Offers: In my experience, American Express is the most generous with retention offers. Always call to “cancel” your credit card so they can offer you a retention offer. They will transfer you to a special customer service representative that will present you with options to keep your card open. If you don’t accept any of the options to keep it open, they’ll also present you with an offer to downgrade your credit card to the no annual fee version.
If you want to just quickly close your credit card, use the online chat on the American Express website. I’ve used this to just close credit card I had no intention of keeping many times and have never been presented with a retention offer. Here are the BEST retention offers for American Express:
- AMEX Bonvoy retention offer: 20k Hotel Points / $2000 Spend
- AMEX Delta SkyMiles Gold retention offer: 10k miles / $2000 Spend
- AMEX Delta SkyMiles Platinum retention offer: 20k miles / No Spend
- AMEX Gold retention offer: Annual Feed waived and no spend required
- AMEX Green retention offer: 15k MR points and no spend required
- AMEX Hilton Ascend retention offer: $50 for $1000 spend
- AMEX Hilton Aspire retention offer: $50 for $1000 spend. (This is bad for $450 annual fee CC)
- AMEX Platinum retention offer can be as high as 50,000 MR points without spend. That’s the best available offer you can get for a credit card with an annual fee of $550 (Business Platinum Annual Fee $595). With the benefits and credits on the card, this easily covers the annual fee.
- AMEX SPG retention offer: $100 no spend
Bank of America Retention Offers: There aren’t too many premium credit cards with Bank of America that are worth your time…except for the Alaska Airlines card. The miles are very valuable since you can get stopovers on one-way flights with some very premium carriers.
- Bank Of America Alaska Airlines retention offer: 5k miles / No Spend
Barclays Retention Offers: The retention offers for Barclays isn’t as generous as I would like. In most cases, they’ll let you close your credit card without offering anything. Not even a downgrade.
- Barclays AAviator Business retention offer: Annual fee waived / No Spend
- Barclays AAviator Red retention offer: Annual fee waived / No Spend
- Barclays Arrival Plus retention offer: 1000 points / Use card once
- Barclays Jet Blue Business Plus retention offer: $49.50 / No Spend
- Barclays Jet Blue Plus retention offer: $99 + 5000 points / $1000 Spend
Chase Retention Offers: The retention offers for Chase credit cards aren’t as generous as American Express. Typically, there is one type of offer consistent for all users regardless of spend and years you’ve had the card. You’ll most likely be offered a downgrade if you ask about any retention bonuses from Chase or a partial statement credit rather than a full waiver of the annual fee.
- Chase British Airways retention offer: $100 / No Spend
- Chase IHG retention offer: Downgrades only. No actual retention offers seen for this card.
- Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business retention offer: $100 and no spend required
- Chase Ritz Carlton retention offer: $150 / No Spend
- Chase Sapphire Preferred retention offer: $65 / No Spend
- Chase Sapphire Reserve retention offer: 25000 UR points / No Spend
- Chase Southwest Business retention offer: $100 / No Spend
- Chase Southwest Premier retention offer: $100 / No Spend
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus retention offer: $70 / No Spend
Citi Retention Offers: Citi doesn’t have the vast number of credit cards as AMEX and Chase, but they want to keep you as a customer so they’ll offer just as many retention offers for Citi customers.
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select retention offer: Annual fee waived / No Spend
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Business retention offer: $99 / $1000 Spend
- Citi Prestige retention offer: Annual fee waived / No Spend
- Citi Thank You Premiere retention offer: $95 statement cred + 500TYP for $500 Spend
Discover Retention Offers: Technically, there are no retention offers for Discover credit cards because they don’t have any annual fees. It doesn’t make sense to cancel a credit card with no annual fees but if you want to, can. According to online forums, the best you can hope for is an additional 3% cashback on top of all current bonus categories. That means a 5% cashback on shopping is now 8%. (Source 1 / Source 2)
- Discover It: 3% Cashback added to current cashback categories
US Bank Retention Offers: US Bank is still new to the premium credit card game since they only have the Altitude Reserve which was released a few years ago. The card itself isn’t that great when compared to similar cards from other banks, but there are still retention offers from US Bank.
- US Bank Altitude Reserve retention offer: 4000 points / No Spend
What is a retention offer?
Retention offer meaning: A retention offer is an incentive to keep a credit card with an annual fee. Banks that do offer a retention bonus start with credit card annual fees at $69/year. For cards with lower fees, it’s still possible to get a retention offer but may not be as appealing when compared to a credit card with a $500 annual fee.
Should I take a statement credit or points?
Some retention offers will give you the choice between points or a cash statement credit. Choosing the difference really depends on which is more valuable to you. In most cases, I find it harder to earn points than cash so I’ll gladly take the points.
Opportunity Costs: Should I cancel?
All banks have a limit to how many credit cards you can have. It may make more sense to cancel a credit card completely just to have an open slot to apply for a new credit card. Of course, this all depends on the credit card application time restraints that banks have implemented.
Some banks will only let you apply for 5 credit cards in a 2-year time frame across all banks. That’s a 5/24 rule and it’s so you don’t get too many credit card bonuses. Banks don’t want to give away too much money, but that’s how I had over 100 credit cards in just a few years.
When considering your opportunity cost, does it make more sense to keep the card open another year or close it and apply for a new card? I’ve had retention offers that completely waived the annual fee of the card, I STILL closed it just so I can apply for another credit card. For reference, I’ve had 3 Chase British Airways credit cards over the course of 3 years. Sometimes it makes more sense just to get an interest free credit card to help get you out of debt.
How do I know if I’m eligible for a retention offer?
If you have a credit card with an annual fee (any price), you are probably eligible for a retention offer. Retention offers are provided when a credit card has an annual fee. That’s why you see some of the best retention offers when credit cards have annual fees over $70. The offers are even better on the higher for credit cards with annual fees over $400!
Getting a retention offer depends a lot on the bank. American Express is the most generous when it comes to keeping a customer and you won’t see any type of offer with other banks. In my experience, it makes sense to close credit cards with annual fees and just work on more sign up bonuses.
How do you get a good retention offer?
Getting a good retention offer doesn’t have much to do with credit card spend and how long you’ve had the credit card. I left out the yearly spend and time with the card on the retention offers chart. There wasn’t any significant data to show that getting a good retention offer correlated with high spend and having the credit card for many years. It seemed to be random.
In my experience, I’ve been offered different retention offers depending when I’ve called to “cancel” the credit card. As mentioned the best retention offer you can get is to have the annual fee waived with an equivalent value of points.
To try and get this best offer, you’ll need to try to cancel the credit card:
- 3 months before the annual fee
- 2 months before the annual fee
- 1 month before the annual fee
- 1 week before the annual fee
- 1 week after the annual fee
I’ve experience difference offers depending on when I called. It’s a lot of work to keep calling, but if you want to keep that card open and get the best possible retention offer, it’s worth the 10-minute call. At most, it really will be 10-minutes.
From what I’ve seen in the forums and my personal experience, some of the best offers happen after you are charged the annual fee. Basically the bank already got a taste for your money and they want to offer you something so they can keep it. Even after being charged the annual fee, the bank will still give you a full refund if you ask for it within a month. Any longer than that, they may prorate the annual fee cost.
When should you try to get a retention offer?
You should call the bank to inquire about a retention offer 9-10 months after having the credit card open. A retention offer is available up to 13 months of having the card. Why 9 months out? Because you’ll be able to get retention offer, meet the spend threshold, and then cancel the card. It’s a double dip if you’d like to do that. It’s not always possible to do this, but when you can…don’t feel bad for the credit card company.
“Oh noooo, the billionaire company that charges people a lot of money is not making as much money as they can.” -Dan
Double dipping is getting the retention bonus and being able to cancel your credit card without paying the annual fee. Banks don’t like when you do this, but it’s not illegal so feel free to take your chances. Remember, you can always cancel your credit card within a month of the annual fee.
How do I complete the spend requirement?
The spend requirement for retention offers are typically a standard 90 days for all banks. Of course, it’s not worth it to buy things you don’t need just to get the bonus, unless you’re buying things for free from Amazon. I highly suggest looking into the best ways to manufacture spend so you don’t have to spend your own money when completing any spending requirement. I’ve had issues with chargebacks and made a lot of credit card mistakes. Just be aware of your spending habits and remember these best credit card tips.
Retention Offer Script: What to say to the bank
What do I say to get a retention offer?
To get a retention offer, you’ll need to call the bank (do not use online chat). The phone number to the bank is located on the back of your credit card. You’ll then need to input your account details over the phone and then try to reach a customer service representative. If you don’t have any patience for the automated system, just keep pressing “0” on your phone until someone answers. That works with most banks.
You don’t really have to dance around the issue, I’m very direct and it saves you and the customer service rep time. Plus, if they know, you know about retention offers, you can always see what else they have to offer.
Here’s a few things to say to get a retention offer:
- YOU: Hello, I’m calling about the upcoming annual fee on my credit card. I am thinking about canceling, are there any retention offers available?
- BANK: Sure, let me take a look. We have a $100 statement credit available if you spend $2000 on your credit card in the next 90 days. Does that interest you?
- YOU: I’ll have to think about it. Do you have any other offers available with points?
- BANK: Sure, we provide 10,000 points if you spend $2000 in the next 90 days. Does that work for you?
- YOU: Not quite. Is there anything better? What’s the best you can do?
- BANK: Let me check…
Okay, that last part is pushing it a little, but just be polite and you might be surprised by the results. You can negotiate a little. Just be very direct with the customer service representative. The people on the other side of the phone working their retention offer job will know to just to give you the best offer. If they don’t give you the best possible offer, just ask about it. Sometimes they save that offer in case you refuse the first few offers. The worst they can really do is say “no”.
I wasn’t comfortable making these types of phone calls at first but now I find them a fun. It’s a negotiation game where you’re pushing the bank to see how much you can get. The first time I called I had to look up a retention offer script because I didn’t know what to say.
My best advice: be direct AND polite.
What happens if I call after the annual fee?
If the annual fee is charged to your credit card, most banks give you up to a month to cancel the credit card and have the annual fee fully refunded. At this point, they will still give you a retention offer. Some credit card companies like American Express and Chase, will allow you to cancel your credit card whenever you want. They just take a prorated portion of the annual fee.
So if you have a $450 annual fee, that’s $37.50 per month, you got the spend requirement and bonus done in the first 2 months then cancel, that makes your annual fee bill a total of $75.
Can I just get the credit card sign up bonus then cancel the card to avoid the annual fee?
You can sign up for a credit card, get the bonus and then cancel the credit card immediately if you just want the bonus and want to avoid the annual fee. The only drawbacks are the credit card issuer might claw back that sign up bonus.
You can still pull off this Ocean’s 11 heist! Just remember to transfer or use the points so the bank can’t claw them back. Other drawbacks are your average age of credit history will drop when it sees you only had an account for a month. For me, it’s worth it just to keep the card open for a year and pay the annual fee. I want to keep my banking relationship in good standing since I get a lot of bonuses.
Due to the 2020 COVID situation, I got the American Express Hilton Aspire credit card ($450 annual fee) at the worst time possible. I was able to get the sign-up bonus after 1 month of having the credit card and ended up downgrading to the no annual fee version 2 months later. That means I had the credit card for 3 months, got the sign-up bonus, and avoid a $450 annual fee (I just paid some of it).
AMEX Is The Best: Between all the major credit card providers, the easiest one to get a retention offer from is American Express. If it’s not AMEX, it’s your ex…credit card. Ok, that’s a lame commercial and I won’t do that again. Just saying, don’t expect much when going in for a retention offer with the other banks. They’ll most likely convince you to downgrade to a no annual fee credit card.
Call The Bank: Your best chance at getting a retention offer is to call the bank and tell them you are considering closing your credit card and then asking if they have any retention offers available. Calling gives you a higher chance for a retention offer because I’ve never see one offered when closing my credit card over online secure message.
Timing your “cancellation call”: The types of retention offers you get also depend on when you make the call. It’s very likely you’ll get a different offer 3 months before your annual fee vs. 1 week after the fee hits. Making that 10-minute call several times can present several results.
There isn’t a difference in retention offers between [having the credit card for many years and spending a lot of money on it] vs [having the credit card 1 year and just spending enough money to get the sign up bonus]. The bank wants to keep you on as a customer and will likely offer you something to keep you spending money on their credit cards.
The highest retention offer covers the annual fee: The best possible retention offer you can get will cover the annual fee. Don’t hold out for more because there won’t be a better offer. If the retention offer doesn’t interest you, it’s probably worth it to close the credit card and sign up again to get the sign up bonus.
Get your annual fee refunded almost any time: Your annual fee can be refunded up to 1 month after you are charged with most banks. For credit cards with high annual fees, you’ll most likely be charged a prorated rate.
I had the American Express Hilton Aspire credit card for 3 months (total lifetime) and canceled it after getting the signup bonus. The $450 annual fee was prorated back to me and I kept the points after downgrading the credit card to a no annual fee version. If you’re still going to cancel your credit card, make sure you know how to cancel a credit card the right way.