CitiBusiness AAdvantage Retention Call – Why I Took a Mediocre Offer

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CitiBusiness AAdvantage Retention

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Retention Call

Retention calls are part of the points & miles game. The goal here is to reduce or eliminate annual fees to minimize costs on earning points from cards. When annual fees roll around, part of the strategy is a “retention call”. This is where you see what the bank will offer you for keeping the card/paying the fee, instead of closing the card. My annual fee just hit on the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard, so I made a retention call to Citi. They made a mediocre offer, but I took it anyway. Here’s why.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Card Perks

The card offers the following perks:

  • Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on select business categories including gas stations
  • Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries
  • Group 1 Boarding on American Airlines domestic flights
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases

The card has a $99 annual fee that is waived the first year.

I don’t find myself flying domestic AA flights very often, and I have Citi AAdvantage personal cards, as well. Those cover the majority of these perks. Thus, I don’t value any of these benefits at all. The benefits give me $0, if I’m honest. For me, this card needed a retention offer I value above the cost required to get it (the $99 fee). Otherwise, I was closing it. Plus, I have 2 of this card: one for a sole proprietor business and one for my LLC. Only points or waived fees could give me positive value.

My CitiBusiness AAdvantage retention call

When I called and said I was thinking about canceling the card, I was not transferred to a retention specialist. While other banks have special people for this, Citi never transfers me to someone else. The representative asked why I was thinking about closing the card. I always say, “I’m not using it as much anymore, and for me the benefits don’t outweigh the fee. I’m willing to change my mind, if you think I’m missing something.”

The representative listed the above benefits, and I pointed out that I don’t use them much, if at all. The representative originally told me that I could get the annual fee waived for another calendar year if I spend $3,000 in 90 days. What?! I actually laughed. Spend $3,000 to save $99. I told her that was ridiculous and that they needed something else to keep my account open.

I received the following offer:

  • Earn 3,000 American Airlines miles after spending $500 in 90 days
  • Agree to keep the card open and pay the $99 fee

Basically, I would spend $599 on the card in 90 days to get 3,000 AA miles. That’s not a great offer. So why did I take it?

 

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Retention

Reasons for taking a mediocre offer

There are 2 reasons why I took this deal. 1. I can easily meet this spend at little to no out-of-pocket cost from reselling online. My personal cost here will be closer to $100 (and $99 of that is the fee). That’s a cost to me of 3.3 cents per mile (not great), but I can get even better value than that during redemptions. 2. This is cheaper than buying 3,000 miles from AA (cost: $123.50).

I can get great value out of AA miles with partners like Qantas, Etihad, Qatar, British Airways, or even international AA flights in business class. Premium awards on those airlines will give me more than 3.3 cents per point in value during redemption. Since we’ve been racking up AA miles this past year and are planning to make some big redemptions for 2020 with AA miles, having some more AA miles was good for us. However, when doing the math in this decision, remember that Citi does not pro-rate or refund annual fees during the middle of the year. If you pay the fee, keep the card for the whole 12 months. You can’t cancel later and get part of the fee back.

Previous CitiBusiness AAdvtange Retention Offers

Where this deal hurts is that we’ve had much better. On my other CitiBusiness AA card, I was offered 7,500 AA miles after spending $1,000 (plus pay the $99 fee). That’s double the spend for more than double the points of my current offer. That’s a much better deal, and it was just 4 months ago. My wife also received this same $1,000 for 7,500 AA retention offer earlier this year. Maybe CitiBusiness knows that I’ve had an offer earlier this year and therefore wasn’t willing to give out as much. Maybe it was the weather. It’s hard to know, but we did some math and then took the offer. I accepted a mediocre offer because it serves a bigger purpose for me.

Final thoughts

Knocking it out of the park with an amazing retention offer that leaves you feeling happy is everyone’s dream. It doesn’t always go like that. The first offer I got on this phone call was laughably terrible. I hope no one accepts it. My 2nd offer wasn’t what I’d hoped for. I’d hoped for the same as what I got on my other CitiBusiness AAdvantage retention call earlier this year, but it didn’t happen. I asked if there was something better but didn’t want to mention “on my other card…” for risk this could lead to “you already had an offer”. The offer might get worse, not better. I took the 2nd offer to achieve our purpose of racking up more AA miles for next year’s trips. Sometimes, a mediocre deal is worth taking. Know your costs and ‘bare minimum’ you’ll accept before calling in.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Here’s how I think about it. Think of the $99 fee as having been charged. You have three options:

    Option 1: Cancel card, get $99 back. So all other decisions must be worth at least $99 to break even.

    Option 2: Spend $3000 to get the $99 fee back plus 3,000 miles (regular earn rate). At your quoted value of $0.033/mile, assuming you can spend $3000, this is worth 3000x$0.033 ($99) + $99 fee back. Incrementally vs Option 1, this requires spending $3000 to get 3000 miles which you value at $99. $99 value / $3000 spend is a 3.3% return. Question is whether you get better than that on any other cards.

    Option 3: Spend, $500, no annual fee refund, get 3,000 bonus miles plus 500 regular miles (if my understanding is correct). At your quoted value of $0.033/mile, this is worth $115.50 for $500 spend. Incrementally vs Option 1, this is worth $16.50 for $500 spend, or a 3.3% return. It is the same incremental spend valuation as Option 2 which you avoided.

    • Matt – option 2 ($3000 to get the fee waived) didn’t come with any miles, so it’s 1:1 on miles earning. At $500 for 3,000, that’s 6:1. Big difference on the return rate and much less work.

      What do you value AA miles at? Let’s say I get 3500 miles by doing no bonus spend on that $500. I paid $100 out of pocket after a $99 fee ate a big chunk of that, and I get 3500 miles. I also kept that $3,000 of effort and spend for another card that earned a bonus, so I came away with bonus X plus this 3500 AA miles. Closing the account skips the 3500 miles and putting the $3000 on this card means not putting $3000 on another card. Do you see it differently?

  2. You certainly vacillate
    on even wanting/liking/using AA miles, Mark, happy to hear you finally managed some use for them!

  3. Your logic for accepting makes little to no sense to me based on the lead up. I wish I could sell you all my miles for $0.033 per mile. Seems like you got suckered into making a silly decision.

    • Matt – look at the part where I said I can get this for almost $0 out of pocket. Buying your miles comes out of my pocket. Quite different here 🙂

        • Yet much more float time, much more effort, and spend not put on another card that would be giving me a sign-up bonus. I’m not willing to put $3000 on a card just for 3000 miles. It needs to be a much better rate for that much spend. 1:1 is not a rate I expected anyone to argue for.

    • Spend $3,000 would earn 3,000 miles at 1pt / $1 OR spending $500 would earn 3,000 miles plus the 500 miles of 1pt / $1. The latter clearly comes out ahead. Did I miss something in that math?

      • Yes, in comparing the two you missed the fact that spending $3,000 also gets you a $99 fee waiver, but spending $500 does not get you a $99 fee waiver. That’s what you missed.

        • So you’d go for $3000 for 3000 miles from 1:1 on spend over the $500 + $99 fee for 3500 miles from bonus + spend?
          I wouldn’t.

  4. Linda Walker is the name Citi puts on all their card images in advertisements 🙂
    Complicated? Possibly, but I definitely get more out of them than the organization required for having them.

  5. Wow. Are you Linda Walker or Ryan S?

    I didn’t get any so I chose it. Good riddance. All these cards are making my life complicated.

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