Another reader request – how to do a retention bonus phone call & when to cancel a card?

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Some have used my links for a Delta AMEX, and I thank you all so much for supporting the blog, so now you want to know about maximizing miles with a retention bonus. Here are some facts.

1) NEVER cancel a card inside of 6 months. It looks bad on all fronts!
2) ALWAYS DO call about 8-10 months into card ownership for extra points
3) 11 months in call for a change to no fee or more points to stay
4) Be sure to ALWAYS know your what your credit score is. BTW you can
check the impact FREE here
5) With Delta cards cancel and switch may be best move ( personal to biz )

So Rene what are you talking about. Just to let you know, each year I get tons of free points by calling and asking for free points. One year I got 12,000 Delta points for 5 minutes on the phone!

Most card issuers have a “retention” department. If you call and tell them you are thinking about canceling the card and could you please be transferred to the retention department most of the time you will be. You can then tell them you like the card but are thinking of canceling and moving to another card. Is there anything they can do to motivate you to stay with the card like a bonus of some kind. If they say NO, you then ask is there any kind of a CHALLENGE like spend $1000 in the next 90 days to get say 10,000 points? If they still say NO then you say OK I still have some time before my annual fee comes up I will think about my options.

Now what to do. If you keep in mind my first post ever, my best ever advice still stands, if you do not like the answer you get call back (the next day in this case). If still nothing then wait for month 11. If still no bonus then ask for no fee to keep the card one more year. If still no, then ask for a card with no fee. If still no, call back for next rep and ask for all this again. If still no, then you may just have to cancel the card. Now with DELTA AMEX it may just be good to CANCEL the card every 12 months ( do still ask for the bonus points at 8-10 months ) so you can, after 24 months, get the new card bonus again!

I hope the above is NOT confusing. If you need help comment or email me direct for help! – René
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.


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  1. I have a personal Delta Reserve card and I’m also a Diamond member. Since I get the Skyclub membership for the next year for being a Diamond member there is no reason for me to keep the card except for the free companion certificate for renewing. My question is can I cancel after I receive the companion certificate and get a prorated refund on the membership fee? Also I’ve had this card for 2 years now, when can I reapply for the card after cancelling and get the 10k MQM bonus?

  2. @Deltanuts – perfect perfect question. AMEX does not ( almost never but YMMV) refund back a membership fee! They are hard on that. So best to cancel BEFORE the fee. You can get the new card bonus every 24 months. SO, if you cancel your Reserve card now, then apply for the BIZ Reserve card right now, you get a new 10k MQM, a new free companion cert, and you will be set for NEXT YEAR to do the same thing all over again with the Personal Reserve card again! Clear?

  3. Make sure you USE your companion cert before canceling the card. You will have to charge the primary traveler ticket onto your DL Amex. Also, as I learned the hard way, once you cancel your Amex, the unused cert will be void.

  4. @ Aleks – good point! Once it is BOOKED you can cancel no worries. Now I can tell you this, the VOID part is maybe. I still see one from a canceled card in my account and according to the Delta rep, ANY Delta AMEX will work as payment, not just the card it came from – but YMMV so better to book first then cancel as you point out – Rene

  5. Thanks for the reply. My membership fee will be due in May and I will book my trip soon. Should I apply for the Biz Reserve before or after I cancel the Personal or does it matter. When do I get my new companion cert?

  6. @ Deltanuts – You will want to get the BIZ card BEFORE you cancel the old one. You never want to fly without one for all the perks it gives you. So, I would say March at the latest. But, I would call right now, and say you are thinking about canceling, get the bonus retention points, and then cancel April as planned! – Rene

  7. Another fine post, Rene! I know it’s not your speciality, but I have a request if you’re up for it. Can you please share with us your stand on vs a hotel loyalty program? I’ve already accumulated one free night through and I’m half way to another, but I’m beginning to think SPG might be a better program.


  8. @Deltanuts – AMEX DOES prorate the card’s membership fee. I had them do it to me twice. They did it on the Amex Reserve card to me just this past year. I called to cancel it a couple of months before it was due as I am also a DM and was not really using the main perk of the card. The rep was very helpful and actually told me (I didn’t think they would prorate it) that he would be issuing a refund for the unused months. I asked if that was something that was done and he said yes. I ended up getting $127 for not using my 3 months. They did the same with the Amex Plat card.

  9. @Shruti – txs for data point. Always keep in mind, if you do it too fast, or they note your record of this, it could mean missing out on next miles bonus. Pick what is most important to you. A few bucks back or the next bonus. Also, the retention points may be worth more than the cash fyi – Rene

  10. Sorry-I did not get your point.I cancelled this card after 16 months, so i was charged only for 4 months. Did i do anything wrong

  11. What’s a “typical” amount of points they’ll offer to have you stay? I have the Gold AmEx with the $95 fee coming due next month.

  12. @Brendan – ouch you are maybe too late. Call them quick and take what ever they offer. Then as soon as points post cancel and I would today apply for the BIZ card ( thanks for using my link btw ) Rene

  13. OK, my AMEX PR Gold card is up for $175 renewal around March 3rd. I called for retention and they offered me 7500 points plus another 5k points after spending $500 within 60 days. My understanding is that the 5K points would post within 2 weeks of spending $500 on the card. Is this an average deal or a great deal? Will the points actually post to my account before March 3rd if I promptly spend $500 in the next few days?

  14. @Gussomer – they will post on the next statement after you do the spend most of the time. Worst case the statement after that. Not instant most of the time. Nice work on the BONUS! – Rene

  15. @Rene…would not have known without reading your blog. Big thanks to you! Worst case scenario is I keep my MR card for awhile until a nice transfer bonus comes along. Hopefully AMEX will pro-rate my $175 fee if I opt to keep the card for only a few more months and then cancel.

  16. So if I can get Amex cards with no annual fee (since I’m military), wouldn’t it just make sense to keep a personal and business Reserve cards, while maxing out spending as much as I can on both to get the bonus MQMs each year?

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