Over the years I’ve only had one credit card that had an annual fee, it was a middle tier Citibank card and the fee was $50. A few times I called to try to get it waived, but never had any luck. At the time it was the only credit card I had that was tied to an airline rewards program, and I wanted to keep it so I always just paid the fee.
I’ve followed The Art of Non Conformity website for years, and anyone who follows the site knows that Chris is a full time travel hacker, earning hundreds of thousands of free miles each year by working credit card travel rewards systems. I’ve never been that ambitious, but last year I decided to upgrade my cards and see what I could do. I didn’t go crazy, but I did decide to finally close the other card I had and open two new cards specifically with the goal of accumulating travel rewards. After reading many articles, including some of the free travel hacker advice on The Art of Non Conformity, it seemed that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card was the one to go for, the holy grail card for getting free travel. At the same time I also applied for a new Citibank card, the Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa Signature card. Only catch? Both carry a $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.
This time around, I told myself that I would try my hardest not to pay the annual fee when it came due. Over the past year, both turned out to good cards to have, I earned close to 100,000 points with the Chase card (with the help of some hefty purchases), and nearly 50,000 miles for my AAdvantage account.
The other day the Chase fee finally hit my statement, so I got my facts straight and developed a plan of attack for trying to sweet talk the phone rep. Before calling, I did a search online, but to my dismay found that virtually no one has been able to get the fee on the Sapphire Preferred card waived. See here, here and here. But I decided to give it a go anyway. When I called the phone didn’t even ring before an agent answered. First thought was, “Crap, this is seriously good customer service.” I was polite, asked how she was doing, some small chit chat, and stated that I was calling to get the fee waived. Right on cue as the other articles mentioned, she plainly said, “Well, there are two things we can do, we can cancel the card or we can downgrade you to a different card.” She then went on to kindly ask why I thought I should be able to get the fee reversed, and I tried using the leverage of how much I spent on the card over the year, but she didn’t skip a beat, explaining to me how all the perks of the card clearly are worth more than $95. (I suppose based on the fact that I could redeem my miles for cash at a rate of $1 per 100 points, it’s already paid back the fee almost 10 times over.)
Just for good measure, I tried asking for a credit or retension bonus, but she just went on to outline more of the benefits of the card and told me that was a pretty nice bonus. So needless to say, my experience equaled what I read online many times prior to calling.
A bit discouraged from that phone call, I figured I may as well give the Citi card a shot too, so I went ahead and called them next. One thing that is important to note here is that the Citi fee had NOT hit my card yet, but I knew it would be coming within a couple weeks, which made this call preemptive.
I am happy to report this call went much differently, I told the phone rep I was consolidating my cards and wanted to see about getting the fee removed. He asked if the fee would make me think about closing the card, I told him it would. He put me on hold to get a different rep, and when the new rep came back he immediately presented me with an offer.
If I would keep the card they would issue me a $95 credit, as well as give me the option of earning 750 bonus points by spending over $750 in the next billing cycle, an offer that would continue each month for the next 16 months. I immediately agreed, since all I was hoping for was the fee waiver. In this case, they actually exceeded my expectations, and without so much as a single negotiation on my part.
So if you have a card that carries an annual fee, it’s definitely worth at least a phone call to try to get the fee waived. You may not get it, but you also may be pleasantly surprised as I was with Citibank. I do want to point out that it’s probably best to call before the fee hits your card, as that shows that you are on the ball and may be looking to cancel without the fee credit. And it should go without saying that if you are carrying a balance, you probably don’t have much negotiating power, as you are stuck with the card until you can pay the balance in full.
Good luck and happy negotiating!
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Originally posted on Friday, November 8th, 2013 at 12:08 AM .