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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oldest most voted

Flame (@guest_487415)
October 4, 2017 11:45

Earn and Burn – Don’t accumulate.

Cameron (@guest_661318)
October 22, 2018 13:09

Does this work? I never cancel a card until I use up the rewards as a rule.

Tom (@guest_472238)
September 6, 2017 07:25

Will they claw back points on plat cards closed within 12 months that were opened without the new T&C ?

Lesson Learned
Lesson Learned (@guest_452703)
August 3, 2017 14:23

When taking advantage of an upgrade offer (that appear in your account when you log in), look closely at the offer terms to verify whether the following language appears:”Offer is available for first-time
upgrades to the new [insert card name: e.g. Business Platinum Card] only and for one Card account only.” We had previously upgraded, and then downgraded the business card to a Gold; and after being offered an upgrade back to Platinum, we accepted, met the spend, got the points, and the 50k were clawed back within days. Not exciting, and Amex reps had no remorse.

sa13 (@guest_452517)
August 3, 2017 10:00

does this apply to new applications or they will apply this to all the card holders?

Arlington Traveler
Arlington Traveler (@guest_450997)
August 1, 2017 17:19

Just a comment here about lack of retention offers. If you are someone who uses the Platinum card fro the benefits, but do not spend on it, chances are you will not get a retention offer. Amex wants the person who puts much/all of their spend on the Platinum card. They are not going to give retention bonuses to the folks who put no or minimal spending on the Plat card because until recently it had not category bonuses.

Travis (@guest_450924)
August 1, 2017 14:49

Are there any recent DPs of AMEX excluding cc funding of bank accounts as cash equivalents for spend requirement?

farsighted99 (@guest_449903)
July 31, 2017 11:29

I got a Mercedes Benz Plat card a year ago. Just got the $475 bill for next year a few days ago. I don’t really want the card anymore. I was thinking of leasing an MB and using one of the benefits; but that’s off the table now and don’t feel like paying $275 (and next year even more) for the continued privilege of keeping this card. Don’t really use Uber, and I already have a Plat Business card. So if I cancel before the last bill is due, I won’t get my 75K MR pulled back?

Is this a new rule? I got my card a year ago.

William Charles
July 31, 2017 20:19

You should be fine.

J. Sarayda Shapiro
J. Sarayda Shapiro (@guest_449892)
July 31, 2017 11:14

I made a $1600 travel purchase than I might want to cancel. Without that purchase, I would not have made my minimum spend on my new SPG Amex. These are Starpoints, not AMR, so do you think there’s any sort of clawback Amex can try? If so, do you think there’s some time period after which canceling will be “safe”? (i.e., no clawback.) The travel provider will let me cancel, at no penalty, until sometime in Spring 2018. (I forget the exact date.)

ucipass (@guest_447615)
July 27, 2017 07:18

I have accidentally applied for amex plat business card, got approved, but then I applied for the personal version and got approved too. I would like to cancel the business even before activation.

Is there anything wrong with that?

Justin (@guest_447556)
July 27, 2017 02:39

Would these terms replace any terms that were accepted or offered when approved for cards before these new terms came out? It shouldn’t right?