Posted by Chuck on October 22, 2019
Credit Cards

Published on October 22nd, 2019 | by Chuck

250

American Express Claws Back Referral Bonuses For ‘Self-Refer’ Usage (More Claw Backs & Referral Restriction)

Update 10/22/19: In addition to the latest round of claw backs, it seems like people who did self refer are now banned from referring at all, seeing the following message:

Your Card account’s eligibility to participate in the Refer a Friend program is based on your creditworthiness and other factors including your account history with American Express.

Hat tip to reader Brendan L

[Update 10/21/19: People on reddit are sharing that they have been hit by another round of claw backs]

[Update 7/12/19: Another round of claw backs. As little as 10,000 points (one referral) is being clawed back.]

American Express is clawing back the referral bonus Membership Rewards points for someone who referred themselves to signup for an Amex card. A few important notes about the claw back:

  • Affecting both personal and business cards. (This includes business > personal or personal > business referrals.)
  • It appears NOT to be affecting people who refer a spouse. (This makes sense, hard to see how they could claw back such a thing.)
  • The lowest report we’ve seen so far is a 60,000 points claw back. Reports are that ANY amount can be clawed back, even as little as 10,000 points (one referral). I’d guess it’s only a matter of time until everyone gets clawed back.
  • Thus far we haven’t heard of cash or any other rewards currencies being clawed back since the rewards earned are not Membership Rewards points. Only MR points get clawed back.
  • Referrals from an MR card to a partner card (Hilton, Marriott, etc.) has been clawed back as well since the rewards earned are Membership Rewards points.

The biggest craziness here is that Amex has already sent out 1099s on referral earnings during 2018. So we paid taxes on them, but don’t end up with the money. Here’s a nice breakdown of what to do for those in this situation.

Additionally, there are sporadic reports of affected Amex members seeing their Membership Rewards accounts locked, making them unable to transfer out points. Schwab transfers are still working, though, for some reason.

Amex is sending out an email with information on the claw back:

We are writing to let you know that, after careful review of your Membership Rewards® account activity, we have removed points in your Membership Rewards® program account. Please ensure that any Additional Card Members who are authorized to redeem points from your account are notified of this change in your Membership Rewards balance.

Why we are removing these points

We recently noticed point accrual or redemption activity on your Membership Rewards program account that indicates an effort to obtain or use points in a manner that is not appropriate. It’s important for you to know that the Membership Rewards program terms and conditions state that “If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse or gaming in connection with earning or using points or that you may attempt to do so, we may:

Take away any points in your program account,

Temporarily suspend your ability to redeem points,

Temporarily suspend your ability to earn points,

Cancel your program account, or

Cancel any of your American Express Cards”

Your options

If you have any questions about this email, or if you believe that the points have been removed in error, please call us at 1-800-AXP-EARN (1-800-297-3276).

Thank you for your Card Membership.

American Express Customer Care

Hat tip to r/churning



250
Leave a Reply

avatar
 

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
John Frey
John Frey

Uh oh…

Kevin
Kevin

holy s***!

MSer
MSer

How does self-referring count as abuse? Where does their T&Cs prohibit this? Seems ripe for a class action.

guy bucktastik
guy bucktastik

you’re kidding, right?

JP
JP

What is the definition of referral?? You refer someone other than yourself.

Lc
Lc

Maybe they shouldn’t have allowed the app to even be approved for self referral.. like come on!

tennismenace3
tennismenace3

Did you read the post?

“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse or gaming in connection with earning or using points or that you may attempt to do so, we may:

Take away any points in your program account,

Temporarily suspend your ability to redeem points,

Temporarily suspend your ability to earn points,

Cancel your program account, or

Cancel any of your American Express Cards”

Pahanin
Pahanin

The t&c is silent in regards to defining clearly that the person sending the referral must not be the same person receiving the referral. Otherwise, the transaction is indistinguishable from any other referral and is within the rules and should be honored.

frogger
frogger

Yeah I don’t think any judge is going to side with you on that one.

USam
USam

If they get away with these clawbacks, what’s to stop them from “determining” in their “sole discretion” that if you only use certain cards on the bonus categories but not on everyday/other category spending, then it’s considered “engaging in abuse, misuse or gaming” to earn points?

JL
JL

I’m assuming your American Express card has an arbitration clause. So arbitration would be the remedy for your scenario.

Jags
Jags

Nothing but they probably don’t really care about that because their system encourages you to have multiple cards paying multiple annual fees. Rewards cost them nothing until they’re redeemed. And I would guess MR points are redeemed at a sub $0.01/pt ratio on average.

DP
DP

USam, I can totally relate to your concerns. In the end, I think Amex is going to regret operating in this manner. There is no limit to what they can do retroactively going back many months. That makes it impossible to use their cards and trust they will honor the rewards you earn. To this date, the marketing emails they send for referrals do not state anywhere that self referrals are not allowed.

1120
1120

There’s a lot of crying on Reddit about this situation. Zero sympathy from me – they tried to scam Amex and they got caught.

Richard
Richard

Agreed! Someone had the guts to call in and ask why they didn’t get referral bonus and tell the stunned CSR I use my own referral link. What was the CSR suppose to do? Thank the person for signing up himself! Bonvoy!

FullChurn

the one thing I was good at.

Lantean
Lantean

Amex is really getting absurd…
Is this against the actual T&C of the referral? If not one may have a case.

I am guessing opening AU cards without SSN and closing them after min spend is next on the chopping block.

JP
JP

You know this is cheating??

tennismenace3
tennismenace3

Um, yes. In addition to the definition of “referral,” it says:

“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse or gaming in connection with earning or using points or that you may attempt to do so, we may:

Take away any points in your program account,

Temporarily suspend your ability to redeem points,

Temporarily suspend your ability to earn points,

Cancel your program account, or

Cancel any of your American Express Cards”

Matthew
Matthew

Have a case against what? The bank’s T&Cs say they can do whatever they want.

pedro stee
pedro stee

they can state whatever they want, doesn’t mean it’s ok, legal, justifiable or will stand up in court under inspection

Avi
Avi

Well F* you Amex!

Jeremiah
Jeremiah

“Yeah, I’ll just take my unprofitable business elsewhere. That will teach them to catch me trying to circumvent their dumb little rules.

Anytime you push the envelope in this thing you can’t be sore when the envelope pushes back.

mary w
mary w

Yep. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.

alex
alex

Amex,we trust!

JP
JP

Glad that they catching cheaters. LOL.

Matt
Matt

What if you’ve cashed everything out already and the. they clawback more than you have? Does your balance just go negative? Do I have any obligation to make up this deficit (e.g paying Amex back) or can I just effectively stop leveraging Amex cards completely….

frogger
frogger

It will go negative. Just cancel all your MR cards. Then open a new MR card and your balance will be zero.

Roronoa
Roronoa

Your MR balance will go into the negative and every MR points you earn from then will be working to get that balance back to zero, like paying back a loan, lol.

captainsave
captainsave

Yep, im at -35k right now lol

Sevillada
Sevillada

See the advice from frogger

JJ
JJ

The problem with Frogger’s idea is opening another card with them without getting a pop up.

Sa
Sa

just self refer.

Vic
Vic

lol, classic reddit style response

JP
JP

Like AmEx to catch more of those people. So we can get better rewards with the good ways….

YoniPDX
YoniPDX

I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out the math and the Time table (10 or so months since the SR IIRC ) on how someone could SR that many MR pts in the first place and so quickly and get MSR bonus as well as SR bonus, I guess that there are enough charge cards.

They had to be either new (or been around for more than 7 years lifetime bonus years) to Amex – who hasn’t picked up bonuses on more than a few different cards if your in this game.

Man in addition to all the AF they may have to eat and loose the bonuses and any MR that they were sitting on

Giuseppe
Giuseppe

Math isn’t tough even for someone who has already hit every Amex card. 10x self-refers to Amex Green (1st yr annual fee waived and you can hold more than one) from multiple BGRs and there you go.

YoniPDX
YoniPDX

That is what I missing, I was think thinking the 5 day 2/90 on and 4-5 credit cards not on the charge cards.

That said I at this point I value the MR and points that I have banked already, as well as I still have cards I want from Chase (hit 4/24 last month and will be 2/24 next month.) I’m working a few more big trips on my bucket list (long flights so I want lay flat seats RT for me and DW). After that I may go a bit lol/24 and then move to Schawb or to FF accounts, I guess we will see.

Thanks for the clarification

The Man
The Man

I rather stay on Amex’s good side. Would hate to get blacklisted. Some people just don’t learn over a few silly points.

Sevillada
Sevillada

A few? 100k-200k isn’t a few silly points

The Man
The Man

So you would take 200k and risk getting blacklisted? No thank you.

Francisco
Francisco

Agreed. 200,000 silly points aren’t better than a lifetime earning of points.

Sallu25
Sallu25

Folks palying the self referral game most likely knew to some extent that what they are doing is in a gray area. What we are seeing now should have been expected given AE’s history with clawbacks and generic language they introduced pertaining to gaming. I think irrespective of the points that have been clawed back, they are worth less than getting blacklisted by AE.

MSer
MSer

Amex rarely blacklists – might take back a few points (and 200K is a few for some of us) – so it’s always push it hard. Worst they do is pull back the points/cashback. Only clueless rubes worry about an Amex blacklist

g
g

saw a DP of 30k on reddit

captainsave
captainsave

RAT team back at it again

Back to Top ↑