Why I Cancelled My MBNA Smart Cash Card (And How They Tried To Keep Me)

When TD bought MBNA’s credit card portfolio I knew it spelled trouble for my favourite cash back credit card, the Smart Cash card.  Sure enough, about a year later, MBNA announced some pretty drastic changes to limit the amount of cash back you could earn with Smart Cash.

Related: MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard Review

So I’ve spent some time the past few months figuring out which rewards credit cards will give me the best bang for my buck.  I’ve compared all the different cards and decided to use the following combination:

Had I kept using the Smart Cash card I would have earned $350 cash back this year.  With my new rewards credit card approach, I should earn more than $800 in cash back this year.

I called up MBNA to let them know I wanted to close my account.  Despite the extraordinary lengths the agent took to try and convince me to stay, I cancelled my MBNA Smart Cash card.

Here’s how the call went down:

Call To Cancel My MBNA Smart Cash Card

MBNA: Hi, this is Jason. How may I help you?

Me: Hi Jason, I’d like to close my account please.

Jason: I’m sorry to hear that. May I ask why?

Me: Well, after the changes you’ve made to the Smart Cash card I’m no longer getting the most cash back with this card.

Jason: I understand.  Okay, I’ll have to transfer you to another agent to close your account.

Me: (waits five minutes on hold)

Related: Top Cash Back Credit Cards In Canada

MBNA: Hi, this is Jeff.  I understand you want to close your account because you’re no longer getting the most cash back.  You realize that you have the Smart Cash World card and so there’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn, right?

Me: Hi Jeff, yes I do realize this but with my spending habits I can get more cash back using the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card for groceries, gas and drug store purchases along with recurring bill payments.

Jeff: True, but the Scotia card is only for really high income earners.

Me: Well, you’ll need $60,000 income to qualify for the Visa Infinite card but that’s not an issue for me.

Jeff: But you’ll only get 1% cash back on the other spending categories.  Why don’t you keep the Smart Cash card as your secondary card and use it for other purchases?

Me: Because I can get 1.5% cash back using the Capital One Aspire Cash World MasterCard on any spending category.

Jeff: You’ll only get 1% cash back with Cap One Aspire Cash.

Me: No, you get 1% cash back on your purchases, PLUS a 50% cash back bonus at the end of the year.  So effectively you’re earning 1.5%, which beats the 1% that Smart Cash pays.  I also get a $100 bonus for my first purchase.

Jeff: With the introduction of our new e-mall you’ll get more cash back when you shop online with our preferred partners.  That’ll beat what you get back with Cap One Aspire Cash.

Me: I’m aware of the e-mall but I prefer to focus on my core spending.  I don’t shop with a lot of your e-mall partners so the cash back you offer there doesn’t really matter.  Besides, I’m using the ChoicePlus card from American Express where I earn double points at five retailers of my choice.

Related: Save Money Shopping Online With Great Canadian Rebates

Jeff: But with the e-mall you can earn 6-10% cash back on hotels and rental cars.  That’s a lot more than you’ll get back with the other cards.

Me: We have two kids under the age of four.  We don’t travel.

Jeff: So why not just keep your account open and then use the Smart Cash card on the odd occasion when you do travel?

Me: I think I’ll manage to find a good deal when the time comes.  I’d just like to close my account please.

Jeff: MBNA has some of the lowest interest rates of all the rewards credit cards on the market.

Me: I don’t care about interest rates because I always pay off my credit card balance in full each month.

Jeff: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but we have a promotion where you can get 0% interest for up to 20 months.  If you leave your account open I can convert your card to our MBNA Platinum Plus card so you can take advantage of this promotional rate.

Me: I don’t need a balance transfer credit card.  I’m not interested in credit card arbitrage.

Related: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards In Canada

Jeff: Okay, but have you considered using it to take out an interest free loan to make an RRSP contribution?  You won’t get a 20-month interest free RRSP loan from your bank for up to $20,000.

Me: (Pauses: that’s actually not a bad idea).  No, no.  I’m not interested.

Jeff: Why?  Is your RRSP maxed out or something?

Me: (Damn, this guy is persistent).  I’m not interested.

Jeff: If you leave your account open you’ll avoid a hit on your credit report.  This could impact future credit applications.

Me: I’ve already been approved for the other credit cards so I won’t be opening any new accounts for a while.  I just want to close my account please.

Related: What Does Your Credit Score Really Mean?

Jeff: (Defeated).  Is there anything else we can do to convince you to stay?

Me: You could re-instate your previous cash back rewards system.

Jeff: Unfortunately the old 5%/3%/1% cash back model was not sustainable so we had to make the changes.

Me: Well, I guess that means I’ll have to make changes too.

Final thoughts

I didn’t expect MBNA to let me walk away without a fight.  As soon as Jason said he was going to transfer me I knew I’d be speaking with a loyalty and retention agent who would do his best to keep my business.

Unfortunately for MBNA, I had done my homework and so I had an answer for all of Jeff’s rebuttals.

I’ve learned that, as customers, we can get what we want if we’re willing to do the research to compare what other companies are offering and then be willing to walk away if we’re not satisfied.

Related: 10 Fees You Can Avoid Paying

I’ll take what I’ve learned from this experience and apply it when I want to negotiate my cable or internet bill, or when the time comes to renew my car and house insurance.

What’s your experience been like when cancelling a product or a service?  Did the company try and convince you to stay?


33 Responses to Why I Cancelled My MBNA Smart Cash Card (And How They Tried To Keep Me)

  1. Joe says:

    Good for you. I’ve got the SmartCash World for another few months but then I am bailing. Although I would have taken the free $20k IF it was free and put it in a savings account lol. MBNA, to my knowledge, will say it’s free but then charge a transfer fee.

  2. Today’s post was a little disappointing. I would love these cards but I make less than 50k per year so they are not all available to me even though I do not carry a credit card balance and have and excellent credit score.

    I am charging everything this year to maximize rewards. Costco Amex for gas and Costco purchases, President’s Choice grocery points Mastercard for Loblaws and No Frills and TD 1% cash back Visa for everything else.
    I will shop for a new MC today. There must be something better than grocery points out there.

    • Echo says:

      @Jane – There are other rewards cards that you can use that will still beat the PC MasterCard and they don’t have the strict income requirements of the World or Infinite cards.

      For example, the Capital One Aspire Cash Platinum card pays 1% back on everything, plus a 25% bonus on your card anniversary. So you’ll earn 1.25% instead of 1%, and it’s a no-fee card.

      Scotia also has a Momentum Visa that pays 2% back on groceries, gas and drug store purchases as well as for recurring bill payments.

      It comes with a $39 annual fee, but that’s offset by the higher rewards you’ll earn.

      On $1,000 a month in spending you’ll get about $216 back per year, and once you subtract the fee you’ll still net $177. That’s like getting 1.77% cash back, which is pretty solid.

      Best of all, they only require gross income of $1,000 per month.

      Here’s the link for more info – http://www.boomerandecho.com/MomentumVisa39

  3. schultzter says:

    I think the most important and troublesome point is that as consumers we have to do our research, a lot of research, before confronting the companies. They have departments full of people doing research and feeding their retention agents; but as individual consumers we’re on our own (except those of us who follow blogs like this one :)

    I’ve actually told a retention agent that I was going to double-check what they were saying, they gave me a direct contact number, and in this case they were right.

    • Echo says:

      @schultzter – I believe that in economics they call this information asymmetry, where one party has more (or better) information than the other.

      We see this all the time when it comes to negotiating professional fees with an accountant, lawyer or real estate agent.

      The same can apply when negotiating with your credit card issuer, bank or cable/internet provider. The nice thing with those contracts is that consumers have better access to what competitors are charging and so we can even out the information balance.

  4. Uhoh – you’ve got me scared! I plan to cancel mine after next month, as I’m really close to a payout. I was livid to see the adjustment DOWN on the cash back for my previous month… especially considering we only spent $418 in groceries and gas on it, which is a lot less than normal.

    • Echo says:

      @Anne – it was really disappointing to see the rewards drop so drastically. I had just received a $50 cheque in the mail and so I only forfeited about $5 in cash back rewards.

  5. Excellent article. Research on top rewards is an ongoing challenge; you can’t assume that yesterday’s winner is still the best deal. I’m seriously considering the RBC Shoppers Optimum Visa card, where I can leverage existing loyalty points and discount prices.

    • Echo says:

      @Daniel – the RBC Shoppers Optimum Visa card is a great addition to an already generous rewards program from Shoppers.

      I suspect most Canadian retailers will be enhancing their rewards programs in anticipation of Target stores opening up in Canada next month.

  6. Lynne says:

    Nice work with the card cancellation!! At least the guy knew his stuff.

    I called Bell to tell them I was changing to Shaw satellite and they dropped my bill about $50 a month; I was floored.

    The problem is that MOST people won’t haggle, and then there are the people who can’t be bothered.

    I guess what burns my butt the most, is that it is the elderly who get ripped off. I have had Bell my entire life, first house phone, 1967, but what about the people who are 76, rather than 66? 86, 96?

    ING is going the same route with Scotiabank, and now Ally has been gobbled by Royal Bank.

    Shit.

    Love your blog and will keep voting for you!

    Lynne

    • Echo says:

      @Lynne – Nice work with Bell!

      I guess you just need to call with conviction and they’ll give you a deal.

      Most people don’t bother calling, or else they’ll call without having an end goal in mind and so the agent can appease them with a free month of movies or something small like that.

      Too bad about ING and Ally; I guess we’ll wait and see what Scotia and RBC have in store for their customers.

      Our saving grace on the banking side might be the new Credit Union regulations which will allow them to operate Federally under the Bank Act.

  7. Bet Crooks says:

    Just out of curiousity, why did you phone to cancel? Did you suspect they might have some special offer available to retain your business?

    I hate wasting time on the phone, so I would have just sent a letter in writing cancelling my card (That’s assuming that there would be no fee/problem if it took them a couple of months to actually cancel it. I would phone if it was urgent.)

    • Echo says:

      @Bet – Good question. I didn’t expect them to offer me a deal but I wanted to let them know the reason I was cancelling was because of the changes they’ve made.

      The call took about ten minutes and at the end I knew the account was closed. I guess I thought that would be quicker than writing a letter, finding the right address and department to mail it to, and then calling to follow up on the status.

  8. Echo says:

    @jeffrey – You could always ask, but I doubt it. I got it waived for the first year because they asked me to write about using it.

    You might be better off with the no-fee Costco Amex card as your third card – http://www.boomerandecho.com/TrueEarnings

  9. Jeffery says:

    I don’t shop at Costco, is there any others you would recommend?

  10. Money Beagle says:

    This is fantastic. All too often companies make these decisions with no emotional connection to the customer, but then they have their reps play the emotional card when trying to keep you. I loved your response, basically stating that if their model was not sustainable, neither was your interest in staying a customer. Kudos!

    • Echo says:

      @Money Beagle – Thanks! That’s why I wanted to cancel the card rather than just keeping it open and dormant. They needed to know that Smart Cash had a lot of fans and this change wasn’t acceptable.

  11. Janine says:

    Wow, what a hassle! Good for you for closing it though, maybe if enough people close their accounts then they will rethink changing the policy.

  12. Good for you for doing your homework, knowing your numbers, and not being bullied into staying with something just because the company wanted you to. I always find credit card companies are the worst, when their persistence becomes just downright irritating.

  13. PeaceMaker says:

    It is not a good idea to cancel the card even if you are not using it. I am presuming there are no annual charges for carrying the card. It will generally impact your credit ratings for the following reason. e.g if you have 3 cards with total limit of $10,000 and you spend on average $5000 per month. You are using just 50% of your available credit Now when you can cancel a card, you are reducing your total limit which automatically increases your spending ratio. Also you lose your payment history with that card issuer.

    • Echo says:

      @PeaceMaker – You’re right about the impact to my credit rating but I’m not really concerned. Your credit score only matters when you’re applying for credit – something I won’t be doing anytime soon.

    • itguy says:

      The card issuer might lose payment history, but it remains at the credit bureau for all to see. I recently requested a free credit report and can see all my old card history there with a note ‘cancelled at customers request’.

  14. DanL says:

    Remember you do not owe them an explanation. A courteous no thank you will do.

  15. Henry says:

    Thanks for the article! One question, if you have a remaining balance of reward points on your MBNA smart cash master card when canceling your card, will they redeem them to cash the mail the cheque to you? Or you jut lost them? Thanks!

Leave a reply