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Some great retention bonuses, and how to time yours better than mine

For a while now, Citi has been our favorite bank for credit card rewards. What they lack in marquee programs, they have made up for in number of offers, generous signup bonuses, and retention bonuses. And, of course, straight-up churnability, though that isn’t what it used to be.

Looking at my spreadsheet and accounts, I realized it was time to close or downgrade a couple. The fee was about to come due on Citi AA and Chase UA business cards I opened last September, and the fee just posted on my Starwood Preferred Guest personal card which I’ve had for two full years. So, in the spirit of this excellent guest post at Doctor of Credit, I called the number on the back of Bonnie’s Citi AA business card. I couldn’t find my card, but I had the last 4 digits recorded on my spreadsheet and that’s all they needed. I explained that I was no longer using the A business card but I have some other Citi cards I’m happy with, and I’d like to close it. As expected, the rep said I needed to talk to an account specialist and, after a short hold, I told him the same thing. He offered a retention bonus that wasn’t anywhere near worth taking. It may have been an extra mile per dollar spent up to $5K. Or something like that. It wasn’t worth writing down, and that was many offers ago.

Once he closed that business card as well as the master business account (important for future applications), I asked if he could look at my personal accounts and see if there were any offers, since some of them had annual fees posting soon and I’d be making decisions about keeping them. You know, just save a phone call or two. That was no problem, and he asked for the first card.

Citi Prestige

I got this card nearly a year ago, and it’s become one of my favorite cards. But with two of them in the household, I was looking for a reason to keep mine. The rep offered four choices:

  • 5K bonus TYP for spending $3,000. Um, no.
  • a $175 statement credit for spending at least $4000 during each of the next three billing cycles. I am currently doing this one for Bonnie’s Prestige card, but I wanted something better for myself.
  • 4 bonus ThankYou points per dollar (or 5X) on grocery and drugstore purchases for 6 months, up to 50K bonus points. Maybe gas stations too, I’m not sure. 62.5K Thankyou points for spending $12,500 at grocery and drugstores? I’m in!
  • Something 2 extra bonus points on purchases somewhere something up to 35K bonus points something. No, I want the grocery and drugstore one, thanks! Yes, you can add my email address. And cell phone.

Citi rep: It seems like you know these programs pretty well!

Me: A little, I guess.

Citi rep: What’s that next card number?

Citi ThankYou Preferred

I downgraded an AA Platinum Visa card to the TYP Preferred card rather than allow them to convert it to an AA Mastercard, potentially messing up my ability to get a new AA Mastercard this year. Whther that was necessary, I don’t know. But the reason I went with the Preferred card over a Dividend or Double Cash is because Citi has a history of offering nice retention bonuses on the Preferred. I got:

  • 15K bonus ThankYou points for spending $4500 within 6 months. I took this one because it is good, but it’s also really small. 4.33 points per dollar everywhere, but on just $4500.
  • 2 bonus ThankYou points per dollar for 6 (or maybe 12, I forget) months, up to 35K bonus points. In other words, 3 points per dollar everywhere on my next $17,500 spending. I probably should have taken this one instead, but I’m able to get 3X at gas stations pretty reliably with my TYP Premier card. Next?!

AA Platinum World Mastercard

I was able to open this one at the beginning of September, a little over 18 months after opening or closing my last AA Platinum Mastercard. Fortunately, all the AA Platinum cards I opened in summer 2013 when they were churnable, had been Visas.

  • I had just one offer on this very new card: a $25 statement credit for making a $500 purchase. I’ve already met the $3,000 spending and gotten the bonus, but I’ll gladly take 5% on a $500 purchase along with a few more AA miles! Next card number?

Citi Dividend Card

While this card may lag behind no-fee competitors with 5% categories from Chase and Discover, it has one feature over those: all $300 of your 5% cashback each year can be earned in one quarter, rather than 7,500 points or $75 per quarter. The rep said there were a couple of offers and then said ‘Oh, you’re going to want this one’.

  • 4% cashback bonus on all purchases for 3 months. 5% cashback everywhere, or 9% at airlines and Hilton this month, and at Best Buy and department stores October to December. However, neither this nor any of the other bonus offers available override the $300 annual cap. So I can now earn my $300 by spending $6000 anywhere, or $3333 at the bonus category stores. I think I’ll take my Dividend card to the mall, unless I can find a Best Buy that sells useful gift cards.

My last two cards, a TYP Premier that I’ve had for three months and an AA Executive card that slipped through the anti-churning cracks a few weeks ago, had no offers available. I got off the phone wishing Bonnie had been there to approve my checking offers for her accounts (pretty much the same set of cards), and then I looked at the calendar and realized how bad my timing was. A week later, and the three months on my Dividend card offer would allow me to max out both 2015 and 2016’s cashback on that offer! So if you have converted a Citi card account to a Dividend card like I recommended (still possible), I’d definitely go fishing for a retention bonus on it. Just not until mid-October! EDIT: Thanks to Josh for his comment:

The Dividend $300 cap is based on your statement date, not the precise calendar year.

Purchases made after your December 2015 statement date will appear on your January 2016 statement and count toward your 2016 $300 limit.

This means that with the extra 4x you can spend $3334 at Best Buy or Sears etc. in October and November and max out your 2o15 $300. Then after your December statement cuts you repeat it before January 1 to earn your 2016 bonus.

I think he’s right, and definitely plan to try to max out both 2015 and 2016 cashback during this offer!


American Express offered to downgrade my SPG personal card to some useless Delta card with a $55 fee to save $40. Nothing else. No thought of a fee waiver, statement credit or bonus point earning opportunity. And no option to downgrade to some potentially useful no-fee card. Okay, AMEX, be that way. I’ll have to just open an more cards and earn a signup bonus instead.

Crazy, illogical, wonderful, infuriating Citi  wants us as customers, wants us to keep lots of their cards open, and wants us to use those cards. And they’ll get all three if they keep up the offers! It’ll take $24,500 in spending to take full advantage of these offers, which I expect to complete before October is done. Worst case scenario, that spending will cost us $259. Realistically it will be more like $200. For that spending we’ll get $325 cash, 500 AA miles and 82,000 ThankYou points worth one cent each for a mortgage payment, 1.3-1.6 cents for airfare, or even more by transferring to travel partners. I’ll take it!

Disclosure: We spent a couple years working up to the number of credit cards we currently have. If you decide to churn credit cards, please start slow, don’t bite off more than you can chew, and always pay off all credit cards monthly! This blog contains no affiliate links.


{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Elaine September 30, 2015, 12:31 am

    Nice post, Kenny, we’ve missed you.

    I agree that the guest post on the Doc’s site was good, but some of it is pretty out of date. I didn’t reread it all, but, as an example, things have changed a lot with Chase. I don’t think it is still true that “… at 12 month mark…Chase tends to waive an annual fee if you ask politely.” In the past, some folks had good luck with that while others did not. Currently it is even harder.

    Your post is a good reminder. I should be routinely calling for bonuses before that AF hits, especially if I am not working on any minimum spends!

  • Trevor September 30, 2015, 7:11 am

    Great post Kenny – and a great reminder, it is time to call a few retention lines again!

  • mason September 30, 2015, 8:50 am

    So if I grab a retention bonus on the Dividend card like you described above in the middle of the quarter, then I can max it out in both Q4 2015 and Q1 2016?

    • Kenny September 30, 2015, 9:10 am

      Yes, that should be no problem. With better timing, I would aim to max out 2015’s spending before November statement posts and redeem in December so I have a nice clean $0 Jan 1.

  • PedroNY September 30, 2015, 8:59 am

    Well done. At some point, I will need to provide an updated post. This game is always changing, so new opportunities for retention offers come from all angles.



  • star September 30, 2015, 8:24 pm

    I had a similar experience, though not as many Citi cards!

    Citi Prestige – 5x TYP on gas, groceries, and drugstores (to confirm since you wrote that you couldn’t remember if gas counted)

    Citi AA Exec – $50 statement credit per month for 7 months for spending $1500/month for 7 months

    Citi Dividend – 5% up to $300 cashback just like yours 🙂

    So you closed the SPG right? Do you still have a business one?

    • Kenny September 30, 2015, 9:54 pm

      Nice, I’m glad you were able to get some of the same great offers! Yes, I recently got an SPG business card so there was no reason to pay the fee on the personal one. Especially since we lost AMEX gift card portal money, I can’t imagine keeping more than one SPG card in a household.

  • Josh October 3, 2015, 9:15 am

    I’ve got good news for you.

    The dividend $300 cap is based on your statement date, not the precise calendar year.

    Purchases made after your December 2015 statement date will appear on your January 2016 statement and count toward your 2016 $300 limit.

    This means that with the extra 4x you can spend $3334 at Best Buy or Sears etc. in October and November and max out your 2o15 $300. Then after your December statement cuts you repeat it before January 1 to earn your 2016 bonus.

    You also have time to go online at Citi and set your statement date to earlier in the month to give you more time after your December statement cuts.

    IMO the Dividend Q4 5% bonus categories are by far the best. Especially if the new Discover Deals 10% Sears bonus works out.

    • Kenny October 3, 2015, 2:33 pm

      Awesome, thanks! I’ll definitely give that a shot!

  • Too Nashty October 3, 2015, 2:16 pm

    I need to hop on this citi premier wagon. I am missing out due to my affinity for AA miles. I’ve always gotten junk offers on my AA cards…

    I did get offered 7,000 starpoints for retention and wanted to hold out to see what else they would offer but I was too giddy and took it. The best offer I’ve seen for that card.

  • Elaine October 3, 2015, 3:02 pm

    No love from CITI for me on any of my cards 🙁 . That includes the Dividend, which I have used to spend a grand total of $1.09 since I converted an Exec to it. In fairness, I got it mainly for the BestBuy quarter. So I will put some spend on it this quarter and hope for better next time I try.

    • Elaine October 3, 2015, 6:56 pm


      Since I realized yesterday that the $50 AF had sneaked by me when it posted in March on my husband’s card, I decided to give CITI another call re: getting a statement credit for that. The CSR couldn’t help me but when I said the magic words – might have to close – we were passed along to Victor. He offered a few options and we went with spending $10+ five times to get the $50 back. Then I cycled through all of Bob’s cards and there were bonuses similar to what Kenny and commenter posted on them.

      Asked if he wouldn’t mind checking my cards, and low and behold, he could see offers the CSR I spoke to yesterday could not. We cycled through my cards and I added a few offers, including the additional 5% on my CITI Dividend.

      I told him straight up at the end that the person yesterday was of no help and said there were no offers. He said you need an “account specialist” and that CSRs will connect to them if you drop the C word into the call. Now I never said cancel for any of my cards or the other cards Bob had, but once we got to this guy on the phone, he was happy to check all our CITI cards as if we might be cancelling them.

      So if you call CITI, be sure to say the magic word.

      • Kenny October 4, 2015, 10:05 pm

        Awesome, well done! You do have to get to the account specialist in my experience as well.

  • Leon October 4, 2015, 10:38 am

    How often can we get a retention bonus? Can we get a retention offer if we already got one previously?

    I just completed a retention offer for my Forward card this month. When should I call again? My TYP is slightly over 3 statements old, do you think it would have an offer?


    • Kenny October 4, 2015, 10:03 pm

      You can get a fresh retention bonus at least every 3 months. One of mine during this round was on an AA card that wasn’t two months old. You should be able to call anytime now, but may need to have a good reason to be considering closing a card.

  • rob t October 5, 2015, 2:29 pm

    nice post.. i always fish for retention sometimes with success, sometimes not.. it doesn’t hurt to try

    I opened a citi typ prestige card recently. I got teh 4x GGD bonus. Now how long do i need to wait to get another retention?

    sign up bonus then retention and the airline credit twice is clearly not enough 😀

    • Kenny October 5, 2015, 2:57 pm

      Clearly. $500 in credits, ~$800 in AA fares and Priority Pass & Admirals Club for the whole family… we need either retention bonuses or churnability to make it worth the $350.

  • Rachel November 18, 2015, 11:19 am

    Were these all for cards that were only about a year old? I’m curious if the length of time holding a specific card or generally being a customer of the credit card company affects your offers. I’m calling about my 8 year old SPG card this week…

    • Kenny November 18, 2015, 10:27 pm

      These Citi cards were anywhere from 45 days to 2 years old. Since I posted this I’ve gotten yet another small retention bonus on a brand-new Citi card. AMEX offered nothing on my 30 month old SPG card.

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