AMEX Is Paying Close Attention to Folks Who Don’t Play Nice!

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Via View From the Wing, American Express may start cracking down on folks who sign-up for credit cards just for quick miles!

AMEX has changed the language in the offer terms on all 3 Delta AMEX credit cards (and it appears they’re continuing to change the language on more cards!).  It indicates that they’re paying attention to whether or not folks are opening cards just for the sign-up bonus.  Or those who use shady techniques to earn lots of miles and points.

AMEX Is Paying Close Attention To Folks Who Dont Play Nice
Sign-up Bonuses Are the Fastest Way to Earn Miles and Points. But If You Abuse the System, AMEX Might Take the Bonus Back!

I’ll let you know what this means for you.  And show you why most folks in the miles & points hobby should NOT be affected by this!

AMEX Wants You to Use Your Card Responsibly

Link:   AMEX Delta Offer Terms

Early last year I let you know that AMEX was now restricting all their sign-up bonuses to once per lifetime.  And now they’re making clear that they may discipline anyone opening their cards just for the sign-up bonus, including returning items after meeting minimum spending requirements.

The offer terms for several AMEX credit cards says:

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 miles to your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.

So AMEX does NOT want folks to:

  • Apply for an offer that wasn’t meant for them – It’s okay to apply for publicly available AMEX cards.  But if you apply for a targeted offer that you did NOT receive, you may raise a flag with American Express
  • Cancel or downgrade a card within 12 months of account opening – AMEX doesn’t want people opening a card for the welcome bonus and then immediately canceling the card.  Sign-up bonuses are meant to attract new customers, after all!
  • Make purchases they intend to be refunded for, just to meet minimum spending requirements – If you buy a $3,000 TV just to meet minimum spending, then return it after you’ve received your sign-up bonus, AMEX will likely take back the bonus!
AMEX Is Paying Close Attention To Folks Who Dont Play Nice
If You’re Buying Items to Meet Minimum Spending With the Intention of Returning Them After You Get Your Sign-Up Bonus, AMEX May Take Back the Bonus, and Cancel Your Account!

This language is NOT written in the offer terms of all AMEX cards, but I suspect AMEX is watching for anyone gaming their system, regardless of which card they open!

What Does This Mean for You?

It’s important to note that nothing has really changed.  Applying for offers that aren’t intended for you, and buying items you intend to return just to meet minimum spending requirements, have always been sketchy things to do.

And all credit card issuers frown on folks opening a credit card, receiving the sign-up bonus, and then immediately canceling the card.  The only difference is that AMEX has now added this information in the offer terms.

That said, I do NOT believe that AMEX will flag folks who open a card and cancel it close to their first anniversary.  It’s perfectly reasonable to take ~10 to 12 months to use the card and its benefits, then evaluate whether it’s worth keeping and / or paying the annual fee!  That has nothing to do with gaming the system.

I always tell folks to keep the card for 10+ months before you decide to cancel.  Lots of American Express cards have great ongoing benefits, and you may find that you save more money with a card than its annual fee!

Bottom Line

American Express is now plainly telling folks that they may take back bonus points from folks who:

  • Apply for an offer that wasn’t intended for them
  • Cancel or downgrade a card within 12 months of account opening
  • Make purchases they intend to be refunded for, just to meet minimum spending requirements

None of this is new policy, but now AMEX isn’t giving folks any opportunity to plead ignorance!  Because it’s written in the offer terms.

As long as you behave ethically, you should have no problem!

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