I just received my first ever credit card retention bonus! It’s on my American Express Premier Rewards Gold (fancy talk for their mid-tier offering) card for a $50 statement credit now and another $50 statement credit if I charge $500 to the card in the next 60 days.

Wait What’s a Retention Bonus?

But enough about me. A retention bonus is when a credit card company offers you something good to not cancel your credit card. Common examples are bonus points or miles, a full or partial waiver on your annual fee, or statement credits. Some people have had success just calling and asking for bonus points or miles. Hey, it never hurts to ask.

Maximizing Your Retention Bonus Chances

Make sure you do your homework before you pick up the phone. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my annual fee about to post? If my annual fee for next year has already posted does my credit card issuer offer refunds or pro-rate?
  2. What will my annual fee if I don’t cancel?
  3. What’s the minimum points or statement credits will it take for me to not cancel?
  4. Have I spent a lot of money recently on the card? This increases your chances of success.
  5. What are other people getting offered? The Flyer Talk forums are a rich source of information – google something like “flyer talk american express retention bonuses” to bring up the right page.
  6. Am I really prepared to cancel the card if I don’t receive a good offer? Another option is to downgrade your card to one with no annual fee.

Making the Call

Thus armed with knowledge and your negotiating postition it’s time to call customer service and ask to cancel. You can either use the number on the back of your card and ask to speak to Retention department or use these customer service numbers:

American Express: 800-327-2177

Bank of America: 888-991-8222

Capital One: 877-513-9959

Chase: 800-935-9935

Citi: 888-248-4226

When you reach a retention specialist tell them that you’d like to cancel your card. When they ask why say something like “I like the card but the annual fee is too high.” The rep wil take a few seconds to review your history with the company and recent spending amounts. Then they may come back to you with a retention offer. You can accept it or ask if there are any other offers available. You can play hardball by still asking to cancel or asking to speak to a supervisor. And of course you can always hang up and call again later.

More Information

Besides the Flyer Talk forums I recommend this Doctor of Credit article on retention bonuses. Good luck!

Retention Bonus Rules & Tips For Each Card Issuer – Get More Than One Bonus Each Year