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Oh, The Irony: A Not-So-Obvious Strategy for Amex Maximizers

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All information about the Platinum, Gold, Hilton Honors, Delta SkyMiles, and Marriott Bonvoy American Express cards has been collected independently by Miles to Memories.

Amex Retention Offers

American Express gives points and travel hobbyists many reasons to pay attention.  I described them as the most entertaining card issuer years ago, and there’s no signs of that changing.  While Amex has evolved benefits across their card portfolio in recent years and also innovated elsewhere, they’ve shrewdly raised annual fees, too.  Some bemoan that third matter, but I can easily get past that in return for the first two.  That said, too much of a good thing can limit us in other ways.  And that’s where I’m at with Amex retention offers, and I expect I’m not alone.  It’s an Amex perspective I’ve held for years, maybe with an exception here and there.  But now, I’m at the extreme end.

The Only Amex Retention Offers I Accept

American Express incentivizes individuals to keep their cards open (and pay another annual fee) by providing card retention offers.  These primarily involve spending a certain amount on the card, usually within a three month period, in return for a certain number of Membership Rewards points or cobranded card currency.  Less frequently, Amex offers a waived annual fee without a spend requirement.

We recently turned down a best-ever retention offer on an Amex Gold card.  And we received the same offer again on another Gold card weeks later.  We declined it again.  We held true to a simple principle – we only accept Amex retention offers on cards we plan to keep, anyway.  

No More Exceptions

We’ve essentially followed this principle for years, though.  What’s changed?  We’ll no longer accept a retention offer on a card that provides solid, if not absolutely necessary, benefits.  For instance, in the past, if a good enough Gold or Platinum retention offer came along, we may have accepted it.  The additional benefits from those cards, and maybe others, were enough for us to fork over the annual fee, subsidized by the retention offer.  No more.

Amex Retention Offers
The only card where we’ll accept Amex retention offers.

Where We’re At

So what retention-offer-eligible cards do we keep?  For my wife and I, there’s only one product, and we each hold it – the officially-titled American Express Platinum Card for Schwab.  We each continually carry the Amex Schwab Platinum to redeem for our favorite rewards currency – cash.  If we receive a retention offer on the card, great!  But if not, we pay the unsubsidized annual fee without hesitation.  As I recall, my wife received a retention offer on the Schwab Platinum last year, but I did not.  No biggie.

I know some who prefer to rent the Schwab Platinum or alternate holding one with their player two.  Indeed, that can provide cost savings over the long haul; I’m paying more in Schwab Platinum annual fees than those individuals.  But I have no problem paying that perceived extra for knowing I can always cash out at the most superior level with Amex.

But Why?

So why am I pontificating on such persnicketiness?  Because Amex offers individuals so many opportunities to earn points, miles, and cash back in innovative ways.  That includes methods I don’t even know about yet, maybe even ways Amex hasn’t invented yet.  I find this all quite fascinating.

Alas, none of this would matter if Amex didn’t have rules.  But, of course, they have some:  card application rules, limits, and only one I find overly burdensome.  Amex generally holds individals to ten Pay Over Time cards (Platinum, Gold, Green, and Plum products) and five credit cards (most everything else).  But I’m able to manage these numbers while staying agile.

That’s because I’m better-avoiding Amex’s most burdensome rule.  As I previously reviewed, if an Amex cardholder accepts a retention offer and closes or downgrades the card within the following 12 months, that individual’s Amex accounts are subject to closure and other unpleasant outcomes like point revocation.  This also applies to new cards where individuals receive a signup bonus.

Amex Retention Offers
Holding lots of Amex cards can come with limitations.


Of course, if I’m eligible for what I consider an outstanding Amex no lifetime language offer, I’ll happily sign on to holding a card for 12 months.  Those and our Schwab Platinums are now the only cards where we’ll accept that stringent rule – not a random Gold, Platinum, Hilton, Marriott, Delta, or Whatever Else card.  That means ignoring Amex retention offers that may look good on paper.  Based on how so many other Amex opportunities are positively trending, I don’t see that changing.

How are you feeling about Amex retention offers these days?

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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  1. Benjy, I’m not totally sure I follow your logic. Is the issue that cards are taking up Amex slots you might need so retention offers are no longer worth it? I am planning on closing my gold card because there are enough other options for bonus spend in those categories with other cards that are cheaper, but of course if I am offered a tempting retention offer that would be a different issue. But I don’t have nearly as many cards as a lot of people.

  2. I have 5 Amex cards and would never ask for a retention offer. I get value from my Amex Platinum, Gold, Delta Gold and Hilton cards (2). No problem getting value and I use the points wisely (like Membership Rewards for Emirates business class at 7-8 cent a point value). If I don’t get value I cancel but don’t play games w card issuers. I run $175,000-$200,000 a year through my cards on organic spend (and retired and pay all off monthly) so have no use for shyster gimmicks like retention offers, max spend, gift cards etc. only losers use those techniques.


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