Posted by Chuck on October 4, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on October 4th, 2017 | by Chuck


Amex Adds Terms Allowing them to Temporarily Suspend Earning and Redeeming Membership Rewards

The Amex RAT team has been on an absolute rampage this year.


Now they’ve added terms to Membership Rewards-earning cards (thanks to Travelwithgrant):

  • Beginning November 1, 2017,  if American Express believes you are engaging in abuse, misuse or gaming in connection to earning or redeeming Membership Rewards points, they can temporarily suspend your ability to earn or redeem Membership Rewards points

They can now:

  • 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
  • Cancel any of your American Express Cards

As Grant notes, they’ve already been freezing people’s accounts. They have their Financial Review process which freezes everything during the review, we’ve also seen other freezes without Financial Review as well. It’s fair to say that once it’s in the terms they’ll be quicker to apply such a freeze.

It’s interesting that on co-branded cards (SPG, Hilton) they added the 12-week clause and on MR cards they’re adding stronger terms. On their own cards they can write what they want. It’ll also be interesting to see if these terms get added to Blue Cash cards as well.

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I would think so long as you aren’t MS’ing then you should be fine. If you’re just signing up for cards and getting approved – that’s on them. Not my fault you approved me for 12 charge + credit cards in 6 months.

Wouldn’t be surprised if they start closing accounts that aren’t MSing but gaming the Amex offers, using multiple windows, getting it on multiple cards, etc. It seems they have a lot of time on their hands over there.

All language in the new T’s & C’s refers specifically to “earning or using points”. Most of the Amex offers involve cash back, not points, so I don’t see how they could be referring to Amex Offers. At the very least, this doesn’t seem to be their target here.

Some of the most lucrative Amex offers are the ones that offer MR instead of cash. This could hit hard.

Yes, but nothing here appears to indicate that they’re targeting Amex Offers. As they haven’t provided any guidance or specific regulations, we’re left to ponder their intent. If the intent was to crack down on overuse of Amex Offers, they would have used different wording.

Now, if you’re MSing (I imagine that’s the biggest red flag), applying for multiple cards for bonuses only AND doing Amex Offers on every card in your wallet, I suppose they could use the latter as part of the evidence of “gaming”. But it doesn’t seem that Amex Offers is the primary target and in itself worthy of scaling back on due to this change.

That’s a reasonable assumption, but “abuse” isn’t defined, so Amex has a lot of leeway. What if you sign up for 12+ cards, meet the minimum spend on all of them organically and then sock drawer every single one? Amex could call that abuse and take all of your points.

I’m sitting on a sizable stockpile of points accumulated from signup bonuses on cards I rarely used afterwards. I think I’m probably fine, but the risk of Amex doing something ugly is greater than negligible.

The flip side to that is it’s probably in their interest to give cards either way. It shows growth in card holders while at the same time, not allowing them to actually do anything. It would be bad business for the average spender, but no loss for a churner.

Maybe it’s time to get a schwab and cash out. Kinda depressing.


Anyone who still uses Amex cards for MS simply hasn’t been paying attention.

That’s a ridiculous comment, OBC/SPG are some of the top MS cards

I am paying attention, and MSing.

me too

One of the most ill-informed comments. I’d encourage you to read more on this before forming an opinion.

ugh this company just plain sux… i hope i transfer out all my MR before they go out of business.

You understand changes like this will make it less likely to go out of business right? You and I are not profitable customers for them.

Comments like these are so ignorant.

I know we are supposed to feel bad for those who MS but I think it just makes the bonuses better for those of it who play it straight. Maybe less people will abuse the cards and than 100K bonuses will come back for us. Remind me again why MS is something I am supposed to support and care about?

I couldn’t agree more. I have personally considered MSing large amounts, but never have. I don’t knock the practice, but I have zero sympathy for those who MS large amounts.

Yeah I’m in the same boat. I don’t knock the people with 15 business cards and no businesses or the people who MS large amounts of money but the reactions to AMEX shutting them down amuse me. “MR points suck anyways” Maybe they suck because a ton of people are using MS and fake businesses and diluting the point values? AMEX gives me the value of like $1000 in addition to their offers just for using their cards instead of other cards or cash. Not sure why they are being labeled as so greedy?

Well that’s a dumb opinion.

There’s a difference between having clear guidelines that people can follow and the BS that AMEX is spouting off….”sole discretion”…”gaming”? WTF are those supposed to mean. If they wrote specific rules that need to be followed, no one would complain.

Sounds like they want their cake, and have people do spending and signups, but they want to have the right to kick out anyone they deem unprofitable. They’ve lost all respect and are completely unprofessional.

Yeah I agree with this. I would be interested to hear those who are actually getting shut down and if they are honest about what they really did. Because my guess is MS or fake businesses but you are right it could be anything. I prefer Chase to AMEX but have made quite a few bonuses on AMEX cards as well. I spend them pretty quickly though on either airfare or gift cards and even cash just to avoid sitting on a pile of 500K points that have no value. Look no further than Marriott for what happens when they offer 1000 points for answering a trivia question where someone else had to spend $1000 to earn those points.

I was livid, when for example I signed up for a targeted BRG offer 9 months after cancelling, used legitimate spend (taxes) vs MS to meet the requirements, and they have the nerve to be rude on the phone and start mouthing off “unwritten” rules they can invoke.

Anyway, AMEXs bigger problem aren’t us “gamers”. We’re a drop in the bucket. The real issue is their revenue is declining due to now everyone being an expert travel hacker who spreads their spend around to maximize earnings and redemptions, and interchange fees being under pressure.

Every time I travel, AMEX is a struggle to use just about anywhere in the world except overpriced chain hotels or luxury merchants stores. This is supposed to be a travel friendly card?

I agree with this. If I were a merchant I would have dropped Amex long ago. When was the last time you were somewhere, they didn’t take Amex, and you went somewhere else? You don’t go somewhere else, you just pull out a Visa/Mastercard.

Amex’ pitch to merchants used to be that Amex cardholders were big affluent spenders unlike the lowly Visa/MC cardholders, but times have changed. Amex offers merchants nothing except high interchange and higher risk of chargeback to keep their cardholder happy.

I don’t agree about everyone being a travel hacker, my guess is that majority of people who are not in this hobby aren’t using points efficiently. The issue is that AMEX is no longer a `status` thing for younger generations, and with all the other issues that you had mentioned people choose to go with Visa / MC instead.

>WTF are those supposed to mean

You know exactly what they mean.

More risk for working with AMEX cards now. I hate to give up on a flexible currency, but it might be time to start moving MR points to other programs to be safe.

I’ll make it easy on them, I for one have no plans to sign up for any AMEX cards in the near future, and sure as hell don’t plan to waste precious MS on them. As it stands, Delta is the only remaining redemption option of any value….and that value is pretty low to begin with.

Maybe they should focus more efforts into making MR great again 🙂 THe only reason anyone would want one of their cards now is to either take advantage of the Centurion lounge, or MS/abuse the heck out of the 1.5x earn/burn bonus.

I was expecting a response from American Express but I expected it to be an adjustment to their application system. Gaming can be made to mean anything. For those of us who have 8, 9, 10, or more Amex cards and if they look at the spending on these newer cards and only see patterns during promotional spending requirements, is that gaming? If they say so, it is.

So…seems risky to keep currency with them particularly if applying for more cards.

Unfortunate. People should be able to take advantage of promotions. If American Express is not willing to honor their promotions, they shouldn’t offer them. They should prevent people from being approved. Amex’s application system is notoriously loose. That’s their problem. Once people are approved, they have a right to the bonuses if they meet the spend.

Where’s the rewards program attorney when we need him? Amex has been good to me, but if somebody gets points taken away by some claim of gaming bonuses, it would seem a very good case could be made if those purchases are legitimate.

Any new datapoints to suggest s1m0n m4LLs are working for MS again with am3x?

at this point, everything is YMMV until the real ban hammer gets implemented via algo. anything u see now is temp. proceed at ur own risk.

this sucks. i just went past 5/24 and figured i could MS the hell out of amex for a while. wishful thinking i suppose

Depend, I think they are trying to crack down MSR bonus because that’s where they lose money. I don’t think they are targeting regular non-MSR MS because they don’t really lose money on them. They still earn the credit card % fee.

they definitely lose out on BCP and OBC MS, perhaps SPG too? Then there are games you can play with Amex offers too

@artgriego. They aren’t losing out on regular spend on SPG. Amex isn’t paying anywhere near 2c/point.

yea, not SPG. But they gotta be losing on OBC. But the 50k cap limit their losses.

hire a team of ppl to look down the charges on someone’s statement and determine whether those are purely for sign up bonus or gaming the rules/system for cash back/points/rewards. Their transaction cost must be very high

Got a call yesterday from AM3X, they were offering me 5K MR for $500 spend for each AU on my personal Plat (Gold cards) with I accepted it (my first AU with AM3X lol), anyways she ended up telling me about the new rules against “People who play the System in order to get reward points”, so here is her definition of this:

1- People who add AUs to get bonus and cancel the cards right after the bonus posted.
2- People who add AUs that don’t exist. (She mentioned that they know that people add pets and then because there is not SSN attached they have to cancel the card).
3- And the ones that just simple apply just for the bonus, then never use the card for the entire year and cancel them after that.

She never mentioned anything about MS, everything was around the 3 points I mentioned above, just people that abuse the reward points applying just for the bonus, I do MS and all that she said was, I can see that you have high spends and no AUs in any of your cards, also she told me, I’ve seen customers with 8 AM3X cards with 4 AUs each and they know that those are playing the system because AM3X only offers bonus on the first 4 AUs per cards.

Based on what she told me, I think they are (AM3X) after Churners and not those who MS, of course MS is/will be included at some point but there was not conversation about HIGH spenders, just Churners.

Makes sense. In the terms for one of their prepaid cards (Bluebird) they prohibit “manufacture spend” specifically by name, but don’t mention it in the terms for their regular credit and charge cards that I’ve seen.

Thanks for the dp! With the huge influx of churners from the CSR 100k bonus and the number of ppl asking how long before their bonus post, it comes as no surprise ppl are gaming and sock drawing the card after. Why do you think Fairmont, Hyatt, and Hilton (from citi) all discontinued their free night bonuses last year to a point bonus now?

When AMEX isn’t trying to crack down on MR abuse, they’re sending FRs. I’m probably limiting my AMEX spend to items that I want to have strong return/warranty protection or AMEX offers. Although I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to make those weaker too.

lol, the problem is.. if you claim a claim for those warranty protection, it will probably trigger a human looking/reviewing your account and then they see you either MS or abuse (whatever their term is) their bonus, then you are dead too.

this pretty much signals then end. RIP.

thinking about this some more, AMEX is the new USB. organic or face clawback or shut down or FR or everything combined.

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