Two Upgrades, A Downgrade & A Cancellation – My Month With Credit Cards


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Generally speaking, I don’t play around with my credit card portfolio very much. I don’t play the churning game and I’ve spent a good number of years getting my portfolio to a stage where I’m pretty happy with what it offers and how much it costs me to maintain…or at least that’s what I thought.

This month saw more activity in my credit card portfolio than any other month in the last 4 years and that’s entirely down to the fact that I realized I was missing out on good value benefits by sticking with two of my cards, the fact that I realized that I was paying an annual fee for a card that I could no longer justify and the fact that I finally got around to ditching a card I’ve been threatening to ditch for months.

I’m not going to go into great detail when it comes to the reasoning behind all of these changes as I’ve discussed some of these changes before (I’ll link to those posts where appropriate) but I will discuss a few things that I haven’t mentioned before.

Upgrade #1 – Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

I’ve been planning to upgrade my Marriott Bonvoy American Express card for a number of weeks so I was pleasantly surprised when, earlier this month, Amex offered me 50,000 Bonvoy points (after spending $2,500 in 3 months) to move up to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card.

Historically, I’ve shied away from this card because it didn’t offer me a better earning rate at Marriott properties than my existing cards already offered and I didn’t really want another $450/year card in my portfolio. The fact that I now know that I can easily use the free night certificate (to great effect) and the $300 Marriott credit that the Brilliant card offers have changed my thinking and I’m pleased to have added this card to my wallet.

Upgrade #2 – Marriott Bonvoy Premier Card

I’ve held a Chase Marriott credit card for years and years so the card that was in my portfolio until last week was the legacy card from the pre-merger days and the days of Marriott Rewards (the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Card).

If I’m being completely honest with myself I have to admit that I have no idea why I held on to this credit card for as long as I did as it wasn’t doing very much for me. My Amex Marriott card offered me more points/dollar for my Marriott spending and the free night certificate (up to 25,000 points/night) that the Chase card offers has been getting harder and harder to use effectively for a number of years.

I should have got rid of this card some time ago but I’m glad I didn’t as it was only recently that I discovered that it was possible to upgrade the Marriott Bonvoy Premier card to the Ritz-Carlton card that is no longer open to new applicants.

The decision to upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton card was an easy one (despite the fact that the card no longer offers the great airfare benefit that once came with it) and, even though this is another card that will now cost me $450/year, the free night certificate (up to 50,000 points), the $300 in airline fee credits and the $100 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott credit, should see me claw back all of that fee…and a little more too 🙂

Downgrade – Citi Prestige Card

It was late last year when I finally lost patience with the seemingly endless benefit devaluations that the Citi Prestige Card has seen but I only canceled the card this month to ensure that I rolled into a new cardholder year and could make one last use of the $250 travel credit that the Prestige Card offers.

Originally I was planning to cancel the Prestige card and cut most of my links to the ThankYou program, but the Citi Premier Card tempted me with its low annual fee ($95), its 3 points/dollar earnings at Gas Stations and its 2 points/dollar earnings on entertainment.

On top of that, I realized that I shouldn’t let my annoyance with Citi and its devaluations cloud my judgment and that cutting ThankYou points out of my earnings strategy entirely probably wasn’t a smart move…so that also played a significant role in my decision to downgrade to the Premier card rather than canceling the Prestige card outright.

Cancelation – AAdvantage Aviator Red

Barclays announced some significant changes to its Aviator cards exactly one year ago today and then played around with the protection benefits that the cards offer in October and both of those things came into my mind when I saw the card’s $99 annual fee hit my account recently.

The fact is that I don’t really actively collect AAdvantage miles any more, I try not to fly with American Airlines any more than I have to, I rarely fly domestically and I have top-tier oneworld status so when you take a look at the list of the benefits that come with the Aviator card…

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage Miles for every dollar spent with American Airlines
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage Mile for every dollar spent elsewhere
  • Preferred boarding
  • The first checked bag is free for the cardholder and up to 4 companions on the same reservation.
  • Cardholders get a 25% discount on in-flight food and drink purchases
  • Cardholders get an annual credit of up to $25/year towards in-flight Wi-Fi costs.
  • Cardholders spending $20,000 in a year are given a certificate offering a companion fare for $99 + taxes and fees.

…it’s hard to see what this card offers me for the $99 annual fee.

I pay for my flights using the far superior Platinum Card from American Express, my oneworld status ensures that I don’t pay checked bag fees and that I get good priority boarding, I’m never going to put $20,000 of spending on this card and I don’t remember the last time I needed to buy any food or drink on board an American Airlines flight.

I have no idea what this card was doing in my portfolio and why I haven’t culled it before but, as of 48 hours ago, it has gone.

Interestingly, when I called up Barclays to see if they would offer me a retention bonus that would make it worthwhile to keep the card for another year, I was told by the customer services representative that she couldn’t put me through to the retentions team.

When I asked if this was a technical issue or if it was something to do with my account I was told that it was the latter – clearly Barclays has a way of making sure that cardholders who rarely use their cards don’t get offered a retention bonus (I’d probably do the same!)

Bottom Line

Overall I’ve actually increased the gross annual fees that I will be paying for my credit cards going forward but once I factor in the rebates and additional benefits that I’ll be getting from my new cards (free night certificates + statement credits), I’m almost certain that I’ll be ahead of the game.

The Bonvoy Brilliant card from Amex and the Ritz-Carlton credit card will almost certainly pay for themselves with ease and the fact that I’m no longer paying for the rather pointless (for me) Aviator Red card is a big positive too.

The only card that I’ll have to keep an eye on is the Citi Premier card as I’m not entirely convinced that I’ll get $95 of value out of it with my current spending patterns…but for $95 I’m willing to give the card a try before I reassess its value in a year’s time when the next annual fee will be due.

That should be all the upgrades, downgrades and cancellations that I have to deal with for the foreseeable future but it’s not the end of my tinkering with my credit card portfolio – there are a number of cards that I’m considering applying for so it’s highly likely my portfolio will be changing again quite soon.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I canceled my AA Red card not long ago. The past 2 years they’ve credited back the AF but this year was a hard No. There was no attempt at retention either.

  2. I also dropped my AA Aviator Red card right before the first anniversary. I’m lifetime Platinum on AA (and lifetime Gold on DL) so bags, preboarding, etc are covered and I have a number for f cards that get better points value for spend. Still have over a million AA miles I have to burn so definitely don’t need any more. BTW I added 4 cards in the past year and am happy w each of them (including the DL Platinum Amex that had a nice bonus, provides decent value w the recent bonus point change and includes a companion ticket that should cover the annual fee). I’m sure we aren’t the only ones that don’t see much value w the AA Barclays cards. I’m did have the Citibank Executive card so I could use the Admirals Clubs when I traveled but have since retired and couldn’t continue to justify the annual fee but at least that one gave you something of clear value!

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