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Credit card rewards can be a great way to earn a bit of extra cash. If you have good credit and can pay your bills in full each month, a rewards credit card can give you extra cash or travel rewards. That said, many credit cards have no annual fee, but some do have this expense. If your credit card’s annual fee is due soon, it’s time to decide whether the card is providing you with enough value to justify its annual fee, and a retention offer might be just the ticket to keeping you on board. Here's how credit card retention offers work.

What Is a Retention Offer?

Banks and card issuers spend a lot of money trying to acquire new customers. They also want to keep their existing customers, however. So in many cases, if you say you’re considering closing your credit card, a bank will offer you a retention bonus offer if you keep your card open.

Here are a few examples of retention offers:

  • A cash statement credit: Banks rarely waive annual fees, but they might offer a statement credit for the exact amount of the annual fee.
  • Bonus points: If it’s a rewards credit card, the issuer may offer extra airline miles or points for keeping the card open.
  • Spending bonus: You may also get a spending challenge where you get bonus points if you meet a spending threshold over the next few months.

Once you are aware of the offers that could be available, you can make an informed decision about whether it still makes sense to keep or cancel the card. Note that in some cases, card issuers won't offer you a retention bonus, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

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Contact the Right Department

When calling for a credit card retention offer, keep in mind that different banks and credit card issuers are structured in different ways. Some have a specific retention department that handles these types of calls, and in other cases, the first agent you talk to will be the one to check for retention offers.

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The most important thing to understand is that you should not definitively say you want to cancel your card. If you specifically say you want to cancel your credit card, you may find the agent proactively cancels your card before you’re ready for it. It’s best to say you’re thinking about or considering canceling your card.

Along the same lines, you don’t want to use the bank’s automated phone system to cancel your credit card. Again, you may find that the card gets automatically canceled before you can even speak to anyone about any retention offers that might be available.

Decide Whether to Cancel Your Credit Card

Once you’re aware of any retention offers, you can decide if keeping the card makes sense or not. Depending on your specific situation, it’s possible to pay an annual fee and still come out ahead. This can happen when the benefits of the card outweigh the cost of the annual fee.

So even without a retention offer, if the card is valuable to you, it can make sense to keep it open. On the other hand, if the card isn’t worth the annual fee to you, you might want to close it—just make sure you’re aware of how closing a credit card affects your credit score.

Stay Organized

If you’re at all serious about earning credit card rewards, it is imperative to stay organized. Being organized with your credit cards can mean knowing which cards to use at which stores. But it’s even more important to stay on top of your card’s fees. How you organize your credit card information depends on how many cards you have and your own style. A simple spreadsheet might be enough, or you might prefer a personal finance app like Mint or Personal Capital.

However you organize your information, make sure you know when your credit card’s annual fee is due. That will keep you from paying the annual fee without realizing it. It will also help you know when it’s time to call in to check on a retention offer.

Bottom Line

Credit card retention offers can be a great way to get a little bit of extra value from your credit cards each year. Before paying a card’s annual fee or closing your card, call in to your credit card company. They may provide you with a retention offer or offers that are worth more than your annual fee. Taking advantage of a retention offer is a win-win proposition. The bank keeps you as a valued customer, and you get to keep a little bit more cash in your wallet.

DM

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free and cheap. He is an expert in all things personal finance, and his work has been featured in Forbes, NerdWallet, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, Rocket Mortgage and Intuit Mint. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and six kids.