Posted by Chuck on December 5, 2017
Manufactured Spending

Published on December 5th, 2017 | by Chuck

217

Amex Invalidates Signup Bonus Points for those who Gamed the Spend

In the past few days, some people have been getting emails about not being eligible for their Amex signup bonus since “activity on your account indicates an effort to reach the Welcome Bonus spend requirement in a manner that is not consistent with the terms of your Cardmember Agreement.” This is being reported by multiple readers (1, 2, 3, 4),  DDF members as well as Milesperday.

We are writing to let you know that, unfortunately, you are not eligible to receive the Welcome Bonus for the [insert] Credit Card. Activity on your account indicates an effort to reach the Welcome Bonus spend requirement in a manner that is not consistent with the terms of your Cardmember Agreement.

In the past, we’ve heard reports of crack down for Simon Mall gift card purchases. In that case it was an issue of points not posting, I’m not sure if anyone got an actual claw back. The Milesperday report indicates that even grocery spend is not immune, possibly only in cases where Amex has Level 3 Data on the merchant.

We’ll have to wait to see if they actually pull the points back, but on paper at least they are saying the person isn’t eligible. On Amex’s own cards they can easily claw back points, and even put your balance into the negative (that’s happened to people in similar circumstances). For co-branded cards, like Delta, it’ll be trickier for them to claw back after the fact, especially if the points were already spent, though I’m sure they can work something out if they really wanted to.

The Amex RAT team has been on an absolute rampage this year, and apparently wanted to end the year with a bang.

I’m getting nervous myself about signup bonus points on a new Amex card. Please contribute your own data points in the comments below.



217 Responses to Amex Invalidates Signup Bonus Points for those who Gamed the Spend

  1. JT says:

    Don’t worry. /r/churning says there is zero risk in MSing Amex cards and anyone with evidence to the contrary is just being paranoid.

    • LC says:

      guessing saracsm, but personally i havent had issues myself and I have been using “venmo” on many cards. I am thinking amex is ok with this method especially on business cards as it codes as “business services”.

      • Information Booth says:

        Hey, LC! You’ve helped me with stuff in the past. If you ever need anything, and I’ve commented on it, feel free to ask me about it… loyalty is a huge thing with me. BTY Merry Christmas and Love in Christ.

        • LC says:

          I appreciate it, very nice comment. Part of what makes this site so great is the readers that are willing to help out each other and doc letting us use it as a means for that communication

    • nick says:

      thats not what r/churning says at all. Strawman.

    • Geo says:

      That isn’t completely true – the general sentiment is that MSing a signup bonus is a bad idea, but MSing beyond the signup bonus has been fine (up to now). In fact I don’t think there are any datapoints of clawbacks beyond signup bonuses.

  2. Elias says:

    Milesperday is back luck bryan of the credit card game…

  3. YRK says:

    Would buying 50$ denomination gift card and 200$ airline credit gc be concern? Rest are 4 online 300$+ purchases mainly.
    Also is the concern for RAT limited to signup or even after that?

  4. ves says:

    Spouse’s ED sign up bonus not awarded due to one $200 amex gc purchase . In past there is no problem, amex gc counting towards msr. Surprisingly prg awarded even though $400 amex gc purchase in that. Happened in October .

  5. P says:

    Just met the $6k for the Amex SPG 25k bonus the other day and they all posted yesterday. Will update if or not I don’t get the bonus and if it’s clawed back within the next few days.

    It will be interesting if they do claw it back and I end up with a negative SPG account. When SPG and Marriott merge, how would it affect the balance?

    • P says:

      With Chase when I did a return, they deducted the points and I ended up with a negative Hyatt balance, so I’m sure it’s easy for CC companies to do this.

    • WayUpNorth49 says:

      I purchased gift of college gift cards, via ToysRUs, for $9K of the $10K spend for the SPG business. Both 25k and subsequent 10k have posted. Card was acquired mid October.

    • P says:

      My SPG points just posted. 25K and transferred it all to Marriott. Hopefully that will keep it safe in case of a clawback since Marriott and SPG are still technically separate programs.

  6. NBG says:

    Is this isolated only to sign up bonus spend or even ongoing spend like the BCP annual 6% grocery spends, etc. I usually keep my signup spend clean.

  7. Blue says:

    Hm. I’m sitting on one $500 GOC payment and a $200 Amex gift card bought with an Amex Offer…think I’m gonna plan on neither counting for the $6K spend on my SPG Biz.

  8. Darv says:

    Maybe somebody can enlighten me. How is the RAT choosing which accounts to audit? Are there flags for them? I mean how do they find an account to look at and then comb through Level 3 data from a grocery store? I find it hard to believe they are this sophisticated. Obviously they are hitting some people, but how is this possible?

    Random audit of new cards in any given month? Or a computer program that alerts them of large purchases at grocery stores?

    There’s no way they have this many human beings staffed there to comb through all the new card accounts.

    • Blue says:

      Machine Language or cluster analysis could determine this easily. I would be willing to bet less than 1 or 2 percent of customers, for example, have a grocery bill over $500 in a 12 month period…and more than one would be virtually certain to be MS.

      • Darv says:

        Somebody above had bonus denied for a $200 Amex gift card. I don’t know where that was bought, but that seems ridiculous to me. I just did the Target gift card promotion on an Amex minimum spend and am now deducting it from my spreadsheet.

        I see your point about identifying the larger transactions, but it seems this goes deeper than that.

        From now on I am not buying a single gift card in any form for any purpose on Amex cards. Well, except for airline “incidentals.”

        • Sarah says:

          If you actually read the material that comes with your credit card, technically, AMEX has always has the policy that gift cards would not count as “purchases” for rewards. It’s written there in plain English.

          They are merely choosing to start enforcing a rule that’s always been there.

    • Will says:

      AMEX has level 3 data. Its not hard to find gift cards.

    • Matt Katakis says:

      “Or a computer program that alerts them of large purchases at grocery stores?”

      I have no insider knowledge, but my guess would be this. Would not be hard at all to setup alerts for them based on this. They then probably take a closer look at the account and make a decision there.

    • Darv says:

      Do you guys think it is okay to buy third party gift cards for minimum spend? Like Target gift cards or Uber gift cards? We actually use these cards for organic spend, we don’t resell them. I don’t know why Amex would hit us for these, but I’m not taking chances.

      • So technically, the terms say this:

        Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers (balance transfers are not available on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card), cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents.

        Under their terms, gift cards in any form would seemingly not count towards minimum spend.

        • Darv says:

          Thanks for looking that up. Yep, just gonna have to operate going forward that absolutely no gift cards in any form will be bought for Amex minimum spend. Not worth the stress or anxiety over potential clawback.

    • Dani says:

      I’m sure there is a list from the BB & RB shut downs.

    • Sarah says:

      Same way they flag fraudulent activity.

      It’s not at all difficult to do with machine learning.

      I program computers similarly for a living. I don’t work in finance but what I do is very similar from a high level perspective.

      Plus here’s we’re talking about the pretty low hanging fruit.

  9. Radster says:

    Two purchases at GCM to meet min. spent on Delta Business CC in Nov.

    So far no email from AmEx. Touch wood!

  10. Duke I. says:

    Out of all the cards that I have, I never play around with AMEX. I received my first credit card with AMEX back in 1997 at the age of 18. So I can’t afford to lose that history.

  11. Ferris says:

    Plastiq is legitimate spend, am I correct? It’s the same thing as paying taxes, more or less.

    • AmEx Victim says:

      They denied me my delta Plat bonus for my legit $2300 Plastiq mortgage payment. If they don’t want you getting the bonus, they will use everything but 100% organic consumer spend against you.

      • Mark P says:

        Wow really? What was their reasoning? I’m about to put $2300 of rent payment via plastiq on my Delta Gold card I just opened, I’m wondering if that is a bad idea. This is some sh!t.

        • RF says:

          The terms say cash advances are not allowed. A mortgage is a debt. Using a credit card to pay another debt is generally considered the same as a cash advance.

          • Wayne says:

            > Using a credit card to pay another debt is generally
            > considered the same as a cash advance.

            Whoa there pilgrim…that’s crazy talk!

            By your reasoning, nobody could use a credit card to pay for ANYTHING, because it’s all a “debt”. Your car insurance. A utility bill. Filling your gas tank. Eating dinner.

            Come on…

      • Chuck says:

        @AmEx Victim how long ago was this?

      • 2nd AmEx Victim says:

        I had the same sort of thing happen to me (legitimate business purchases), but they also threw on an FR for good measure. I played along but they ignored all my calls and emails, then emailed after their deadline was up to let me know all my accounts were closed for not being willing to give them any information.

        When I called, they finally picked up and said I never left any messages. They also thought they’d leave some negative comments on my credit reports just because they could. I know many people love AMEX, but they really were not good about how they handled my accounts. Would’ve been easier if they’d just said, “Sorry, you’re not a profitable customer so we’re severing our relationship.”

      • Bill says:

        Didn’t Amex make it so you can’t even use amex to pay mortgages via plastiq anymore? Its not surprising that mortgages don’t count. Hell Amex is blocking some my student loans payments via plastiq as well.

        • Alex says:

          Well right now I could not even use Amex with Plastiq to pay mortgage, but I could pay Home Association Fees. I suppose, “mortgage” has both “interest” & “principal” part, and the “principal” part can be tapped with a second mortgage, so it’s kind of like a “balance transfer” I suppose.

          Maybe the same for student loans, in that you’re paying another loan, even if you could not tap it for cash.

          But with rent and services like home owner associations, that’s a service not a loan, so it’s kosher ? I really try to find underlying logic here, but maybe that’s all in vain, they are the ultimate arbiter, judge & jury and with a neutered CFB they fear no repercussions & need not make sense if they don’t wish to.

          • Amex fun says:

            Ultimately they are just trying to weed out unprofitable churners. They are looking for anything that indicates the customer is likely to take the signup bonus and run, and using their T&C to cut them off.

            The question of whether something is a “service” or “cash equivalent” is really beside the point. I suspect they would have no problem with any of these purchases for normal, non-bonused spend – they get their transaction fee, after all. It’s just being used here as an easy flag to identify customers they want to get rid of, nothing more.

            For this reason, I don’t think arguing with Amex about the type of transaction will help. As seen in comments by “Amexneveragain” on this page, once they’ve identified you, they won’t listen. They’re done with you, even if you never intended to game the bonus spend. 🙁

  12. BW says:

    12 week delay to get bonus?? I don’t have any of their cards and I’m not sure that I even want one now.

  13. Radster says:

    I’m not seeing anything in the first-hand reports indicating “Clawing Backs” are actually occurring. Just AmEx emails. Is the article title justified?

    • Ferris says:

      If Amex says that people are not eligible for sign-up bonuses on emails they send out, you better bet your behind this is a justified article title. RATs gone wild.

      • Radster says:

        So you’d “bet your behind” that the clawbacks will follow?

        • Ferris says:

          AMEX RAT team has been on a rampage as this article states. There are plenty of DPs that they have done clawbacks and now they may begin doing pre-clawbacks where they prohibit bonuses from ever posting.

      • MoreSun says:

        Agree with Ferris here- but am personally quite attached to my behind and therefor not willing to bet it on anything. Amex has certainly, and aggressively, clawed back MR bonuses before. Co-branded claw backs I don’t recall seeing…

    • Chuck says:

      @Radster Good point, let me see if I can reword it.

  14. Ozzie says:

    I don’t buy GC’s to meet min spends. However, I did fund a bank account with my SPG. Don’t know if that will be an issue. Already got the Bonus.

    • Darv says:

      This is something I don’t understand like on Reddit, I see veterans recommending funding BMO on Amex minimum spends. It plainly says no cash equivalents and the transaction reads “BMO Online Bank account,” or to that effect (yes I do this too but on Visa cards). Yet people keep recommending it.

      That has to be something they could easily find. If I were disqualifying transactions, that would be before gift cards. It’s straight cash.

      Sorry man…not to rag on you, purely an observation of mine over time, mostly elsewhere not here.

      • Ozzie says:

        I hear ya. Just because it codes as a purchase doesn’t mean they won’t give you trouble for it. Lesson learned. I won’t do it again for a min. spend on any card. Not worth losing the bonus.

      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, I’d never fund a bank account with a credit card. It might code as a purchase now, or did in the past, but you never know if you’re reviewed in a few months and they take back points and charge you cash advance fees.

      • Sarah says:

        There’s sabotagers on Reddit.

  15. joe says:

    For the past year, I’ve been very careful with any Amex bonus. Assuming nothing that’s could even be mistaken for MS counts.

  16. captainsave says:

    Now im nervous. Just MS the gold biz and personal at safeway. Points usually show up after minimum spent reach but this time shows pending.

  17. willie says:

    MSed 10 amex cards this year, no clawbacks. It’s a case by case situation.

  18. So am I basically screwed with my plan to buy $10,000 worth of Gift of College cards. Had $10,000 worth of tuition to pay and could have paid it directly using the card (and with a 2.7% processing fee). GoC cards made more sense because I could not only buy them at a lower cost, but I could also get myself a state tax credit by contributing to a 529 plan using those cards).

    Already bought $4500 worth of GoC cards from Toys R Us

    • Larry says:

      I thought GoC goes directly to a 529 plan not to the College. I bought GoC to fund my 529 (at TRU but not for signup bonuses), and then withdrawal from the 529 to my checking account.

      Paid the College bill with my new 100k plat via cashnet for a 2.75% fee to meet min spend.

      Hope this works. The whole RAT is rediculious that we don’t know exactly what is allowed or not and no notification until after the intro period is over.

      • GoC works like this.

        GoC –> 529 –> Your Own Bank Account –> Pay Tuition

        It’s not MS, but if AmEx looks at level 3 data for Toys R Us (assuming they get that), they’ll see $10,000 worth of GoC cards purchased, which would, according to their terms, not count as eligible purchases since technically, it looks like no gift cards count.

      • So, at this point, based on an abundance of caution, I’m going to just pay tuition using my AmEx SPG, eat the 2.75% processing fee, then pay the corresponding credit card bill with the withdrawn 529 plan funds.

        That should be on the up-and-up.

    • Dave C says:

      I mean, at 2.7% why not just use Plastiq?

      • Buying GoC cards only cost 1.19% fee, which made it very desirable.

        Combine that with the tax deduction or tax credit that many states (mine included) give you for 529 plan contributions and it was a no-brainer – you actually earned money by buying GoC cards to pay tuition, even without a sign-up bonus.

        Paying tuition with a card directly to a school costs 2.75%.

    • WayUpNorth49 says:

      As noted above, I spend $9K GoC AT Toyrs R Us on SPG Biz acquired in mid-Oct to meet MS. All bonus has posted. I’m *not* saying you’re not right to be concerned, but perhaps my experienced suggests that you’re not necessarily ‘basically screwed’.

      • Hmm…here’s the important question for you sir.

        Worth it to just continue the GoC plan. Or do I give up on that now and simply pay the tuition using my card and eat the 2.75% processing fee? Obviously hard to say, but would love your opinion.

        • Emily says:

          Do you have other credit cards? What is the minimum spend you are trying to hit with your amex?

        • MXD says:

          How about another card? While frontloading my daughters 529 via GOC I successfully used Citi Prestige, CSR, Merrill+, and BOA rewards. 2 Player mode. We were just about to accept 100k amex plat offers, but this throws a wrench in the plan.

        • WayUpNorth49 says:

          I’d give you an opinion if I had one. Sadly, I don’t.

          I will say this: I’m sitting on 250k MR. I was going to do the BRG before the end of the year with a shared code — (I’ve called in and HUCA 4x now with no success; the DoC call in method for the 75k isn’t working.) — and hit MS with GoC. I’m no longer planning to do that.

    • Wong says:

      You’re not screwed. I’ve bought $13,000 worth of GoC cards and it was completely fine. I was not doing it for the sign-up bonus, but rather for the Amex offer on my card. The MR and Amex offer posted just fine. Usually when Amex talks about gift cards, they’re referring to the cash equivalent kinds like Visa/Mastercard.

  19. J says:

    I had 70k bonus points post yesterday, used them same day. Some of my transactions could be viewed as MS. I guess there’s a very good chance that I could end up with a negative balance.

  20. JP says:

    I met my min spend by gc at ppdg. Spg points showed up within a week. Any issues when meeting spend with ppdg?

  21. Mike says:

    I’ve MS’d every single one of my Amex cards for the minimum spends using VGCs

    You can do it, and I haven’t gotten any clawback emails yet, but you just have to be prepared to face the consequences if Amex catches you, hence why I cashed out all my MR using my Schwab brokerage account and have none left to claw back

    • Duke I. says:

      AMEX can add the value of the points redeemed to your credit card balance.

      • Joe S says:

        This is terrifying. Do you have any data points of this occurring?

        • Duke I. says:

          It’s listed in the T&C. This is the reason why I haven’t taken advantage of the $250 upgrade offer for one of my cards. The terms says if you downgrade within a year AMEX may take the money back. Many people downgrade their annual fee cards to avoid the fee after the first year..

          • Mike says:

            So you’ve never actually seen DPs of Amex doing this before? Because I always see Amex put MR balances into the negative if they can’t claw the points back, resulting in people retaliating and closing all their MR earning cards

      • Frito Pendejo says:

        Just file a chargeback. Amex always sides with customer.

  22. Jeff says:

    How about MS’ing just for general cashback/points/miles beyond the sign-up bonuses? Will Amex crack down on that too or should I be okk?

    • shipitkthx83 says:

      I suspect that the question you need to ask yourself is “do I make AMEX money?” If the answer is yes, like in the case of ongoing non-bonused spend, you should be fine IMO.

      • Ferris says:

        At the end of the day, it is unlikely anyone here makes AMEX money. The only way they possibly would is if they never do sign-up bonuses and only MS large amounts with a low-earning rewards card.

        • Swag says:

          Eh.. I think you underestimate how easy it is for credit card companies to make money.

          Take the SPG card for example. Amex certainly pays less for SPG points than we value them at… We don’t know what it is but I’ll assume it’s 1.5 cpp. So even the 35K signup bonus only costs them about $500, that’s the initial investment for the NPV calculation.

          Now they get somewhere around 3% in interchange for transactions. Say all you do on your account is buy two $500 GC’s every month. Then they’re making $15 a month, minus whatever they “pay” to allocate the funds of the transaction to you up until whenever you pay it off (if you’re nice, you pay off early). I’ll assume by the end of this it ends up at $10/month.

          Now, if you throw that into an NPV calculator, also including the $95 AF every year, you end up with a positive NPV of around $500 if you just assume the account stays open for five years. Now, just imagine if instead of 1K a month you’re spending 5K a month, suddenly they’re making thousands.

          Obviously the financials they have are far more complicated and we don’t know all the numbers, but I really don’t think this is far off. So many people seem to float around with this idea that CC’s aren’t profitable for a bank unless you’re paying a bunch of fees but it’s just not true. If you’re putting a decent amount of spend on cards (outside high bonus categories that cost them $) then you could very conceivably hit a few signup bonuses a year and still be profitable.

          • Ferris says:

            I work in the industry and understand how things work in and out, the margins, etc. There’s a reason 2% cards rarely have sign-up bonuses: because the margins are slim. AMEX has a higher rate they receive, but there are significantly higher variable charges from churners with the fraud department and RAT team investment. They also have to give their cut to the brand. In your example, you’re taking 3% minus 1.5%, which equals a 1.5% margin. This means you’d have to spend roughly $33,000 (33Kx1.5% = ~500) for them to break even on a sign-up bonus as they will have to continue to pay for these at 1.5cpp for all transactions. This excludes an Annual Fee, which few here pay outside of maybe one card.

            The main error of your calculation lies in the 5 year account assumption. The median use is certainly around 3 months. There’s maybe 2 cards people continue to use.

        • Blue says:

          With the caveat that everyone is pay in full every time. Profitability would actually be some function of swipe fees plus the expected value of future interest payments.

        • Swag says:

          I can’t reply to your bottom level comment so –

          I also work in the industry. I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m trying to make an argument about the “average” consumer – you said the existence of a single counterexample to a churner costing the bank money is unlikely so I’m giving an example, of which there’s probably at least hundreds of if not thousands.

          I use the SPG card as an example because it seems like out of all cards I can think of it’s the card with the biggest margin between amount paid out by the bank and perceived value from us. And that’s a big part of the reason why there’s plenty of us who are willing to pay the AF for it just from a value calculation.There’s a reason people are celebrating the marriott news – it really is a remarkable card in that way.

          It’s not just people who make mistakes or fall in default (but not too much in default) who make CC companies money – heavy spenders are a huge part of it. If you work in the industry and you have some semblance of a conscience, you’re at least hoping to get more of the latter. Obviously, there’s a reason retention offers exist – they want these and it’s a lot cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire one. Long term relationships are the real gems. Also, I use NPV because you can’t just use a simple margin calculation to value a long-term relationship or else you’ll go out of business.

          I wouldn’t contest that the median user here is 3 months. In fact, for a heavy signup rewards card I would be a bit surprised if the general population even performs all that much better. Certainly the general population would be more profitable in general but they certainly eat a lot of losses in there as well – not even thinking about fraud losses. But, they eat those losses to get those gems here and there.

          Now, my whole point is there’s certainly gems in the churner population as well, especially if you look at particular cards with good earning rates like the SPG. Although ironically, an MS crackdown limits the amount of spend some of us can put into these relationships. I’m sure they don’t mind some collateral damage, but I’d personally be a bit surprised if they went out of their way to intentionally chase these gems away.

        • Curmudgeon says:

          I’ve spent a bit over $200,000 on Amex cards this year. If they can’t make money on that level of spending then they are doing something wrong.

  23. Ender says:

    So, is there any list of which merchant provides L3 data? When I buy sth from Kroger the description always say grocery items while with Staples I can actually see what I bought, so can we conclude that Kroger does not do L3?

  24. shipitkthx83 says:

    So far all of this seems to apply for those who are signing up for the card, meeting minimum spend, and then sock-drawing it. (Showing up as red on AMEX’s balance sheet) For those wondering how AMEX flags accounts to investigate, this is likely how.

  25. Dima says:

    From personal experience I know that AMEX is not exactly on the bleeding edge when it comes to implementing new technologies, but even then any half-decent programmer can bang out an algorithm that would easily catch 90%+ of MSers an a matter of hours. We all know what to look for. High dollar transactions at grocery stores / drug stores, high dollar transactions that end with certain amounts that would line up with GC fees, add a filter for cards that are in a initial bonus qualifying period to minimize the data set, etc. Given all that we know about AMEX and RAT you need to get pretty creative to fly under the radar if you’re going to try to MS for AMEX bonus, and even then if L3 data is shared you’ll still be likely screwed.

    • shipitkthx83 says:

      Let me simplify that for you:
      1. Filter for cards that have been open <1 year and have already received a signup bonus.
      2. Filter for cards where AMEX's profit is negative.
      3. Look for obvious MS (big purchases from known GC outlets)
      4. Shutdown

      • Swag says:

        They can’t really look at a single card’s profit being negative, basically EVERY card is negative profit for the first year. They’re easily paying around $500 at acquisition (varies between $200-1000 depending on card); very few cards would be profitable in their first year.

        Now, having a history of stopping spend after the bonus and killing the card off after a year and not paying additional AF’s, that’s a very easy way to have your total relationship show as clearly negative, assuming you’re not making them a ton of money somewhere else.

  26. J. Grant says:

    I’ve yet to get a sign up bonus from buying gift cards, whether they were purchased at WalMart, Safeway, Kroger, or online.

    I also have other spend on the cards too though.

    I think banks take a lot into consideration when clawing back bonuses. I have a 14 year relationship with 3 of the major banks, so perhaps that could be part of the reason I’ve never had a bonus clawed back. Those with 1 year of credit history and tons of new cards are a liability to a company they don’t have a relationship with.

  27. Josh says:

    Stories like this make me happy my family already has to pay $1500/month in childcare for 2 kids (and our provider accepts cards), so it’s pretty trivial to meet signup bonuses naturally without having to get clever with MS.

  28. Max says:

    Amex has been positively manic depressive this year. Earlier in the year they gave a bunch of people “15K MR on your PRG/Biz Plat after just one purchase” offers like that. What are they doing? Viciously going after some people as if being super protective and cheap with points, and then giving many of those same people insane offers for no effort.

    Did anyone here get a super generous offer like that this year?

  29. P says:

    And reddit members insisted a few months back that MS-ing claw back only happens on leaked links, and I got downvoted for insisting otherwise. Then the giftcardmall thing happened and now we have this. Hahaha

  30. Jeffrey says:

    Applied for the BRG earlier this year. Bought an airline ticket and returned it due to travel plan change. Bonus reversed 5 days after refund posted, even though I had around ~60 days left to complete the spending. Bit hesitant to put more spend on the card so never met the minimum spend.

    • Jeffrey says:

      I did later filed a CFPB but they didn’t honor because I didn’t meet the minimum spend. However, judging from their response, it does look like they will reissue the bonus if you DO meet the spend after it was clawed back.

      • John Rawls says:

        That makes sense. It’s understandable they wouldn’t want the bonus to be issued until the spend was met, so I can see why they took it back. I think I have read actual DPs that they do reissue once the spend is met again after calculating the return though.

  31. Darv says:

    The scary thing is, there’s still a lot Amex hasn’t done that other banks have. Like not letting people get more than five cards in a year–whether approvals or shutdowns. I fully expect Amex to implement some form of restrictive application process like the other issuers, it’s only a matter of time. This business of them approving anyone with a pulse even thought they have 35 inquiries and 40 new accounts, those days are probably nearing an end. I don’t think I’m giving them any new ideas here.

    I proactively transferred my MR points out a while back to hedge against a shutdown. A RAT member looking at my account would see within seconds I’m not signing up for all these cards long-term. I haven’t MSed but it’s still obvious.

    BofA cracked down on people opening too many accounts, Chase shuts down people for too many accounts. Lots of application restrictions from issuers.

    I’ve hit Amex hard but the reason I’ve hit them hard isn’t so much greed as it is expecting them to crack down.

    With all the people coming into the churning game the past year with the Chase CSR and rounding out their Chase 5/24 portfolios, Amex is and will be getting pounded now and soon, so this crackdown by them is only likely to get much worse.

    #KeepingItReal

    • captainsave says:

      What do you mean? Amex have the worst restriction, once a lifetime compare to citi and chase 2 yrs and 5/24.

      • Darv says:

        5/24 is preventing people from getting cards. Lifetime limit of one bonus isn’t stopping anyone from getting a card. 90% of active churners in this community are going to rake Amex over for all their cards. The community has grown exponentially the past couple years.

        Amex’s 2/90 helps them but is not applicable to charge cards. They keep tightening things but they are tightening everything that, for the most part, isn’t solving their problem. Like 12 month language closing cards, sole discretion language in terms, etc. Chase and more recently BofA and Barclay are putting in restrictions so you can’t get the cards–that’s the solution for their losses. Amex trying to react after the fact is not their solution. They need to tighten their application process if they want to solve the problem. They’re not stupid so my guess is they’re assessing how to do that.

        I spoke to a BofA supervisor about “approvals in error” and at the time he told me he wanted them to put in something like Chase’s 5/24 because it would be transparent, instead of the approval in error stuff, which I told him was ridiculous (sure enough, a few months later they rolled out their new rules). Point is, management understands what works, and it’s usually about execution ultimately. Amex just hasn’t yet executed on a strategy to prevent these massive churning losses, but they will.

  32. 10G says:

    Amex is clawing back signup bonus. Here’s my situation. I purchase all giftcard on my delta platinum(70k bonus). After couple of days I received a email saying that I will not received my welcome bonus. I figure I wouldn’t get anything. But after a couple of days. I saw that they deposit 70k delta and deduct(clawback) 10k. So I only got 60k. Which was a surprise to me. Thats way better then nothing. I quickly use the point. So far they haven’t claw back more.

    • tribesman55 says:

      Where did you purchase the GC?

      • 10G says:

        All of the GC were at CVS. I make 3 seperate purchase over 2 week. I think the reason why only 10k delta was clawback is because the way the bonus post. The bonus was not 70k at once. The activity was +10k, then -10K, then +47k and +13k. So the system think it’s done with the clawback.

  33. Tami says:

    I have one GC purchase in my min spend for my AMEX Platinum. It was from Kroger and coded as grocery, so I’m hoping it’s ok. The rest was all organic spend.

  34. korrinda says:

    I’ve got clawback of 60000 points on my Amex Platinum card 2 days ago. But I am still in first 3 months period and I’ve spent more than $2000 in natural spent. Will I receive bonus again if I meet $3000 spending in natural spent?

    • XenaWP says:

      You should!

    • J says:

      Can you provide more details about what led to your clawback, so that the rest of us can learn from your data point?

    • Darv says:

      Is this your first Amex Platinum card or is this another version of their Platinum card (e.g. Schwab or Mercedes-Benz)?

    • Carter says:

      Please elaborate a bit. Some portion of the min spend you hit was via MS? What kind of manufactured spend were you doing? Why do you think the points were clawed back? A refund or chargeback? Solely due to MS? Would love to know more details.

      • korrinda says:

        I was doing giftcard purchases and reloading my sportbooking accounts. They did not specify what acitivity they didn’t like, so I can’t tell more.

  35. Ryan says:

    Seems like Amex has consistently been going downhill with regards to customer service. I’m down to 2 AMEX cards and I only keep them active because they have 10+ years of history.

    • frogger says:

      They are going downhill because they don’t give bonuses to people who MS? That is funny. I own about 11k of AMEX stock and I think what they are doing makes great business sense.

      • Ric says:

        Customer service and great business sense are not the same thing. Sometimes what is good for the stockholder is not good for the customer, or vice versa.

        Not making a value judgement on what they are doing. Just pointing out the difference in perspective.

        • zachek says:

          Also, many business decisions that might be good for the stockholder (short term) but bad for the customer (short or long term) can and often become bad for the stockholder over the long term when the customer takes their business elsewhere due to the lack of customer friendly business decisions and degrading customer service and the stock value dips…

  36. Drivesabrowntruck says:

    Was thinking of going heavy into the MR arena after hitting 5/24 again, guess I’ll keep MSing my BCE,BCP, and SPG. Been doing Chase UR for the past few years, all this talk about clawbacks from AMEX on MR cards isn’t worth going into thier ecosystem.

  37. bob wiley says:

    Have there been clawbacks on the spg cards or only on mr-earning cards?

  38. Dylan says:

    well boys, the days of MSing and possibly even credit card churning in general seems to be coming to a close. People were abusing the system far too much and the banks weren’t making money.

    If there are still any easy ways out there to MS, i’m sure the people that know how to do them definitely aren’t going to share them (I don’t blame them). The churning community abusing the crap out of bluebird, serve, MOs at the post office, and even problems buying gift cards with CCs is the reason why we can’t have nice things.

    As for me I am a big fan of cash back cards, I don’t really use travel cards that much. I plan to get a few credit cards and rotate them in and out of my wallet for the long term cash-back value.

  39. Too Nashty says:

    1 month ago SO PayPal’ed minimum spend to herself and Amex flagged it b/c of the email address. They shut down all accounts but did not retract MR points and gave me time to transfer all the points out. This is the second time she’s been shut down by Amex for the same thing. Since then she’s been approved for Delta no language Gold card, so at least Amex has short memory….

    On the plus side – Amex prorates annual fee for Platinum cards if they shut it down past the 30 day no refund mark. So win-win in my book.

  40. Gus says:

    What does Amex do if you get a card and meet the signup bonus with purely organic spend, then sockdrawer the card forever (and cancel just before any annual fee is due, if it has an AF)?

    • BW says:

      Nothing I would think. That’s not against their T&C.

      • Gus says:

        I thought they might have enough weasel language to claw back if (at their sole discretion) they deem you not profitable.

      • Amex fun says:

        I would say sock-drawering and canceling before the AF is definitely against their new terms:

        “If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome bonus 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 bonus 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 welcome bonus to, we may freeze the welcome bonus credited to, or we may take away the welcome bonus from your account.”

        Specifically pay attention to “if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it.”

    • Sarah says:

      Nothing

  41. Irene says:

    A couple of,days ago got the following on my AMEX spg biz ‘

    We are writing to let you know that, unfortunately, you are not eligible to receive the Welcome Bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card.

    Activity on your account indicates an effort to reach the Welcome Bonus spend requirement in a manner that is not consistent with the terms of your Cardmember Agreement.

    Please recall that the “How Your Reward Program Works” section of the Cardmember Agreement states:

    “If you violate or abuse this reward program, you may forfeit some or all of your points.”’

    All was organic spend. They claimed that a single transaction that was cancelled was an attempt to ms.

    Have to admit that after contacting customer service the points were returned that same day.

  42. AlwaysFlying says:

    The message has been very clear for a while: If you would like to fly low, understand and follow AMEX terms when meeting the sign up bonus. Sometimes we must follow simple instructions if we want to succeed. AMEX points cashed at 1.25c are the best value of all points out there granted they can be racked up in hundreds of thousands quickly.

  43. mjs says:

    Seems like the easiest way to MS Amex these days for the bonus, is just to make a tax payment to the IRS at about 1.8%, then get back the refund in a few months if you can float it.

    I don’t think a payment toward taxes violates their T&Cs.

    • Darv says:

      How is paying taxes not a cash equivalent? You owe the government cash. It’s just like sending money for a mortgage payment or a credit card statement.

      Don’t get me wrong; everybody I’ve seen around here and elsewhere has said paying taxes meets minimum spend, but that said, I would not be surprised if at some point Amex says it’s not eligible.

      IRS or local.

      • MontyFC says:

        Wouldn’t paying mortgage using credit card qualify as converting secured loan into an unsecured loan? I believe that’s why its discouraged by all card issuers.

      • mjs says:

        You obviously have a point, but at the same time Amex goes out of their way to define a lot of “cash” equivalents but never says anything about taxes. Plus, I doubt it’s a major MS target overall, so RAT may not be going after it yet.

        A lot though may have to do with how the tax payment companies code it, since you’re not paying the IRS directly.

        Not saying it’s airtight, but there may be a window on it, where GC locations are being cracked down on.

      • Alex says:

        OK if Federal Taxes are “cash equivalency” – how about “sales tax” ? Virtually everyone will pay for some kind of taxes with their credit card, and taxes are paying for services, they’re not cash equivalencies just because people could overpay them (Resellers could overpay sales tax with a credit card and get that back from the state), neither they are loans.

  44. RF says:

    The terms say cash advances are not allowed. A mortgage is a debt. Using a credit card to pay another debt is generally considered the same as a cash advance.

    • Darv says:

      This can be sliced so many different ways. If somebody invoices me, don’t I owe them cash? If the mortgage company sends me a monthly statement, I owe them cash.

      It depends on how you look at it. At this point, based on what others have said here and common sense, I think they use filters to isolate possible gift card purchases and then use a smell test after that. The whole “sole discretion” thing. In other words, if they think you gamed and they have any suggestion you gamed, they can wipe out your bonus and apparently they will in some cases.

      I’m going to keep moving forward with Amex and be conservative but won’t be surprised if at some point I get denied. I saw someone on Reddit make a fair point about Plastiq. Like you said, if I owe cash to some contractor or Amex thinks it was for a mortgage payment, they could say based on their discretion this is cash equivalent and you don’t get the bonus.

      Or payment of taxes. Isn’t that a cash equivalent? And on and on.

      Really, Amex can do what they want. I guess since we’re all gaming them, they figure they can game us. Honestly I don’t blame them. We’re not what they’re looking for in customers.

      • Jason says:

        >This can be sliced so many different ways. If somebody invoices me, don’t I owe them cash? If the mortgage company sends me a monthly statement, I owe them cash.

        The way I see it is when someone invoices you for goods or services, the cash payment is in direct exchange for the good or service. When you pay a mortgage, you are not directly buying the house, you are paying for access to money (which was itself used to buy the house/condo/whatever).

        • WayUpNorth49 says:

          “Paying for access to the money”… that’s not a service? We can all play philosophy student, but there is no real operating principle here at work — and it serves AmEx’s interest to keep it that way.

          I see a huge distinction between a VISA reloadable gift card and a gift card that can be paid only to a specific vendor (or even a type of vendor e.g. Gift of College). The former is made to MS (use a credit card to get a product that can be turned into funds to pay the credit card) while the latter is not. But if AmEx doesn’t agree I’m SOL. So…

      • Abelian Grape says:

        Any DPs of AmEx denying a bonus for meeting minspend with tax payments?

  45. mny says:

    if people just stopped using amex completely for a while, their rat team would be dissolved….reason being in my mind, they want the spend to show retailers why they should keep taking amex. Would guess in certain areas, no one would honestly own an amex except for these cashback/point opportunities. i personally have little need for an amex, except for a special card I have, along with their offers which I use almost entirely on gc’s. So are they next going to invalidate all gift card buys from offers ?? If so, their member counts are going to start dropping quite a bit.

  46. TheMonkeyTech says:

    The algorithm is looking for any GC purchases. The query is so easy to setup, a second year CS student could set it up.

    DP: My wife opened a Hilton HHonors card. Spent $4500 on the first billing cycle – 3300 was organic, 1000 was GC at a grocery store, 200 was venmo (legitimate service payment). The min spend is only 3k so we met that spend organically but due to the presence of GCs (my suspicion), we’re still waiting for our bonus 3 months later and chasing Amex via chat, phone, and twitter.

    DP: Other family members opened delta and hilton cards around the same time. No GCs whatsoever and they got their bonus within 5 business days of spending over 3k before the statement even came out (which was the norm), also completed within the first billing cycle.

    Opinions about whether store A or store B gives L3 data is all speculative, I assume they all do so I don’t use GCs to meet min spend. But I wrote this post to help those who might’ve thought it was safe to mix in some GC purchases after they’ve already met the min spend organically but have not gotten their signup bonus yet. Don’t do it.

  47. Dave says:

    Hopefully they don’t crack down on how the airline credit is given.

    Knock on wood

    • Darv says:

      I don’t see how they can. They’re already at a competitive disadvantage compared to the Chase CSR or US Bank Altitude Reserve. I don’t see them changing the passive allowance of airline gift cards for this credit, despite some warnings this time a year ago from an apparent insider.

      Amex has work to do to match the Platinum to CSR. Getting even more restrictive on the airline (travel) credit would harm them.

  48. Gadget says:

    No clawback on my AMEX PRG 50K signup. Acct open Aug 2017: truly organic spend of $500 w/o any GC’s, $100 for cable, plus paid ahead $300 electric bill and $1.1K homeowners ins. payment for the year = 2K spend. 50K points posted Sept, and sock-drawered since Sept, except for the EXXON promo last week. Keeping open until AF hits next year.

    Wish I could get 1.25c per point, but I don’t foresee getting the Schwab plat and I generally don’t travel, so probably cashing out into PoS gift cards.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      Why not on the Schwab Plat? The 60k bonus more than covers the $550 annual fee even if you don’t count the $400 in travel credits (double dip first year). Cash out all your MR points at 1.25 cents/pt, use the travel credits and cancel the card next year after the fee comes due (unless you can get a huge retention bonus).

      • Gadget says:

        1. Not sure I would get approved, as my income is less than what I would expect they are looking for. I am a Schwab One customer, but already have plenty of other CC’s. So, anyway, a denial would be a showstopper.

        2. I don’t MS, other than bank account openings. I think it’s shady and just asking for trouble. So, finding 5K of spend in 3 months would be very difficult. Next fall I would have 1.2K insurance payment due that accepts AMEX, and could hit up BMO for 2K total for a savings and checking, and prepay property taxes for 1.5K, but paying the taxman does cost me a 2.2% fee and MIGHT be against Amex terms. And, it’s risky to assume that bank account opening deposits ever actually get processed as a purchase and/or not get blocked by the fraud prevention a-holes. I don’t count on them to work to meet min. spend. but are a nice plus when they work.

        3. Travel credits can be difficult to redeem if you don’t travel, which I don’t do much of. Becomes just another thing to “manage”, stress about, and track. (Just yesterday decided to attempt to cheat my way into getting the travel credit on the PRG – might have been a minor loss if I don’t get the credit)

        Thanks for the sanity check. I will continue to consider it. I am open to other suggested spending outlets.

        • Curmudgeon says:

          Makes sense. You could do what I do – run a business and have a never ending stream of expenses to put on your new cards. 😀

          • Gadget says:

            I’m risk adverse. Having tons of product or supplies does not sound like fun. And, isn’t that what business CC’s are for? (I don’t need an answer on that one – go where the bonuses are best)

            5K spending in 3 months for legitimate items is hard to do for the average person, ESP AMEX. Easy if you have the right job or income level, I suppose. Hence why these offers exist… ideally hooking the people that have this kind of monthly money flow. More money that changes hands, the more the CC makes. Maybe late summer next year I can pull it off. Thanks again for the input.

  49. Ed says:

    These clawbacks started popping up months ago They are the reason I declined to upgrade my Blue Cash to get a $250 bonus for the preferred version which carries an annual fee. The reality is that it is difficult to accumulate spend on AMEX cards since they aren’t accepted as widely as people think. Not an option with many doctors, medical facilities, insurance payments, etc. so using MS is almost mandatory. No thanks.

    • frogger says:

      I have no problem spending 4k+ every month organically. I very very rarely have a place that says they don’t accept Amex. My doctor accepts Amex but I have a 5 dollar co-pay so even if they didn’t it wouldn’t matter. I don’t think Amex wants people who can’t spend a couple thousand a month to get their sign-up bonuses.

  50. iahphx says:

    So what about buying supermarket gift cards on the Honors Surpass card? My local supermarkets have frequent offers to sell gift cards for a few bucks below face value. I sometimes charge them to my Surpass card for free Hilton points. It’s not the deal of a lifetime; I could also charge these cards to, say, my Jetblue credit card. I certainly don’t want to be “shut down” for this modest benefit, but if AMEX isn’t going to bother me, I’d like to earn the Honors points.

    • TheMonkeyTech says:

      Okay for regular point accumulation, not safe for min spend or before you get your signup bonus. Read my post above.

  51. SS says:

    I just signed up for AMEX SPG Biz. Has anyone paid their property taxes with the SPG Biz? I can’t imagine that would be considered “gaming” the system. Thoughts?

  52. amexneveragain says:

    I received an email from amex saying i would not be eligible for the signup bonus on my amex plat delta skymiles. when i called to inquire, they said the reason was because i cancelled a flight and the credit charged back to my card, and they said they came to the conclusion i was trying to meet the minimum spend through that technique. keep in mind i’m only 45 or so days into the 3 months and ALL spend is completely organic/everyday spend. my mind is blown how they won’t budge on this.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      To be fair, you haven’t actually met the minimum spend yet. I think if you spend more to make up for that return you should get the bonus.

      • Amexneveragain says:

        They specifically said even if I met the mininum spend within the correct time, they would NOT give me the bonus. They said I am ineligible due to their conclusion I’m comitting fraud. No success to change their mind after talking to supervisor.

        • JTS says:

          that sounds really messed up. Are we not supposed to return anything these days?

          • Amexneveragain says:

            Yes this was my main argument. They said people have been abusing this to meet minimum spend requirements. They seemed pretty set on it.

          • JTS says:

            To be honest that sounds like the stupidest way to game the system. I would never have thought that they wouldn’t catch the return which will put you under the MSR. I feel like it’s really an amateur move to do something like that to cheat.

        • Curmudgeon says:

          That sounds like something to contact the CFPB about, especially if you meet the requirements with new spending to offset the return.

        • J says:

          I’m sorry to hear that. Amex is overrated and going downhill. I am a current amex card holder but will never be loyal to the brand. They have a closed loop network that generates more fees than other banks yet this is how they treat their customers. Some people speak highly of Amex due to the generous return policy but what else? Occasional targeted Amex Offers? They can’t even fulfill the most basic responsibility as a financial institution to guarantee their customer’s fund access (Ever heard of the infamous financial review?)

    • BW says:

      Well now it’s become unreasonable and they seem to be finding any excuse they can to not pay the bonus. Reminds me of some of these banks offering opening bonuses and then not paying even when all terms are met.

  53. AL says:

    I use grocery store deals pretty regularly for the surpass card as well when I don’t have any other pressing minimum spends to fulfill. The 6x is worth it for me and probably my best grocery card due to the value I get internationally for hhonors. I haven’t had any problems with points posting for regular spend on this card…and I’ve been doing it for a while.

  54. Lisa says:

    DP above saying mortgage payment using plastiq didn’t count. How is that different from paying tuition or taxes where they charge a fee (without plastiq involved)? Will those count? I don’t have Amex but trying to be careful with sign up bonuses for other cards..

  55. Sue says:

    I am not totally new to this, but just need to understand before I do something stupid. If I buy GCs ( using a card that I surely am trying to reach a minimum spend) from my regular grocery store (which happens to be a military commissary) to use at that commissary at some later date, that would be considered MS?

    • Tony says:

      In the eyes of AMEX, yes

      • Gadget says:

        Oh, and last tidbit of knowledge. Get USAA car insurance. It’s likely the lowest price, top notch service, and they accept CC payments for free. Insurance companies are another place that love to accept credit, as they are just happy to accept any money you have in whatever form. No worries.

    • Gadget says:

      It’s considered a cash-like equivalent. I am not sure if the commissary receipts actually get uploaded to AMEX, but it wouldn’t surprise me, since everything is electronic now. I am a commissary shopper myself & ret. Navy vet. Never occurred to me to buy gift cards there. I use my BCP and get 6% off instead.

      If you have the financial resources (i.e. liquid funds), what I suggest doing is pay ahead on things like cell bills, electric/gas bills, and occasionally applying for bank accounts online (not in branch) that accept your particular card. But, bank accounts aren’t a guarantee they will process as a purchase and not a cash advance, sometimes get blocked by the CC for fraud, utilities usually charge a small fee or percentage to use credit (I write it off as the cost of getting the bonus), and cell phones/cable/XM are just glad you are paying it and will gladly accept any over-money you give, up to a limit.

      • Sue says:

        Thanks. Yes, I do all of that except for the bank accounts. I really hate that AMEX considers gift cards that I will use later to be MS. I’m a little concerned to buy GCs at all while under minimum spend reqs.

    • Gadget says:

      Oh, and last tidbit of knowledge. Get USAA car insurance. It’s likely the lowest price, top notch service, and they accept CC payments for free. Insurance companies are another place that love to accept credit, as they are just happy to accept any money you have in whatever form. No worries.

  56. L T says:

    Does Toys R Us do L3 for AMEX in store? I could pay off some student loans with at least 1 GoC gift card and adding a filler item in case they have a filter for exact amount charged.

    For that matter did anyone that get the e-mail do GoC g/c spend at TRU?

  57. Jeffrey says:

    Follow up on: https://www.doctorofcredit.com/amex-clawing-back-signup-bonus-points-gamed-spend/#comment-530806. I thought that was that but today I woke up to see the 50k points were re-added to my account. I’d probably be expecting for a written letter from American Express and if not I guess I’ll just give them a call to see why they changed their mind considering I didn’t meet the spend requirement at the end.

  58. FLL says:

    Latest report of bonus clawed back –

    Refundable ticket bought, canceled it due to payment is coming due. AMEX clawed back the bonus. poster called to protest though his 90 days are coming up with card approved in Oct …

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/29153828-post33.html

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