Posted by William Charles on January 22, 2020
Airline Rewards

Published on January 22nd, 2020 | by William Charles

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An Update On The American Airlines Shut Downs

American Airlines has shut down a number of frequent flyers loyalty accounts due to perceived credit card rewards “abuse”. I promised an update on this situation so here we are. It seems that the pattern these shutdowns are following is as follows:

  • Account is ‘locked’
  • Reservations are cancelled

Some other things to note:

  • Previously it was uncertain what would happen to existing reservations but unfortunately it’s all bad news with everything booked via miles being cancelled for people with shut down accounts. This includes people mid itinerary
  • If you’ve had reservations cancelled some people have had the taxes/fees automatically refunded, but others will need to contact American Airlines directly to get these refunded.
  • The easiest way to check if you are locked is by trying to book a ticket. If the ticket is ticketed (and not just pending) then you’re not shut down. You can also try to call in and see if there is a note on your account about corporate security (personally I don’t think this is a good idea as the less eyes on your account the better).
  • Citi is claiming that have nothing to do with these account shut downs at all and there is nothing that can be done on their end
  • Shut downs are coming through extremely slowly, it seems that American Airlines corporate security is manually processing these and are only able to do a few per day. The shut downs are ongoing so even if you haven’t been shut down yet, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.

I think this should go without saying, but don’t use the mailers that aren’t targeted to you to try and bypass the rules any longer. It will lead to a shut down.



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Tim
Tim

Don’t use the mailers? Mailers are targeted and therefore legit.

Tim
Tim


Don’t use mailers that weren’t intended for you. You happy?

Geez

sdsearch
sdsearch

At least one person (maybe more?) apparently got shut down for doing one public application and then two mailers addressed directly to them, all for the same card. Because Citi was assuming that it was impossible for someone to legitimately get 3 of the same card (Citi AA Plat) within 2 years without using mailers addressed to someone else, they shut this person down.

So because mailers the way most recent Citi AA “heavy” churners used them (not just mailers for real other people, but setting up accounts for their pet, their houseplant, their lampshade, etc, at AA, JUST to trigger mailers) were not legit, and for most people were the only way to get the same card 3+ times in 2 years, AA is apparently assuming that ANYONE who got the same card 3+ times in 2 years MUST have been doing something not legit. They don’t investigate that far, they just assume and shut down.

So that’s why you need to be careful even if you do get mailers addressed to you.

mk712
mk712

“apparently got shut down for doing one public application and then two mailers addressed directly to them, all for the same card. Because Citi was assuming that it was impossible for someone to legitimately get 3 of the same card”

You’re the one assuming things: no one has ever received such a detailed shutdown explanation, and as mentioned in the post Citi is even saying they have nothing to do with any of this.

Sevillada
Sevillada

I think sdsearch meant AA assumed, rather than Citi.
What sdsearch is saying that someone got shutdown while only using 100% legitimate options

mk712
mk712

I understood that.

My point is that 1. if out of hundreds of data points you have one person say they’ve been shutdown using only legitimate options, that data point is most likely an outlier and should be ignored, and 2. shutdown explanations are never as detailed as what he mentioned, which means that person may have been shutdown for a different reason or be completely lying, again bringing me back to 1.

FFSam
FFSam

not just one person. My wife and I used 3 Citi AA Mail invitation addressed to us over 1.5 years. We are locked but not yet shutdown. The advertised mail for sign up has our name on it. We thought it was ok to apply for 2-3 cards a year (5/24?). We are frequent flyers and fly for both business and leisure. ….Becareful everyone going forward, you might already be locked. I knew that we were locked when trying to book an award ticket but went pending for 5 days. We have upcoming travel this summer on AA award tickets and already booked back up travel tickets. The anxiety is getting to me. I hear from various blogs via google searches that AA is canceling flights 4-7 days before the award travel date. I already told my co-workers and friends who fly AA frequently to double check their account if they are “locked”.

Ryan
Ryan

It’s more than just one DP. Of course we have no real way to be 100% sure that an anonymous poster on the internet isn’t lying or withholding info. Some private groups do have the advantage of having a level of confidence in members of course, but the general public isn’t privy to that info.

But I don’t think the outliers should be ignored. We’re interested in what AA’s “floor” for shutdowns is – and also whether there are any errors in AA’s actions. It’s possible AA’s minimum for shutdown is fluid or subject to factors we haven’t discerned yet. It’s also possible AA erroneously shut down some folks who didn’t actually meet their criteria. Either, especially the latter, are of importance particularly in any actions against AA.

sdsearch
sdsearch

You’re missing the point that the other outlier is the tricky timing of getting mailers addressed directly to you after applying for the same card under a public offers. It can happen (because at most banks mailers are scheduled months before you get them), but it happens fairly rarely at Citi, and so only a tiny fraction of people who used any kinds of mailers COULD BE in that situation.

So with an outlier scenario, how can you expect tons of datapoints???

Yet if the people who have access to the private Reddit thread about this got it right, there ARE multiple datapoints related to this scenario (though, as would be expected, fairly small numbers of them) in that private Reddit thread, just not necessarily multiple first-hand datapoints in PUBLIC places (ie, OUTSIDE of that private Reddit thread).

Billy Bob
Billy Bob

What about the one for my cat??? I put it right by her food bowl, but she’s been ignoring it for weeks.

LC
LC

Nice timing, I and many others on reddit submitted complaints to the DOT (Department of Transportation. I highly suggest anyone involved consider doing this too. Keep AA accountable and let the DOT decide if AA broke any laws or pressure them into easing up.

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint

Below is DOT response for those that are wondering. I find one thing interesting when they mention “Generally, we will pursue enforcement action on the basis of a number of complaints which may indicate a pattern of practice of violating the law.”

https://imgur.com/a/GRPhn9Y

MrObvious
MrObvious

Basically, don’t count on anything, but in a very rare case something could happen. Because we really have no teeth to enforce anything. Yours will just add to AA’s stats.

andy
andy

It is very likely AA has some ambigious language in their agreement to the program that will allow them to do damn near anything. You know, the same language that allows any corporation to do whatever they want to any of us.

This is the world we live in. CFPB became toothless once Trump wrecked it, so there’s not a whole lot of hope left here. I doubt the DOT gives 2 shits about any of this…

MrObvious
MrObvious

Of course CFPB only has jurisdiction over financial institutions – and AA is not a financial institution..

Jake Mueller
Jake Mueller

Dude, American Airlines’ Q4 2019 financial report will be available tomorrow.

We’ll get to know the difference in liabilities pertaining to AAdvantage. What I’m curious about is whether AA will come clean about forfeited miles (bonus + card-spending), or if it’ll include those miles in the recognition of revenue via the loyalty program figure. In case of the latter, it’d be engaging in fraud because it’s obligated to reimburse Citi & Barclays for the forfeited miles that were earned via credit card bonuses and credit-card spending. Then we can report this fraud to the SEC as well. If AA does indeed end up reimbursing Citi & Barclays (it hasn’t done that yet), then Citi & Barclays will be liable for deceptive marketing, so you’ll get some money for your miles if you hadn’t used mailers.

Anyway, I’m sure that AA will be engaging in fraud. I have drafted emails to send to Citi & Barclays executives, and journalists who cover credit cards & loyalty programs. AA’s fraud will also help me with my small-claims court lawsuit. AA CorpSec has pissed me off to the point that I’ve more than enough motivation to see things through.

LC
LC

One does not mess with Jake from State farm! He will rip you AA new one.

Jake Mueller
Jake Mueller

I just looked up what you meant by that State Farm thingy.

notanaaflyer
notanaaflyer

>If AA does indeed end up reimbursing Citi & Barclays (it hasn’t done that yet), then Citi & Barclays will be liable for deceptive marketing, so you’ll get some money for your miles if you hadn’t used mailers.

How many people were caught up in the dragnet who did not use mailers? So far in nearly two months there has been no major break in the story that would suggest anyone has been able to plead a case against AA and win.

Hari
Hari

Folks only trying to help the environment and not wasting mailers that would have been thrown away for nothing. AA gotta appreciate them.

Mark
Mark

Good point.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Greta loves you. Now AA is just ensuring she keeps loving you by lowering your carbon footprint.

andy
andy

Did someone loop Greta in?!? She might could champion our cause!

Dan
Dan

Lmao

Frogger
Frogger

She doesn’t want us to fly so she would not be in our side,

danny
danny

has anyone tried to cash out for gift cards? i know this is done manually and could potentially be a unwise move…

K
K

If you’re not locked some people are getting the GC’s to process however there’s also speculation that it leads to a set of eyes from AA on your account and could lead to an expedited shut down.

JB SanDiego
JB SanDiego

My account is not locked nor did I use the mailer’s. Although, my gut feeling is that those locked accounts are temporary. If they were making determination on a per account, then, by now we would be getting DPs in those accounts. I believe they made a determination from the get go and either closed accounts or locked them for who knows how long? I believe the waiting period may be months away, but I don’t think those accounts will get closed. As they could have done that from the beginning and why wait? To check each individual account? I doubt that and that would be extremely costly.

Nick
Nick

I wish I had your optimism.

Mike L
Mike L

My feeling is that right now the front line “corporate security” people are looking at accounts, banning the most egregious ones and submitting any questionable ones up the ladder – locking them in the process.

danny
danny

is this really cheaper than just nixing the mailers all together and just having the already earned miles used?

Tim
Tim

But they’re not only banning egregious ones. Shutdowns are occuring slowly across the whole spectrum, from people with 3 cards in a year, all the way up to the most heavy hitters. Whatever the minimum criteria is for getting locked, people roughly at that level have also been shutdown, so there’s no reason to believe that they’re showing any leniency for “questionable” accounts.

Unless they have some kind of change of heart along the way, it doesn’t look like they’re leaving any gray area here.

Benjamin Turner
Benjamin Turner

Your points are gone. Your denial is cute.

knick1959
knick1959

Your density is noted.

Cilia
Cilia

Bravo AA! You finally did something right for once!

Alex Bad
Alex Bad

You must be really fun at parties

Cilia
Cilia

I don’t party with cheaters and thieves.

Frank Rizzo
Frank Rizzo

We need a thumbs down option.

Jenny
Jenny

It’s actually even been locking those accounts that had multiple legitimate bonuses (no mailers).

GreenIsles
GreenIsles

Can you be more specific about the details for these situations?

Cilia
Cilia

Of course they can’t…because those situations don’t exist!

Ted
Ted

DoC is your account locked?

The problem most people have is the lack of communication. Tell people their accounts are locked and book alternative plans. Don’t cancel two days before trip especially during the holidays.

That’s just bad business practice.

Ferris
Ferris

Well I mean I hardly feel bad for these people. I read about the whole scheme a year ago back or more, it was pretty obvious it would end badly given how hardcore some were churning it. Some people were getting in the upwards of 10+ cards per year. There’s a line between churning and fraudulent abuse and this may have crossed it. Part of the blame has to go to Citi for the excessive approvals, but this behavior certainly crosses some moral boundaries.

It’s hardly bad business practice to cancel someone’s flights when they signed up for a CC every month with mailers addressed to their imaginary pets and accumulated 500K-2M+ pts by doing this.

Dan - Legal Bank Robber
Dan - Legal Bank Robber

What fraud is going on, dont be silly Ferris

Benjamin Turner
Benjamin Turner

Just admit you’re jealous you didn’t find out about it until it was over.

Tolikfox
Tolikfox

Trust me we are not jealous of you dumbasses. Just pissed that you caused a bunch of headaches for us who didnt actually do anything wrong

MrObvious
MrObvious

Curious, if you didn’t do anything, what headaches is this whole thing causing you?

tolikfox
tolikfox

I signed up for 3 AA cards (1 biz) since 2017 with Citi and Barclays. Never any mailers. My account is not locked but obviously I am concerned that it will be.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Why? FOMO?

andy
andy

what are you 12 years old?!?
No one is jealous of shit. Most of us in this game were well aware of the grAAvy train. Some of us chose to abuse it hard, most of us didn’t. Reap what you sow. I’m sure those that abused it hard already redeemed many amazing deals in J/F, and good for them. I got no love for any corporation, let alone a bank, and not a big fan of AA either. But no one is jealous of shit. We’re just out here looking for info on how this is progressing and hoping we don’t get caught up in in.

Grow up…

Ted
Ted

Not sure if you are aware, back in the day you could you multiple aa cards on the same day.

There are people with 75 + cards each

Jason
Jason

Well actually the double browser trick still was working last month…two apps and two approvals and two bonuses at the same time for the same person. It just never got out in public.

Lisa
Lisa

Ferris, I have AA zero cards. It sounds like perhaps people who were playing by the rules might be being swept up with those who were more creative. Imagine you are stranded mid trip with small children with no notice, no explanation and no appeal. You waste your time beating your head against a brick wall trying to deal with American Airlines with no idea what’s going on.
Meanwhile, you run out of diapers.

Ferris
Ferris

I have seen no evidence that people who were playing by the rules are being shutdown. It appears to be a narrative some people in this comment section have said to try and bash AA. We all know when we dabble into things like this, we are risking shutdown (on different levels). I never tried it because I have no use for AA miles and it’s very hard to sell them without getting caught as it is so it was fairly obvious this would end badly given AA is ban happy on selling points and thus brokers don’t even deal with them.

Ryan
Ryan

Just because you’ve ignored or not tried to investigate, doesn’t mean there is no evidence of such. Because there is.

MrObvious
MrObvious

You should try selling your fictional stories. I hear people make millions selling fiction on Amazon.

Cilia
Cilia

What a fun, fictional story you have started there! Tell us more….

James
James

10 accounts per family member with 5 in one household, we are talking millions points a year, end of it was very predictable.

Jake Mueller
Jake Mueller

Well, the thing is, there are two parties that were defrauded by AA:

1. Citi & Barclays, who should be reimbursed for the forfeited miles they had bought.
2. People whose accounts were locked/terminated without having used any mailers.

JF
JF

I wouldn’t expect him to confirm/deny that, but agreed on the frustrating part being waiting with no explanation.

I saw stories of people at the airport with a ticketed itinerary getting turned away at boarding. With that out there I can’t book AA with any confidence even if I didn’t use mailers addressed to other people.

ian
ian

bad business practice is an understatement – it’s borderline criminal recklessness

Angela
Angela

This is my thought. If Citi buys the points from AA and Citi approved the application and awarded the points, what harm can AA claim? How did anyone defraud AA? Citi, maybe could claim harm but I mean your Social Security number ensures they know you hold a card already or that you have opened and closed (how many ever). If Citi says they have nothing to do with it, then again I ask, how can AA claim any harm or foul?

Jenny
Jenny

Citi can sue AA as well because of the million dollars payments to AA that amounted to zilch (forfeited miles).

ecl1ps0
ecl1ps0

any other way to check if shutdown other than by going to actually book something? all my miles seem to still be there

A
A

Call AA from a known phone number. If you get transferred to an agent, you are locked. If you get the normal getting, asking what you would like to do, you aren’t locked.

ecl1ps0
ecl1ps0

like the number on the back of my card? called one and it just went over the usual info with my balance

Mike
Mike

1 -800-433-7300………….tell the AA IVR you want “account info” then “miles balance” If it asks for your zip code and reads your AA balance you are not locked..

debit
debit

This is a total witch hunt. A sitting card holder cannot be held liable for any crime. You do not need to produce any documents or transcripts. Just assert your executive privilege and refuse to cooperate with american airlines. The people at citi are just dumbasses. They will continue to support you even though it’s obvious that you don’t have their best interests in mind. But they will continue to give you their cards only to spite the other credit card companies.

Sam
Sam

agreed. Vote Sitting Cardholder 2020!

debit
debit

Let the sitting card holder grab your wife’s cat.

andy
andy

are you rich?!?

Ivan X

I see what you did there. +1

MoreSun
MoreSun

Fwiw locks appear to be rolling so just because you aren’t locked now doesn’t mean you won’t be next week. People who weren’t locked a few weeks ago (successfully booked flights) are now finding themselves locked and unable to book flights. Nobody locked has been unlocked from what I’ve read in various groups.

Basically, AA is coming for anyone with multiple bonuses it’s just a matter of when they catch you. And they if they catch you right before your return trip stranding you halfway around the world with your kids they will still cancel your ticket/s- so have a backup in place if you’re at risk. Good luck folks!

anne
anne

What happens with people who also got miles from Starwood point transfers? It is bad if they close those accounts with miles earned from other avenues.

MoreSun
MoreSun

When an account is closed all miles are taken- even if you bought them. Whether you bought them from AA or earned them flying, shopping, cc bonuses, bank bonuses or transferred them from a program like SPG they are gone.

anne
anne

My point is that if AA does that, it seems that they will cross the line because those are legit miles. I know AA does not care about it. Just my thought!

MoreSun
MoreSun

No “if”. AA “is” doing that. And they do not give one darn about a “line”.

blah blah
blah blah

“This includes people mid itinerary”‘

If someone got stuck in a war zone or a place rampant with the new SARS virus and caused casualties , AA could be having a lot of fun with its legal team.

MoreSun
MoreSun

Last I checked AA wasn’t flying to Syria and as freaked as everyone is about the China virus the casualty rate appears quite low…

Dan
Dan

The update we need is on any litigation or arbitration claims against AA.

Ted
Ted

There are lack of regulation around frequent flier programs.

I would focus on local smalls claim and hope for a settlement with AA.

Ryan
Ryan

There are things in the works by some folks on the legal side, but they’re not discussing in public for obvious reasons.

A number of DoT complaints have been filed. People are also closing their Citi AA cards and telling the Citi CSR why – because AA has locked or shut down their AAdvantage account.

Incog AAdvisor
Incog AAdvisor

This.
Thanks to the Ginsberg SCOTUS decision, airlines have *zero* culpability, responsibility, nor vulnerability in any scenario involving frequent flyer miles.
Banks, OTOH, are regulated (for now) and subject to oversight.
The best (and only, it seems) course of action is to aggressively and immediately engage Citi.
Citi is incentivized to add accounts to show business vitality, Citi chose to issue invitations, Citi operated an IT infrastructure that permitted the issuance of these accounts, and Citi transferred the miles to American.
Discovery will be enlightening- what cost basis does Citi and American use for miles? What communications took place between the two entities leading up to the closures? Did Citi have any advance warning? Did Citi receive any fees or other benefits while being in possession of this information and willfully chose NOT to communicate this to their customers?

Jake Mueller
Jake Mueller

Yeah, but AA is liable to Citi & Barclays, who had bought many of those miles.

Jenny
Jenny

Request your (preferably Republican) Congressperson to escalate the issue to the Transportation Secretary’s office. AA is already in shambles. Lobbyists for other airlines will rejoice if you tell them the story as well.

john
john

They locked my aa account. So, I just closed my citi priority account and will close both of my CC as soon as a few transactions post. That’s well over 50k in cash that can go somewhere else and it will allow all my CC transactions to earn points in reward programs that I can actually redeem.

It’s not much but, going forward, I prefer to let Chase/BOA earn all the processing fees from my transactions.

Mike
Mike

IMO every person should close every AA card they have open, we did in December.

MG
MG

Has anyone been shut down who didn’t use mailers at all? I did not, but I have a lot of miles from many bonuses (Citi card, Barclay Card, both business versions) over the past couple of years.

wyoglobetrotter
wyoglobetrotter

This is my question as well!

anne
anne

Same here and I also got AA miles from Starwood point transfers in the past and Marriott last year.

luv2vacay
luv2vacay

Yes, there are folks shutdown who used zero mailers (only public links).

Billy Bob
Billy Bob

I never used a mailer and have had three SUBs (one Citi and two Barclays) in the last 30 months, two business and one personal. I can still access my account but don’t know if it’s locked.

However, I recently flew on a one-way award ticket (Jan 5) and distinctly remember checking in and confirming my seat the day before flying. When I was actually boarding the plane (after security, obviously), I was pulled out of line and told that I was not checked in. My seat was also occupied by someone else. I was given a new seat (exit row, so not unhappy) while temporarily removed from the line, but they handled it in less than a minute and I was down the gangplank. Hadn’t even heard of the ‘shutdown’ situation at that time. No upcoming plans but I guess I’ll just wait and see. My applications came from in-flight offers (at least one) and otherwise temporary better-than-usual offers (70K, for example).

So, was my little glitch due to my account being shut down? I was allowed to board straight away but I wonder if because I was right there in line whether they expedited me through rather than deal with me after telling me I couldn’t fly. We’ll see…

I booked these on 12/3 I wanted to add.

Ryan
Ryan

Some, yes. Also a few who used mailers actually addressed the themselves.

The Value Traveler
The Value Traveler

Yes, this is also my question ; I have actually received a mailer last week , and am tempted to apply for it. The last time I had a Citi AA card was 2 yrs ago. So does this count as ‘churning’ to them?

Paolo
Paolo

Why would shut down happen to people that legit obtained the card and SUB (no MS)? I don’t understand

neyat nystrom
neyat nystrom

GUYS! STOP LETTING AMERICAN AIRLINES (AA) TAKE OUR POINTS WITHOUT CAUSE. I’ve spoken to three lawyers about this and will definitely be taking american airlines to small claims court if they shutdown my account. I’m currently locked with about 700 thousand miles. And yes, I got lots of sign up bonuses with the CITI mailers that I got from friends. here are EIGHT REASONS why you should take AA to court too if they shutdown your act. 1) AA will only stop seizing and zeroing accounts when the bleed from civil litigation outweighs the benefit of zeroing acts. Simple economics. Stop expecting them to care about you. They dont. They care about profits only and so long as it’s profitable to continue to zero out acts, they will continue to do so. So how to make it less profitable for them? SUE! that’s it. stop ranting or filing a complaint with the DOT, FTC or the CFPB. The only thing is to hit them where it hurts, financially. 2) Terms and conditions (T&Cs) allow them to take the points. WRONG! AA can write whatever it wants in their T&Cs. Doesn’t mean it’s legal. I know this personally b/c I sued Walmart in small claims court. They lost even though their T&C clearly allowed them to do what they did. Why? Because judges and the law decide what’s legal, not the T&Cs. DONT LET THE T&Cs scare you. 3) AA breached of the covenant of good faith. Google this term: “covenant of good faith”. You’ll see clearly how AA has acted unfairly. 4) Unless you created fake accounts for pets or dead people, there is NO fraud or misrepresentation. Remember, these CITI mailers did not have any verbiage that they were non-transferrable. There is a difference between loopholes and outright fraud and unless you lied or created fake acts for dead people or pets, there was no fraud or misrepresentation 5) Lastly. there are lots of data points of people suing in small claims court and winning against companies, even when the company was acting according to their terms and conditions. 6) Here is data point of a guy who won against CITI in small claims court. this was posted to another website: “Sue AA. While the T&Cs may say that they can take your points at anytime for any reason, judges hate arbitrary forfeitures. Citi “stole” 400,000 TYP from me… Read more »

MrObvious
MrObvious

TL;DR

Dima
Dima

agree with all your points, but the problem is in most states the claim max is only $3000 🙁 700K miles is worth much more than $3K……. and many ppl are going to lose more than 700K…. how did you get around this and had Citi pay you $6000+ for the TYP loss?

Stryker
Stryker

Small Claims 3K limit shouldn’t stop you from filing a lawsuit. 3K is more than zero (what you get if you don’t file a case). More importantly, AA needs to lose at least one case and that breaks the dam.

Dima
Dima

yes, but $3000 for 2mm miles is way too little. still makes sense to file, i was just wondering if there is a way to sue for more…….

Ted
Ted

15000 in my county

David
David

Definitely will sue small claims. Limit in TN is $25,000 so I’m good! 👌🏼👍🏼👍🏼

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