About a year ago I excitedly opened a Citi Prestige card, ready for my 50,000 ThankYou point bonus and lounge access, among other things. Since the, the bonus has dropped to 40,000 ThankYou Points, but considering the myriad of other benefits the card maintained, it’s still worth getting if you haven’t had it yet. Read our full review of the Citi Prestige.

11 months into holding any card that’s got an annual fee, I do a cost/benefit analysis to figure out if I’m getting enough value from the card to keep it open. In the case of the Citi Prestige, there a lot of ongoing benefits to consider that help outweigh the $450 annual fee, like:

  • $250 in travel statement credits every calendar year
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • 4th hotel night free when booked through Citi Prestige Concierge
  • 3x ThankYou points for travel, 2x on restaurants and entertainment

These are all automatic annual benefits of the card. But what people often forget about (or don’t realize they can do) is to call the phone number on the back of their card to negotiate extra incentive to keep a card open–a retention bonus.

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Even if your card has enough automatic benefits to merit keeping open, if your card charges an annual fee, you should make a habit out of calling in before the next annual fee hits to negotiate a retention bonus as that’s the time that you have the most leverage.

Often representatives will offer incentives in the form of extra rewards triggered by more spending or a statement credit that somewhat or totally covers the annual fee. You never know until you try. Never done it before? I highlighted all the steps of what do to when calling in for a retention bonus in my post, the State of Retention Bonuses for Citi Cards.

Whenever I open a new card with an annual fee, I set a Google Calendar alert to email me a reminder 11 months past the date I opened it. The email arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago reminding me to call Citi in regards to my Prestige card.

What You Should Always Do to Prepare for a Retention Bonus Phone Call

Before calling Citi, I scanned Flyertalk for what other people were being offered as retention bonuses for their Citi Prestige. I recommend always doing this, as you’ll be better prepared for what the rep is going to say and can wait it out (thanks, that sounds good, but can you offer me anything else?) until you receive a good offer you’ve seen someone else get recently.

What I was Offered to Keep My Citi Prestige Card Open

I was given the following three offers before being told by a rep that they were not authorized to offer me anything else:

  • Four additional ThankYou points per dollar for air, hotel, or car rentals (up to 35,000 ThankYou Points) for the next 6 months
  • A $200 statement credit for spending $4,000 per month for three months
  • 10,000 ThankYou points for spending $3,000 over the next six months

Four additional ThankYou points per dollar for air, hotel, or car rentals could be lucrative for a lot of people. If you could put $8,750 in spend towards those travel expenses to max it out, you’d get an extra 35,000 ThankYou points, which I value at about $665. Not bad, but not good enough for me either. Maybe if I had more spending power it would be worth it, but pretty much all my credit card spending goes towards meeting minimum spending requirements on new cards which gives me a better return than that.

A $200 statement credit for spending $4,000 per month for three months is a much worse return than the previous offer.

And 10,000 ThankYou points (which I value at about $190) for spending $3,000 is a little better than the $200 statement credit offer, but still not any better than the first offer.

My Decision

If you couldn’t tell already, I didn’t feel very incentivized by any of the retention offers. The automatic benefits of the card are nice, but I have other cards that offer similar perks, so those aren’t enough to make me want to pay another $450 annual fee. I decided to downgrade to Citi’s no annual fee ThankYou card, the ThankYou Preferred card, to maintain the age of the account for my credit score.

But I didn’t carry out the downgrade on the phone with rep. I accepted one of his offers. Why?

The following excerpt is from Flyertalk

“Be aware that Retention Specialists are compensated based on the number/percent of card holders they can retain and to some extent based on the offers they use. These are people with jobs who can be helpful but have little discretion in what is available although some discretion in which offers they tell you about. Unless the Retention Specialist is being a complete &#*@%, you should probably accept an offer and then close via SM so that you don’t ding the rep for something over which they have little control.”

SM is shorthand for secure messaging, which you can access through your online account.

After accepting the rep’s offer, I signed into my Citi account online and downgraded to the ThankYou Preferred through the chat function.  screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-7-59-52-pm

But Wait, What’s Going to Happen to My ThankYou Points??

One detail I didn’t mention is that I have about 40,000 unused ThankYou points. Some were earned with my Prestige, and some were earned with my ThankYou Premier card. Months ago, I pooled the ThankYou points in my Premier account with the ThankYou points in my Prestige account.

Doing nothing with those ThankYou points when downgrading to a ThankYou Preferred would result in their severe devaluation, since they would turn into the type of ThankYou points earned by the Preferred which can only at best be redeemed for 1 cent each (they cannot be transferred to any of ThankYou’s airline/hotel transfer partners). I knew I could always transfer my points out to an airline loyalty program I use frequently, but I wanted them to maintain their flexibility.

If you are downgrading to a ThankYou Preferred but still have a ThankYou Premier open (or vice versa), first move your points from your premium ThankYou account you’re downgrading to your premium ThankYou account you’re keeping open. This is the best way to preserve the value of those ThankYou points as you’ll still be able to transfer them airline and hotel loyalty programs. It’s what I wanted to do, but I fudged up by pooling my accounts.

Like I said, a while ago I pooled my ThankYou points into my Prestige account because I needed more points than I had in my Prestige account for an award, and I wanted to spend my older points first. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I could have easily just shared the specific amount of points I needed instead of pooling them together. Pooling your points has a big downside–you can’t undo it. So while I have a ThankYou Premier open currently, and plan on keeping it open for at least another month before the next annual fee hits, I didn’t have the ability to move my Prestige points back to to my Premier account. If I hadn’t pooled my points, I could have moved them over, extending their life as versatile transferrable points for another month. Not a huge deal as it’s just a month, but you should learn from my mistake.

I transferred all my remaining ThankYou points to Singapore Airlines before downgrading to the ThankYou Preferred.

If you don’t have another premium ThankYou account to move your points over to, then pick the transfer partner whose miles you value the most and move them there.

And what would I have done if I had decided to cancel my Prestige? The same thing, eventually.ThankYou points expire sixty days after cancellation if you don’t move them to a ThankYou Premier account. ThankYou points, Ultimate Rewards, and Membership Rewards are not like airline miles–they expire when you cancel the card you earned them with. However if you have another card that earns them, they won’t expire.

Bottom Line

After almost a year of holding the Citi Prestige card it was time to take a look at whether or not paying another $450 annual fee was worth it. I called Citi to extract a retention bonus that would add extra incentive along with the cards’ other benefits to keep it open, as I’d rather keep a card open then cancel or downgrade. The offers weren’t valuable enough to me so I downgraded to the ThankYou Preferred card. Before doing so though I transferred my ThankYou Points to the airline transfer partner I value the most–Singapore. If I hadn’t, my points would have turned into ThankYou Preferred points, which (at best) can only be redeemed for 1 cent each on airfare. As Singapore miles I expect to get about 1.75 cents of value for each of them.

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