Posted by Chuck on July 26, 2017
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Published on July 26th, 2017 | by Chuck

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Amex Updates their Terms to Penalize those Gaming the Signup Bonus System

[Reposting since this language has now been added to most Amex cards. List at the end of the post.]

American Express has begun including language in the terms and conditions which allows them to freeze or take away a signup bonus of those gaming or improperly using a signup bonus offer:

To qualify for the 30,000 bonus miles, you must make purchases with your Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card that total $1,000 or more within your first 3 months of Card Membership starting from the date your account is approved. Qualifying purchases can be made by the Basic Card Member and any Additional Card Members on a single Card account. Purchases to meet the spend requirement do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of traveler’s checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments, or purchases of any cash equivalents. Miles will be credited to your account 6-8 weeks after you reach the spend threshold. 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. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us. Additional Card Members on your account are not eligible for this offer. To receive the 30,000 bonus miles, your Card account must be active, in good standing, and not in default at the time of fulfillment.

Qualifying purchases are purchases for goods and services. Qualifying purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply.

Amex includes a number of things here which they may take action against:

  • Used a bonus offer signup page or code that was not intended for you
  • Cancel or downgrade the card within 12 months
  • Cancel or return purchases used to meet the spend threshold
  • Meet the spend with gift card purchases (it always said “purchases or reloading of prepaid cards,” but the more general “purchases of gift cards,” implying all kinds of gift cards, is new)

They allow themselves to remove the bonus points or freeze the points (though not stated, that’s usually resulted in all your MR points being frozen).

Amex is obviously trying to give themselves legal cover for things they’ve already been doing (and probably have wanted to do even more) by freezing points accounts of those who’ve signed up for a card with a leaked signup link that was meant for a specific person or a shared signup code. As well as those who return the purchases used to meet the spend threshold.

But the biggest thing here for most people, I think, is the warning against cancelling or downgrading a card within 12 months. There isn’t really ever a reason to cancel a card within 12 months now that Amex does not prorate the annual fee, but a workaround idea has been to downgrade the card and save part of the annual fee while pocketing the airline credits. This is something I’ve done myself, in limited ways, to save a bit of the annual fee.

Going forward:

  • Be sure the link is public, not with a special code or meant for a specific person. Incognito offers and the like should be just fine since they are meant for whoever gets targeted, so if you got targeted by browsing the Chinese website or by using VPN then you are the legitimate recipient of that targeted offer.
  • Meet the spend legitimately without any returns or the like. I’d recommend even deducting airline credits and Amex Offer credits from the spend.
  • Try not buying any gift cards to meet the minimum spend.
  • Don’t cancel or downgrade within 12 months. After a complete 12 months, you can cancel or downgrade. The annual fee will be refunded if you cancel/downgrade within 30 days of when the statement showing the annual fee was generated.

So far, we’ve found this language added to the Delta Gold card and on the Platinum business card and the Everyday card and Everyday Preferred and Business Gold Rewards and Blue Cash Preferred. It’s not yet showing on Platinum personal, PRG, SPG cards, Blue Cash Everyday, Green card, Hilton, or SimplyCash.

RAT team hard at work…We were forewarned

Hat tip toThe_Albino_Rhino on  r/churning and mia on Flyertalk 



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would this apply to people who * accidentally * misspelled their name with a missing character to get the 100k platinum offer? Not sure since it was linked to my SSN, which means the link is public or didn’t use a special code.

yeah, wondering that too.

This would be “gaming in connection with the welcome bonus”, would it not? Hard to argue against that. As the popular saying goes, “If you have to ask…..”

I’m sure it could be applied, in my opinion this is legal cover for American Express and they will apply it as they see fit. Will it be applied? Who knows…

That’s too risky. My app is pending. Should I cancel and re-apply and sometime down the line and still get the bonus?

That’s a decision you need to make yourself

Found this sentence in Delta card terms like two weeks ago. Interestingly, similar language does not appear in the terms of PRG or Platinum.

I opened and closed PRG and Plat in 2015, now I got their invitation again without lifetime language.

No idea how to mess up with them atm, but probably I will stay away a little bit…

Rudy, next time let us know when you find this sort of thing 😉

Increasing retention offers while cracking down, Amex you’re like my wife, ill never understand you….

Brilliant comment. I was thinking same LOL!

It’s entrapment. They want to catch MS folks and cancel their accounts probably.

Hint: They want good customers. Not gamers.

Easy to understand.

I wonder what role does store GC (Amazon, eBay, etc) plays in here. I know that VGCs are considered cash equivalence and doesn’t count, but how about store GCs?

they count too… They’ve never come down on me for them, but technically they could and did so against some people who had their MRs frozen due to the 100k platinum debacle. They seemed to use whatever they thought they could against those people.

So there are actually DPs for MR taken away because of store GCs? That is really concerning.

My plat 100k was meet by paying cash down for my car so I never had to worry about that. But now I have more spending to meet and I in no way am going to buy another car.

Read a DP that a person’s wife did not receive the 100K Hilton Surpass bonus because AMEX claimed she used the card to pay Federal Income Tax which AMEX only excluded Federal Excise Tax in the T&Cs, Nonetheless, right now the customer was fighting on this.

I think the blogs haven’t picked up about that AMEX considers paying taxes are the same as using cash equivalent.

As for store cards I once had an account manager told me they too, are considered cash equivalent! So be warned.

Got a link to that DP? Would be interested in reading it.

The threshold language is a codification of how their systems are already programmed. See http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/26897765-post351.html

It becomes a huge pain when you have a legitimate reason to return a threshold purchase. Even if you pass the threshold again with other purchases, you will not get the bonus without extensive manual intervention.

wow, crazy, will have to keep this in mind for the future.

not my experience

if amex were to freeze or close account(s), MR pts would be forfeited w/o a time window like 30 days to redeem or xfer out, correct?

I would love to see them get comeuppance for this as Chase did. All it takes is an attorney willing to work to form a class.

Chuck, you said “Don’t cancel or downgrade within 12 months.”, so we should cancel on a day 366 to avoid the second year annual fee? Amex does allow some time to cancel or downgrade to avoid the second year annual fee doesn’t it?

P.S. The answer to this question is most likely posted several times in a different threads, so sorry for asking, but I figured most of the readers know the answer from the top of their heads, and it would be quite useful to see it here for the rest of us.

Thanks a lot!

I believe you got one statement period to close the card and get the AF refunded

I was told by amex rep recently that I have 30 days from the day that the AF posts to cancel and get full refund of my AF.

Yes. Cancel within 30 days to get full refund. After that it’s prorated.

It’s no longer prorated after the 30 day grace period.

I cancelled my Platinum recently.
Approximate dates – AF appeared May 20th, Statement closed the 28th. Called early June to negotiate retention bonus, nothing worthwhile. Paid charges down to $450. Counted 27 or 28 days after statement closing date and called again. No good retention bonus so cancelled the card. A few days later after closing I logged in and confirmed a $450 credit. So, held onto the card for 365 days + just under 4 weeks.

About time. People are cheap when it comes to paying the AFs and finding other loopholes.

That IS the point of this game, isn’t it?!

Sooooo they raise point offers to attract customers, but want to make sure they don’t attract people that want points? Funny. It’s like setting a mouse trap with cheese and putting a sign on it that the cheese is only for dogs.

That is very funny comment… especially that Amex wants those offers to be traps… They want customers to bite and never leave 🙂

They want to attract profitable customers, I personally don’t have a problem with it. Just means we need to be smarter than ever.

They want people who don’t game the system. How is this difficult to understand?

Lol, Ya I know, I was making a joke. But my point kinda remains the same…if you want people who don’t game the system, you could offer no sign up bonus at all. Amex wants the benefits from exploiting people’s desire for points, but not the costs that come with it.

Yes, I would think many here wait and cancel shortly after the AF appears. So, you are ROUGHLY at 12 months. Hope that does not cause concern. By the way, I think anyone that cancels within a few months of actually opening and getting the bonus needs to be slapped up the side of the head – LOL!

The terms say WITHIN 12 months, so it shouldn’t apply if you cancel at, say, day 376.

Unless they want to say that you’re gaming for sign-up bonuses. If you’ve done that on two cards, they could make a case that you have a pattern of it. I’d guess that would be good enough for them to claw back your points.

Well, they can “determine” you are gaming at their “sole discretion”. And if they want to claw back points so badly, they can find so many other excuses in addition to closing after year 1.

why? that’s just smart churning. I got the delta plat, did the spend in the first month, then canceled and saved $200. oh and I also got the $100 statement credit in the first month too 😉

You’re the type they are after and don’t want.

You-and many others (see FT thread on May 9, 2016 Platinum link) are likely the reason these provisions were put in. You agreed to terms (the fee) and then reneged on your word.

Smart churning? Some would say that. Others would say “self-centered” (pick a derogatory noun).

In any event, Amex has shut it and more down, with a crew of RATS working on narrowing more rules.

Thanks a lot.

Curious at your reaction. Are you a non-churner? Why are you here?

With all issuers? Or do you mean only for annual fee cards?

I won’t mess with Chase or Amex as their bonuses are so lucrative. But for non-AF cards with other issuers, probably won’t hesitate. I also don’t keep non-AF cards open but I know there’s another school of thought on that.

Hmmmmmmm maybe I shouldnt have taken that 75k hilton surpass upgrade and downgraded 2 months later to get the annual fee back…whatever YOLO

To be honest, I feel like I have so little to use at this point with Amex and their once per lifetime bonus rule that I’ve become more and more egregious with my churning antics…go ahead and shut me down

lol, don’t wish for that til all the pts are 0 in the accounts

They cannot take-back pts to a 3rd party like delta or hilton, correct?

Of course they CAN. whether they will is another issue.

what do you mean of course they can. Amex can’t but they can try to get Hilton/Delta to comply

I mean… they absolutely CAN… assuming you haven’t spent your hilton/delta points.

even if you already spent it, they can cancel the reservation and clawback. There is precedence for this, though only in extreme cases so far.

my point is amex doesn’t have access to delta or hilton system. they would have to get delta or hilton to do it

@Sam

Amex almost certainly does have the ability to pull back from Delta, HIlton, SPG, etc. While I don’t have a specific data point for Amex I did have a case with another bank where I had a small legitimate refund in a month where I had otherwise zero spend on the card so closed with a slightly negative balance. The miles were clawedback automatically on statement close from the airline. I am also aware of much larger clawbacks due to “abuse” though again not with Amex. While the risk is certainly very small so far it isn’t 0.

If Chase has done that with UA (and has happened to myself in the past) I am sure AMEX can do this with Hilton or Delta.

guess that amex may also penalize if its new acct group suggested that a cc needs to close (limit 5) before another acct to be approved?

I’m concerned about the store gift cards possibility. I met over half of my SPG Biz spend with discounted store GCs but thought they counted for spend.

My SPG Biz bonus has been delayed for 6.5 weeks but I didn’t think it was for that reason… Do we know when this change went into effect? 35k SPG is a ton to lose out on.

In my experience with Amex Bonuses (and I had 1 on Business Gold Rewards, and 2 on SPG Personal – for myself and my spouse) the bonuses showed up on Amex portal almost immediately after the spending requirements were met. Unlike Chase (both UR and Rapid Rewards) which posted when the statement closes.

SPG bonus points even moved to the SPG account before the statement closed (few days after they appeared on Amex website).

Regular Amex points (SPG or MR) received for spending do not post anywhere until the statement closes, and in case of MR they are even delayed by one statement.

Not sure if it is hard rule, but that was always the case for me in my 3 data points… so if it has been 6 weeks since you “met” the spending requirements I would at least researched it with Amex CSR… it may be not too late to put more organic spending on the cards to get the bonus (if GC are not counted).

Good luck.

Thanks, but it’s too late now – 3 months already past from account opening date and despite multiple calls and CSRs saying I met the threshold already and manually counting purchases the points are still missing. Already got my spend points just not the bonus.

Sorry to hear that… In that case I would not dig through the reasons why they did not (especially not with Amex CSR – do not give them any ideas), but keep calling and politely asking to fix the problem… and add the points. Hope they can do that.

Pls let us know if that works.
Good Luck.

BTW, the bonuses were tiered… 25K for 5K, and 10K for 3K more (or something like that.. for personal it was 25 for 3K, and10 for 2K). For the second tier you have 6 months. Not sure if it would work, but may be you can meet the second tier requirement still (?)

Although I would not open that can of worms until I completely give up on receiving it as is.

Good luck!

I’m in the exact same scenario. My spg 35k points posted immediately and my personal spg bonus have yet to post and it’s almost 6 months. I’ve received multiple explanations including I’m not eligible bc I’ve had this card before (false) and it should post any day (so far false). I’ll be really issued if they don’t honor the 35k bonus.

This same thing is happening to me but my personal SPG bonus posted and my Biz SPG bonus has not just he earned spend points I have. I called and spoke with a CSR and they said they could not find a promotional offer attached with my application. I said well shit there must be because that’s what got me to sign up with you guys. They issued an investigation with their marketing department three weeks ago and I’ve yet to received my bonus….

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