I’ve also been engaged in a multi-stage guerrilla war to lessen the sting of paying annual fees because their hit to the wallet is most unpleasant.
Today, I want to equip you with my personal “cheat sheet” – everything I’ve found out about Amex retention offers. When this article is done, I hope you have an idea of what’s available on the market and how you can get these offers for your benefit.
For the social butterflies in the audience – you’re in luck. These are easiest to get via the call centre.
For those of you who aren’t conversationally inclined, it is possible to get some of these offers via the secure chat – but your mileage will vary to a much greater extent.
As always, you’re either talking with or typing to a real, living person on the other end of the line or chatbox. That person is holding your credit account’s well-being in their hands. Much like the chef at a restaurant, it will pay to treat them respectfully.
What’s a Retention Offer?
In my previous pieces, I usually dealt with annual fee waivers – that is to say, getting the issuing bank of a credit card to waive the fee in its entirety, or at least give you a large rebate in cash.
Amex doesn’t always roll like that, but they are still interested in incentivizing loyal customers to not cancel their products. A retention offer is different from an annual fee waiver because it’s a bonus that’s designed to keep you holding your American Express credit product without forgoing the collection of your money.
Whereas RBC might simply waive your fee, American Express prefers to report your membership cost as revenue on their quarterly balance sheet. What this means is that when they offer you a retention offer, it will be in the form of bonus points or statement credit.
In times gone by, your card would either have to be up for renewal very soon, or the annual fee already posted to your account in order to be considered eligible for a retention offer.
This is over now, however, and there are multiple data points of customers getting retention offers within only six months of holding a card. This is great customer service on Amex’s part.
You’ll almost always be offered some kind of retention offer if you’re about to cancel a product. That doesn’t mean you should bluff – but be aware of this fact and some of the cards you can play…
Also note: if you receive a retention offer, you are supposed to keep that card for another year (and another annual fee). That’s what American Express expects of you. You can, of course, cancel your card whenever you want – but that’s at risk of damaging your relationship with the issuer, which is not ideal.
Retention Offers Ahoy!
This following list is a non-exhaustive list of the retention offers Amex has been offering to myself and other Miles & Points enthusiasts. If you’ve received anything not listed here, I’d love to chat about them in the comments section below.
American Express Business Edge Card
Myself, Amy here at Prince of Travel, and stacks of our friends have received retention offers of 5,000 Membership Rewards Select points to keep our Business Edge accounts open. Recall that this card is one of the newest in Amex’s lineup, and most cardholders are just now entering their second year – I’m sure Amex will gladly pull out all the stops to pump their customer retention numbers.
Conservatively, this is a 50% annual fee reduction if redeemed for statement credit at 1 cent per point. With the current Bonvoy transfer promotion, the travel value represents closer to 65% savings against the $99 annual fee.
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
There are multiple data points of members receiving $100 statement credit offers for the Business Gold Rewards Card. This represents a solid 40% discount off the renewal annual fee of $250.
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
There are data points of retention offers of 10,000 Aeroplan points being offered for the personal Aeroplan Reserve Card. This would only reduce the annual fee by a sixth – but I also know one lucky cardholder who received a $50 statement credit in addition to 20,000 Aeroplan points, cutting the effective annual fee in half. So great offers are certainly available – though he does do a lot of organic spend.
American Express Platinum Card
Two of my closest friends have received retention offers of their choice of either a $200 statement credit or 20,000 Membership Rewards points to keep our personal Platinum Cards open. Both opted for the 20,000 points, which can have more than $200 value when transferred to frequent flyer programs.
As we can see from the above offers, the largest bonuses in absolute terms are on the higher-end premium personal card products, which offer several hundred dollars in points and/or statement credits. Still, you’ll have to make sure you’re getting enough value out of the card to pay the hefty fees.
On the other hand, the best offers in proportionate terms are some of the lower-end business products. An effective reduction in the annual fee of up to 50% or more, depending on how you redeem your points, makes this a decent choice if you’re like me and have expensive electronics warrantied on these cards (which need to stay open for the insurance coverage to remain valid).
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|90,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass||$2,236||Apply Now|
|Up to 67,000 MR points||$1,221||Apply Now|
|60,000 MR points||$1,180||Apply Now|
|85,000 MR points||$1,063||Apply Now|
How to Get a Retention Offer
I’ve dedicated an entire article to using your charm as a parrying weapon with which to disarm the banks’ desire to charge you annual fees. While some of these arguments are effective, not all of them will work with American Express, who are generally a bit pickier about their clientele.
Before we get into the arguments: remember, if you fail, hang up and call again.
Unfortunately, two of my favourite sob stories that so often work to get goodies from the Big 5 just have never flown for me with American Express.
Asking for student benefits or pleading financial hardship just don’t seem to make the grade. American Express is a bit like an unsympathetic sports coach: once you’ve signed your life on the dotted line, you should have known what you were getting into. Which means coughing up the renewal annual fee.
They’d also like for you to put your spend for overpriced textbooks on your Amex. That doesn’t mean you’ll get a huge retention offer for the honour of doing so. Bummer.
Fortunately, Amex seems to deeply value customers who use their cards heavily and/or have long relationships with the company.
The first thing that American Express values when you ask for a retention bonus is your amount of spend. That doesn’t mean that the length of your relationship is worthless, but they place a lot more emphasis on customers who make lots of transactions.
As Amex tends to make more money off merchant fees per transaction than they do on interest accrued on accounts carrying a balance, this is logical. That being said, they also love loyal customers. You paying your annual fee but receiving a rebate in the form of points or credit is still revenue for them and a discount for you. Everyone wins.
If you’re putting decent quantities of spend through your cards – even as “low” as a few hundred dollars a month – you’re in a much better position to ask the Roman centurion on the other end of the phone line to cut you a retention offer.
If you’ve been denied or stonewalled, or been given conflicting information on retention offers, then you can also choose to double down and ask for a manager.
American Express call centre managers seem to have more power than their Big 5 counterparts, and can give you better offers than what I’ve seen listed on the internet when engaging with you one-on-one.
You can attempt to use any combination of these arguments on them, and there’s a decent chance they’ll offer you something. Just understand full annual fee waivers are definitely not an option.
When All Else Fails
Look, sometimes you can’t justify keeping a card, or get transferred to agents dead-set against giving you a retention bonus. That’s fine, carry on with your cancellation, head over to our Credit Card selector tool, and pick a product that better fits your needs.
Be warned: Amex takes a somewhat dim view of people who rotate through their cards in quick succession. If you do cancel, make sure it’s on a product you’re certain you’re happy to forgo.
When you do choose a new American Express product, it’s in your best interest to ensure it’s something different from what you’ve previously held.
Is This the Future for American Express?
Before we wrap up this article, I want to invite you to engage in a bit of educated strategizing with me, and use this knowledge going forward to increase your Miles & Points game.
When I entered the Miles & Points hobby in 2019, American Express was turbo-stingy. Retention offers such as bonus points or statement credits, at least in Canada, were not a thing. The American market had better deals (as it continues to now), but for us Canucks even getting a token 5,000 MR Select points on a lower-end card such as the then-infant Business Edge would have been unheard of.
We are now entering the post-COVID world which will see an enormous upsurge in travel – I know many of you will want to join me in getting the hell out of dodge the moment border restrictions are lifted. Amex is a prudent business that knows this and wants to take advantage of it.
My crystal ball broke and my replacement from AliExpress will be another 12 weeks, so this isn’t a prophecy, but I feel confident that the trend for Amex is to reward customers it views as loyal and/or profitable. That means we have only just begun to see lucrative retention offers.
That being said, if your annual fee is on the horizon and you want to get something for renewing, don’t tarry. Get the best deals you can now. But if your renewal is up in a bit, maybe wait it out because it’s likely they’ll only get more generous with time.
Don’t be daunted by Amex’s annual fees year over year. If you’re comfortable with calling customer service representatives when the annual fees come around, you can offset them to be low enough to extract great value from cards you choose to hold long-term.
Don’t forget either that a great relationship with Amex can have its own merits, especially if you want to sample products you have never held previously.
Until next time, may your accounts be ever retained on favourable grounds.