There are plenty of folks out there who are down on credit cards, and even more who are down on credit cards with annual fees, for obvious reasons.
But one perhaps lesser known fact about credit card annual fees is that they’re often refundable.
Like other fees you might pay in advance, such as insurance or a cable bill, you can get a prorated refund if you cancel or downgrade your credit card before the year is up.
So take the Citi Prestige card for example. It has a hefty $450 annual fee, which is a big turnoff for a lot of people. The good news is that you get a healthy sign-up bonus and $250 in airline credits each calendar year.
In practice, you can get a ton of value out of this card and more than offset the annual fee.
You Can Come Out Way Ahead
Say you open the card late in the year, maybe October. You spend the required amount to hit the sign-up bonus and buy $250 in airline gift cards, which is quickly refunded by way of statement credit.
The $450 annual fee is charged during your second statement and must be paid in full to avoid any finance charges.
Still, you’re only down $200 at that point because you took advantage of the $250 airline credit. Fast forward to January and you get another $250 airline credit. If you use it, you’re now $50 in the black.
But it can get even better if you cancel the card well before the year is up. If you cancel before your anniversary rolls around, you’re looking at some portion of that $450 back in the form of a check when you close your account.
Obviously, the faster you cancel, the larger the amount of the refund. However, Citi may also frown upon you canceling the card right away after grabbing statement credits for airfare and TSA Pre.
You’ll also want to make sure that you get your ThankYou Points out of there before canceling the card, and get the account balance down to zero to avoid any hiccups along the way.
The takeaway here is that the annual fee may not be as high as advertised if you don’t actually keep the credit card a full year.
Annual Fee Refunds Vary by Issuer (and Maybe Even by Card)
Just note that credit card annual fee refunds vary by card issuer, and they may in fact even vary from card to card.
Most credit card issuers will issue you a full refund if you cancel the credit card within 30 days (one statement period) from the date the annual fee posts.
So even if you goof and forget to cancel the card in time, you generally have some sort of grace period to cancel the card and get the annual fee reimbursed in full.
Some issuers, such as Barclaycard, may give you a full 60 days to get the annual fee reimbursed once it hits your account.
Meanwhile, Chase and Amex will only give you 30 days from the closing date of the billing statement in which the fee was charged.
Citi is more generous in that you can get a prorated annual fee refund, which could amount to big bucks if the annual fee is $450 and you cancel relatively quickly after the fee is charged.
Most other issuers tend to abide by the 30-day window to determine refunds.
Once you’ve gone beyond that time period, you might get an annual fee refund on a prorated basis, as I already addressed above. As noted, the quicker you close the higher the refund.
Or you might lose out on the annual fee entirely, so it’s best not to take chances.
Ways to Get the Credit Card Annual Fee Refunded (In Full or Partially)
- Cancel the card before the annual fee is due and you don’t need a refund
- Cancel the card during the grace period (30-60 days after annual fee fee posts to get reimbursed)
- Cancel the card before a second year passes and receive a prorated refund
- Downgrade the card to a no annual fee version before the AF hits
- Ask for the annual fee to be waived