Category Archives: Barclaycard

Keep or Cancel: Some Examples

Keep or cancel?  It’s the perennial question that comes up every time your credit card’s annual fee is due.  Should I pay the fee and keep the card?  Should I cancel it?  Or should I fish for a retention offer and base my decision on that offer?  All these questions can really be boiled down to one:  Will keeping this card another year be more valuable than the annual fee?

The answer to that question can be determined with some simple math, although assigning a dollar value to some card benefits gets a little subjective.  For example, the impact of cancelling a card on your credit score is hard to quantify.  Likewise, banks have different rules on how often you can get a sign-up bonus.  Keeping a card too long could hinder your future points-earning potential.  You need to consider these and many other factors when you calculate the value in each scenario.

Discussing all the different ways a card can provide value is beyond the scope of this post.  Instead, I will use a few recent examples of keep/cancel decisions that Nicoleen and I made to highlight some of the thought processes involved.

Credit cards on the chopping block.

All credit cards eventually end up on the chopping block.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard

Recent action: CANCEL

The annual fee for Nicoleen’s Citi AAdvantage Platinum was charged on the May statement.  She’s had this card for 3 years and has never paid the annual fee.  The previous two times the fee was due she called and fished for a retention offer.  Both times she was successful in getting the fee waived or reimbursed.  We even got a few bonus miles out of the deal.

chaos pool

Citi phone reps are pretty easy to deal with, in general.  But I would still recommend finding a quiet place to make these phone calls!  This was not ideal, but it all worked out in the end.

This time she wasn’t fishing for a retention offer.  She just needed to cancel.  One main factor dominated this decision.  Before I explain that factor, here are the basics of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard:

  • This card earns American Airline miles; 1 point per dollar on regular purchases and 2 points per dollar on American Airlines purchases.
  • The standard sign-up bonus is 30k miles with a $3k spend in the first 3 months.  The fairly frequent increased sign-up bonus is 50k miles (and rarely 60k).
  • Annual fee is $95 but is waived the first year.  Historically it’s been a very easy card to get the annual fee waived just by calling.
  • The most noteworthy fringe benefit is free checked baggage on American Airlines flights.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard

Long before my time, this card was one of the most churnable miles cards out there.  There were several card versions and each had their own sign-up bonus.  Some people would open multiple cards in a year and have several accounts of the same card at once.  Citi was very lax with the rules on opening accounts and getting sign-up bonuses.  It was the Wild West!

By the time I got in the game, a more typical strategy for these cards was thus:  String along annual fee waivers in order to keep the account open for free.  Doing so helps your credit score by adding to both your average account length and your credit-to-debt ratio.  Some time after 24 months (Citi’s old minimum time limit between sign-up bonuses for a given card), close the account and open a new one for another 50k American Airlines miles.

But recent changes have made that strategy invalid. . .

The main factor

Late last year Citi dropped a bomb on credit card churners.  It wasn’t quite the MOAB that Chase dropped with their 5/24 rule, but it was disruptive enough to change my strategy on Citi cards.

The minimum time between sign-up bonuses is still 24 months, but it no longer applies to each specific card.  The 24 month timer is now shared among all cards of a given point type.  For example getting any Hilton sign-up bonus with Citi precludes you from getting the bonus on any other Citi Hilton card.

What’s worse is that the 24 month timer isn’t only reset by earning a sign-up bonus as it previously was.  It now also resets any time a card is cancelled or downgraded.  This is nonsensical to me because it incentivizes people to cancel their cards right after getting the sign-up bonus instead of continuing to use it for the following year(s).

The fact that it will be at least 2 years before Nicoleen can get any American Airlines co-branded card from Citi dominates all the other factors.  Any value she would get from keeping the card, even if Citi waived the annual fee, would pale in comparison to getting that timer going ASAP.  With Citi’s new bonus policy, cancelling this card was an easy decision.

NOTE: One silver lining of cancelling the Citi AAdvantage Platinum was that Nicoleen was able to transfer the credit to one of her no-fee Citi cards.  Therefore there will be no impact on her credit to debt ratio, which helps maintain a good credit score.

Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator Red

Recent action: CANCEL

Another American Airlines card and another history of having annual fees waived.  Like Nicoleen’s Citi card, I have successfully had the annual fee waived twice on my Barclaycard Aviator Red.  Usually my retention offers also came with some nice bonus miles for easy spending requirements.  Last year they waived my fee, gave me 5k miles, and bonus miles on my upcoming spending.

Barclay’s generosity with this card seems to be coming to an end, however.  According to reports on Flyertalk, retention offers are gradually drying up.  Nicoleen found this out first hand when she was offered nothing late last year.

A little about the Barclaycard Aviator Red:

  • The Aviator was originally the result of the American Airlines / U.S. Airways merger.  Barclay had a U.S. Airways card which was converted to the Aviator after the merger.
  • Until recently, the only Aviator Reds that existed were grandfathered U.S. Airways cards.  Now Barclay is taking new applications for the Aviator line of American Airlines cards.
  • Current offer is for 50k miles with no minimum spend, but the $95 annual fee is not waived the first year.
  • Notable fringe benefits are free checked bags on American, and 10% of redeemed miles refunded back every year.

Barclaycard Aviator Red

Other than the usual benefits of keeping a card open (credit score maintenance) the most compelling reason I had to keep this card was the frequent and generous bonus mile offers that came around.  –Read about some of these in this post.–  But without the annual fee waiver, the possibility of bonus offers definitely wouldn’t be enough incentive to keep this account open.

As expected, when I called I got no retention offers and decided to cancel.  I moved my credit to my Arrival card to minimize the impact on my credit score.  Now that the Aviator Red is available for new accounts, I may end up getting the card again sometime soon.  After all, I technically never got the bonus on this card, since my bonus was on the U.S. Airways card before the conversion.

More examples

Stay tuned for Keep or Cancel: Part II where I’ll show examples of cards we recently decided to keep.  I will explain what went into the decision and I’ll show just how much value we reaped from these cards to make them worth the annual fee.

Semi-Monthly Update (November 7th, 2016)

In this update: a 60,000 point card bonus is expiring soon, Nicoleen’s failed retention effort for a usually generous credit card, a trip report preview, and our monthly points and miles activity for October.


Chase Ink Business ReserveThe Chase Ink Plus business credit card will be discontinued by the end of 2016.  Your last chance to get the card and it’s 60,000 Ultimate Reward bonus will end shortly.  A new card called the Chase Ink Business Reserve will be taking its place but since they are different products, you can get the bonus on both!  (The purported bonus on the new card is 80,000 UR points).  If you have been on the fence about this card, don’t delay any longer!
(News source and more details about the new card offer at Milevalue)

Click here to read my review of the Ink Plus, and to see how a year with the card could easily earn you over 75,000 UR points.  Or, if you’re ready to apply now, please click through my referral bonus link to help support the site.

Household October Points and Miles Activity

In addition to saving $5.27 in gas between two fill-ups, here’s Nicoleen’s and my activity for October:

  • earned 217 airline miles
  • earned 13,330 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 2,261 hotel points

Travel News

The new Park Hyatt on Mallorca, two nights free for our Derek and Danie.

The new Park Hyatt on Mallorca, two nights free for our Derek and Danie.

VT readers Derek and Danie have returned from their value-packed trip to Mallorca, Spain.  Their round trip flights and 6 nights of hotel stays were paid for with points and miles, making the airfare and lodging virtually free!  Stay tuned for a trip overview, along with details on how they got these luxury accommodations with a few credit card bonuses.

Personal Credit Card News

When U.S. Airways merged with American Airlines in 2014, the U.S. Airways credit card from Barclay was transmuted into the American Airlines Aviator card. Until now, this card had always been a pushover when it came to retention offers. When calling to cancel the card because of the annual fee, Nicoleen and I were routinely greeted by a cheerful rep who was willing to waive the $89 annual fee and usually throw in some additional points. Not so this time around. Nicoleen called three times to try for an annual fee waiver, but was thrice shot down. In the end she decided to cancel the card and have the AF refunded. To see a history of Barclay’s generous track record with retention offers for this card, and the recent drop-off of those offers, see the Flyertalk wiki here.

New ValueTactics Blog Posts

Small Business Saturday 2016 . . . Another Year, Another Disappointment is my report on the second year in a row without a good deal for Amex’s Small Business Saturday. There is some strategy in this post about how to capture value before it’s gone!
ValueTactics 100th Blog Post was our milestone hundredth post! It’s a big THANK YOU to my readers, and links to some highlights from the last two years.
Geographically Specific Deals and Offers talks about what you can do if certain value tactics are not available in your country, region or state.

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

Bi-Weekly Update (October 3, 2016)

analyticsFrom my site’s analytics I know that the Andaz review was a very popular post.  If some of you are wondering if free luxury travel is something you can attain too, take a look at Nicoleen’s and my monthly points totals.  I give the breakdown every month so you can see what an average household (I think our income and spending is close to average) can expect to earn as far as points and miles go.

Here are our totals for September:

  • earned 23,094 airline miles
  • earned 102 “other” points
  • earned 4,013 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 658 Citi Thank-You points
  • earned 3,164 hotel points (accidentally omitted from June update)
  • redeemed 5,937 “other” points for $59.37 cash

New ValueTactics Blog Posts

Hotel Review – BUILDING 7-73 is a bit of a joke, since the “hotel” is actually a lodging complex on an Army National Guard base.  Reading this review and the following one highlights the vast range of accommodations available on this planet.
Hotel Review – Andaz Maui at Wailea is the first of several posts reporting on our recent trip to Hawaii.  If you haven’t read this post, please check it out- the photos alone are worth a look!

Credit Card News

Nicoleen called for a retention offer on her AAdvantage Aviator Red from Barclaycard just before the annual fee posted.  The agent said he had no offers for her but she was “likely to have some available on the account after the annual fee hits.”  He told her to call back after the AF posts and try again.  Helpful agent!

I can’t get away from American Airlines AAdvantage miles bonus offers!  This offer came by mail and e-mail within the last few days:

I’ll definitely take them up on it, especially for the grocery store bonus.  I’ve been using my Chase IHG Platinum Rewards card for the 3x it earns on groceries.  But 3x AAdvantage miles are worth more in my book.

Website Update

I promise I’ll revamp and update the left column (for you desktop users) “results tracker” sidebar by the next bi-weekly update post. I should also probably change the name to the “Semi-Monthly Update” since it’s really been twice a month rather than once every two weeks. We do strive for accuracy here at ValueTactics 😉

As always, keep track of the VT FB page for updates! Expect to see some more trip reviews from the Hawaii trip online soon!

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

An AAvalanche of Bonus Miles Offers

American Airlines miles (AAdvantage miles) are some of my favorite points and miles. American typically has very good award seat availability, including premium cabins. AAdvantage miles are also easy to come by, partly because of some good credit card sign-up bonuses, and partly because of the frequent bonus offers promoted by American’s co-branded cards. I’m currently drowning in a flood of these bonus offers from the 4 AAdvantage earning cards that Nicoleen and I have open. (I know I just mixed metaphors – avalanches and floods – but I couldn’t resist the “AAvalanche” pun for this post’s title!)

Whenever I get e-mails or mailers for these bonus offers, I always weigh the benefits with the effort.  Not all bonus offers are worth pursuing.

Barclay Aviator’s 3×500/15k Bonus Offer

I’ve noticed that the Barclay Aviator card tends to have the best offers on a consistent basis.  The best type is their 3×500/10k, 3×750/15k, and 3×500/15k bonuses.  These are all variations of the same offer, whereby you spend at least $500 or $750 in three specific consecutive months and get either 10k or 15k American Airlines miles as the bonus.  The best is obviously the 3×500/15k bonus because for $1500 in spending you end up with 16,500 miles.  That’s close to the return you get on some sign-up bonuses!
Despite needing to spend $8,500 to meet the minimum spends on my current card sign-up bonuses, I’ve decided to fit this bonus offer in.  It’s that lucrative.

Barclay Aviator’s Category Bonus

The second Aviator deal I got a mailer for was a category bonus.  After activating the promotion, I will earn 3x miles on gas, restaurant, and home improvement store purchases.  This is pretty good, as far as category bonuses go; gas and restaurants are very common purchases.  Nicoleen got the same offer for her Aviator card.  And the best part is that purchases in these bonus categories also count toward the 3×500/15k offer I just mentioned.
3x AA
…but wait, there’s more!

Barclay Aviator’s 1k/5k [retention] Bonus Offer

Now, for the triple dip…
In late May, in the middle of my 3×500/15k spending, I realized it was time to either cancel my card or have the annual fee waived/reimbursed.  When I called Barclay to try for a retention offer I was pleasantly surprised to be offered not only an annual fee waiver, but also an additional miles bonus offer!  The rep said if I spend $1k in the next 90 days I will get an additional 5,000 miles.  This will be easy since I’ll be automatically meeting that spend by taking advantage of the other offer.  That makes 21.5k miles for $1500 in spending (PLUS whatever extra I get from the 3x categories)!

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Category Bonus

Nicoleen and I both have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, our other American Airlines miles earning cards.  We both got a mailer with a category bonus through June.  Any spending at home improvement stores, home furnishing stores, computer & electronics stores, and department stores, will earn us 3 miles per dollar spent.  With the spending requirement on the aforementioned Barclay offers, plus all the spending we have to do for my last round of card apps’ bonuses, we probably won’t be taking aadvantage of this offer.

One thing to note however, is that my last retention offer on this card last June is still in effect.  Any month I spend $1,000 or more on this card, I get a 1k mile bonus.  If I were in a different position and was going to actually put some spending on this card, the two offers would stack.  This means my month could look like this:

$400 normal spending = 400 miles
$600 spending in bonus categories = 1,800 miles
>$1000/month = 1,000 mile bonus
Total for month: 3,200 miles

When it rains, it pours.

It’s inconvenient to get bonus offers when you’re in the middle of making some sign-up bonus spending requirements.  But if the offer is good enough (the Barclay 3×500/15k deal) it might be worth the hassle to work it in to your strategy.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll be looking for ways in the near future to start burning my wellspring of American Airlines miles. 

Possibilities, possibilities! 🙂

Barclay Announces Website “Improvements”

Oh look, Barclay is “improving your online experience!”

Barclay's website improvement announcement
If it’s anything like the dozens of other website revamps I’ve seen in the past 2 years, here’s what “improvements” they’ll be making:

  • Lots of new empty spaces
  • Large, custom fonts
  • Loss of visual distinction between interactive and non-interactive elements
  • Much more scrolling required
  • Resource-heavy animations
  • Huge empty padding around important text

Sorry, this critique relates more to web design than credit cards, but I’ve seen a lot of good account management websites of various types (banking, credit cards, student loans, utility bills) go this route recently.  I just couldn’t help myself; I had to rant :p

When I use the internet on my desktop computer I want a website; not a smartphone app.  My computer’s web browser is not a cell phone.  Stop treating it like one.

Successfully Downgrading the Barclay Arrival+

I was recently successful at downgrading my Barclaycard Arrival+ World Mastercard to avoid paying the $89 annual fee.  There are varying reports as to how Barclaycard customer service responds to cancellation requests for this card, but the consensus seems to be that Barclay is fairly stingy on waiving fees or offering additional bonus points.  There are also many reports on Barclay customer service representatives being capricious and even downright punitive to cardholders they suspect of playing the credit card game.  I don’t know how much stock I put in these reports however; internet complaints tend to originate with the angry few rather than the representative majority.

Still, I didn’t want to take any risks, so I when I called I went straight for the downgrade, and skipped asking for the fee to be waived.  The customer service representative was happy to assist me and moved the process right along.  My current points balance (which can never be 0 with this card) was retained, but I had to forfeit any points accumulated in the current billing cycle (none in my case).  She also threw in a bonus 1000 points upon the first use of the new card.

barclay_downgradeDowngrading a card to the no fee version is a common tactic for avoiding annual fees on cards that waive the fee for the first year.  This has several advantages over cancelling the card outright:

  1. You retain the credit limit extended to you by that account, maintaining your debt to credit ratio.
  2. Your length-of-credit portion of your credit score steadily increases, instead of suddenly decreasing.
  3. You end up with the no fee card and its perks, without requiring a credit check.

One disadvantage of downgrading a card is that you are usually no longer eligible for the sign-up bonus for the no fee version of that card.  In the case of the Arrival, this means missing out on a 20,000 point sign-up bonus (the Arrival+ had a 40,000 point sign-up bonus).  However, this 20,000 point promotion is so far down on my wish list that it would probably have never ended up being worth the credit pull anyway.  Aside from the sign-up bonus, the points accumulation and redemption terms are the same for the Arrival and the Arrival+.  The only other major difference is that the Arrival charges a foreign transaction fee, whereas the Arrival+ does not.

All in all, my interaction with Barclaycard for this downgrade was a positive one, and I was happy to be able to make it work for the reasons listed above.  To find out more about the Arrival+ and Arrival, and their benefits, see my review of the card.