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Citi Retention Strategy Guide
2015 has been the year of Citi. The bank has refreshed their products, increased bonuses and become very generous with retention offers for current cardholders. The information shared in this guide is collected from my own experience and data points I have collected from others. None of these rules are set in stone and your experience may vary.
What Is Retention?
A retention department is designed to keep you from cancelling your account. At Citi the retention department will sometimes have offers available to encourage you to keep your account. These offers almost always have some spending component and can involve extra points and/or statement credits. Offers are determined by a profitability model and agents can only give you an offer that is available in their system for your account.
When Are You Eligible?
Every credit card account is eligible for retention offers no matter how long it has been opened. This doesn’t mean that every card will receive an offer, but I have heard of people receiving offers on cards that are less than 1 month old. The biggest misconception is that you need to wait a year before calling in to see if you are eligible for any offers. This simply isn’t true.
How to Reach Citi Retention
To reach Citi retention, call the phone number on the back of your card and tell the agent you are thinking about cancelling your card. (Do not tell the automated system to cancel your account or it might just close it out!) It can pay to list a specific reason you are looking to cancel, since the retention agent will try to give you an offer that solves your problem.
For example, if I wanted an increased spending offer on the ThankYou Preferred I might say, “I am thinking of cancelling my card since it only earns 1 point per dollar on everyday spending and for that reason I have other cards that I prefer to use.” That statement should lead them towards offers (if available) with an increased earning component.
Multiple Cards on One Call
One of the best things about Citi’s retention department is that they can look at offers across pretty much all of your cards in one phone call. Business and personal cards are handled by different departments, but other than that the agent has access to the offers for all of your accounts.
If you want to look at offers across multiple cards then let the agent know at some point during the call. Generally they will handle one card at a time. This means you will talk about a card, listen and decide on the offers and then move on to the next card. They generally require that you tell them the last four digits of the card number, so be prepared with that information.
About the Retention Offers
Retention agents are generally compensated based on how well they retain a customer and in some companies based on how lucrative the offer they give you is. For example, at my previous employer they would have four different levels of offers. The agent would get the best score for retaining a customer without an offer, followed by retaining with the lowest value offer, etc. The worst score would obviously be if the customer cancelled.
I believe Citi agents are compensated in the same way. For this reason, they may not present you with every single offer right away. You may need to push for a better offer and it never hurts to ask for something specific. Remember that the agent can only give you what is in their system, but asking for something specific may nudge them towards a better available offer.
One of the biggest keys to getting the best retention offers is being polite and friendly. In my previous job the retention reps would deal with angry people all day. Most people were cancelling because they didn’t like their company or the service, etc. If you are pleasant and stand out from the crowd, they will be more willing to help you as much as they can. Piss off an agent and they may decide not to give you a good offer even if it is available.
Confirming an Offer
Once you have agreed to an offer, make sure to repeat it back as you understand it. This will avoid confusion and ensure that you understand what you will receive. (It is also recorded on the call in case there are problems later.) In the past Citi didn’t send anything regarding offers in writing, however that has recently changed.
I used to send a secure message to Citi to confirm the terms of the offer along with the firm end date. Now Citi sends out an email a few days after acceptance with all of the offer terms. The date is missing from that email, so you can still send a message to confirm the end date or track it yourself. The end date is calculated from the date of your call. So a 6 month offer accepted on January 1 will expire on July 1.
How Often Should You Call?
Some people make a point to call every few months and have an agent look over all of their accounts. I don’t have a written confirmation of this, but I was once told by a Citi agent that you can only receive two offers per year on a card. That was over a year ago, so that information may not still be true, but I wouldn’t expect to receive offers more frequent than that anyway.
Flyertalk is a good resource to use before calling Citi since there is an entire thread dedicated to Citi retention offers. You can use that thread to see what others have been offered and also give back by reporting your data points as well. There is also an interesting article written by a former Citi retention agent which may be of interest to a lot of you.
Right now Citi is being very aggressive in their effort to keep customers with lucrative bonus offers. While you aren’t guaranteed to hit a homerun every time, the fact that you can hear offers across multiple cards on the same call is very powerful. I make a point to call Citi regularly to view the offers on my accounts and that strategy has paid off nicely.
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