The American Express Rewards Abuse Team (RAT) seems to be cracking down on people who have closed credit or charge cards within 12 months of them being opened. The terms on American Express cards state (emphasis ours):
If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome offer(s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit <the bonus> to your account.
Previously American Express has really only clawed back the bonus if people cancelled within the first few months, usually people that do that are doing so to get the annual fee refunded as well. But we received a report from a reader who had the bonus clawed back because they closed the account after holding it for 11 months, before the second annual fee post.
- Sign up bonus of 25,000 membership rewards points (sign up bonus from the American Express green card) was clawed back after the account was closed after being opened for approximately 11 months. This was sent in via e-mail
- Closed account after the annual fee posted to the account, but it was within 12 months of an upgrade being completed (and bonus received). 25,000 points were clawed back, they were eventually able to get a $150 credit after complaining to a supervisor.
What This Means
Keep in mind American Express will refund the annual fee completely if you cancel the card within 30 days after the statement in which the annual fee hits. So your best bet would be to cancel within this period, after your one year anniversary is up.
I think what some time happens with American Express is that if you do something they don’t like, they will go through all of your accounts and bonuses to try and find a reason to deny you the sign up bonus, or claw back a bonus that has already posted. It’s not clear if this type of claw back will automatically occur if you close within 12 months, or if this is more of a targeted clawback due to other issues. This isn’t necessarily new, but it seems they are being more strict on the shut downs. We’ve posted about this issue previously here. Please share any recent data points you have in the comments below.