Posted by Chuck on December 5, 2017
Manufactured Spending

Published on December 5th, 2017 | by Chuck


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.

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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.

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
Information Booth

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.

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

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

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.

what do they constitute MSing? Is a single $200 VGC MSing? two? I mean with holiday season what do these CC companies expect, zero gift cards?

Some people do $5k+ in a statement period of visa gift cards

Did you mean 25k? lol 5k is Child’s Play 😉

Milesperday is back luck bryan of the credit card game…

Seriosuly? He’s one of the most unethical bloggers in the business. Not sure bad luck is the right word here…

I think of him as a destructive testing machine.

GlenGarry GlenRoss
GlenGarry GlenRoss

Not only that, he has a nasty personality to boot.

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?

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 .

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?

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.

This was regular spending, not a sign up bonus.

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.

That’s good. Hopefully the points are not clawed back

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.

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.

same. only MS ongoing

same question and wonder what are others experience for ongoing spend in Grocery category for increase MR points. Are relatively purchases of $500 VGCs at grocery stores getting clawed back or triggering RAT?

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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

“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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

So far no email from AmEx. Touch wood!

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.

It stays on your CR for ten years after closure. So you’d probably be okay from a credit score standpoint.

Pretty sure he means age of accounts credit history

Yes, and they continue to age 10 years after they are closed, so there would be no short-medium term impact and in the long term the other accounts have aged too.

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

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.

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.

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.

> 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…

2nd AmEx Victim

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.”

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

There’s sabotagers on Reddit.

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

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