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With travel largely paused during the pandemic, card issuers have introduced a variety of new perks to try and keep customers who are spending more time at home and less on the road. After all, premium credit cards with membership fees that can cost hundreds of dollars are prime candidates for the chopping block as families tighten their budgets.
But there may be an easy way to get money off your credit card annual fee without canceling your account altogether: a call to your credit card issuer. Just like you can negotiate your rent — by doing your research on how the downturn caused by the pandemic has affected your local housing market, and calling the landlord with a proposal — you may be able to bargain with your card’s issuer for a lower fee.
I personally was able to get a $100 credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express back in the spring. All it took was a five-minute phone call to American Express, emphasizing that I clearly was not going to be traveling much, if at all, and thus would not be using all of the perks that come with the card’s $550 membership fee. The agent immediately offered me this statement credit, which I gladly accepted.
Lori Zaino, senior writer at The Points Guy (also owned by NextAdvisor’s parent company, Red Ventures), was able to get 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points on her Platinum card. “I was thinking of canceling since it didn’t seem worth the $550 annual fee — especially since I live abroad and can’t take advantage of all of the U.S.-based credits and perks,” Zaino, who is based in Madrid, Spain, says.
Zaino ended up calling up American Express to see what her options were. A customer service rep proposed the retention offer — worth $350, according to how American Express calculates the dollar value of its points — in exchange for a commitment to renew the card for one year.
Alberto Riva, senior editor here at NextAdvisor, was able to get a $100 credit in July on his Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®*, a co-branded card offering American Airlines flyers top perks including airport lounge access. In 2020, Citi extended all holders of the card an automatic $225 credit when the $450 annual fee came due. Riva reasoned he could ask for an additional fee reduction by calling the issuer and explaining that he would not be getting any value out of the card’s travel-focused perks, since he would likely not be flying for the remainder of the year. The agent agreed and gave him an additional $100 credit, which appeared on his statement as an “American Airlines courtesy credit.”
Twitter user @yggdrizzle tweeted that she got the same offer Zaino did on the Amex Platinum: “(…) got 50,000 points ($500 credit was also an option; annual fee 550) as I have not used a single benefit since March / don’t plan to most of 2021 and was considering cancelling it.”
Keep in mind that you are not guaranteed a similar outcome, since issuers will weigh factors including which card, or cards, you have with the company and how long you’ve had them. But it’s certainly worth it to pick up the phone and politely ask.
We suggest searching online for the name of the card and terms like “retention offer,” “fee reduction” or “bonus credit” before you call, so you have an idea of what the card issuer may be willing to agree to. Researching your options before asking what you can get may put you in a better bargaining position.
Like Citi in the example above, many credit card companies have also been proactive in lowering annual fees across the board, as a means of keeping customers amid the economic hardship caused by the pandemic. In April, Chase announced that Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders renewing their cards through July 1 would pay a $450 annual fee, as opposed to $550. Chase later extended the policy to include all renewals through the year.
*All information about the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.