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Is American Express Clawing Back Upgrade Bonuses Too?

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American Express Clawing Back Upgrade Bonuses

Is American Express Clawing Back Upgrade Bonuses Too?

There have been a lot of American Express upgrade offers going around lately.  The Aspire and other Hilton cards, Blue Cash Preferred, and the Platinum card have all seen offers in the last few months.  In the past it seemed like these offers were safe if you used organic spending to reach the bonus.  JonNYC is saying otherwise on his twitter account. He said his offer was clawed back after he downgraded his account within the first year.

RELATED: American Express Charging For Amex Offers Abuse

Why This Matters?

This is an important distinction since in the past upgrading and downgrading whenever you like, usually when the first full annual fee hits, was never a problem.  It seems like American Express is now treating upgrade offers the same as regular welcome bonuses.  They implemented a change in their terms where they would go after people who cancel their card before the first annual fee posts.

It seems like the Amex RAT team is on the prowl for people doing the upgrade/downgrade train.  This used to be done multiple times on the old Surpass card.  It seems like those are things of the past and American Express is no longer playing around.

JonNYC said he called to confirm with Amex, on two separate occasions, that he could downgrade without issues before doing it.  They still clawed back his points and have been refusing to reinstate them.  He also mentioned when he went to cancel out of spite they offered him 50K Membership Rewards to keep the card.  Truly bizarre!

RELATED: Amex Hilton Aspire is HANDS DOWN the Best Premium Card Out There

American Express Clawing Back Upgrade Bonuses


I can’t say I blame American Express because people have been gaming the upgrade/downgrade system for a while now.  However, if the full time annual fee posts 8 months after upgrading and you want to downgrade why should that be an issue?  You are not closing the account but merely found the old product more useful.  I could see a problem if it was within a few months etc.

This is something to be aware of going forward.  For all intent and purposes American Express seems to be treating upgrades the same as new welcome bonuses.  For Membership Rewards cards at least.  I can’t see them being able to pull this with a co-branded card.

Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Amex can’t do much if you have already used the points or tranfered them to lets say an airline partner? They cannot take away what is not there?

  2. happened to me too on an upgrade from amex everyday to everyday preferred. Downgraded when annual fee hit 7 months later — the 25k points were taken away and they won’t reinstate them.
    Now I know… I just wish I’d known a week ago! Not worth losing 25k points just to save $95

    • Thanks gus for this DP. I’m in the same exact upgrade situation. I’ll make sure to keep the EDP for at least 12 months since the upgrade date to avoid the RAT

  3. I can see how they can claw back Amex points but how are they going to claw back Hilton, SPG, Delta points, etc?

      • Me neither. Until it happened. I returned an $X purchase about 1-2 billing cycles after making the purchase (unrelated to minimum spend requirements) and when the next cycle closed, 2X SPG points were deducted from my account.

  4. Is this the language that may allow Amex to claw back the bonus: “Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

    I have never seen those two sentences on all the upgrade offers I’ve taken in the past also did not have that language in my Aspire upgrade. I have a pdf of the entire terms and conditions of the upgrade at home, but i’m fairly certain there’s nothing there that says they can claw back bonus if downgraded within a year.

    • Yeah that is the language I was thinking about. I thought they would throw it into the upgrade offers as well.

      • Thanks

        I re-read the terms for my Aspire upgrade offer, and it looks like this allows them to take back the bonus and worse even cancel all your accounts “…If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome 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 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 Bonus Points to your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us. Your Card account must not be canceled or past due at the time of fulfillment of any offers…”

        • Thanks P for looking into it. That is what I feared it would say. I guess we need to pay attention to that from now on.

  5. Doesn’t seem very surprising they’d treat upgrade bonuses like signup bonuses, good to have a data point.

    Upgrade offers with Amex are confusing because Amex charges a prorated annual fee initially and then recharges the full annual fee at renewal. So when I recently upgraded from Green to Plat, I got a $37.50 refund from Green and $150 fee from Platinum. Then, 4 months later, the full $450 fee hits.

    Since Amex requires waiting a year after getting a signup bonus, I guess Amex wants us to go through a 12 month cycle, even though that’s not the cycle which the fees hit.

    • It does get very confusing with the prorated situation. I wonder how difficult it is for their system to automatically track when your 12 month upgrade is up. I can’t imagine them going into every downgrade to ensure there wasn’t abuse on the offer. It will be interesting to see if 8 months is enough etc. I had planned to downgrade my wife’s Aspire card when her full annual fee posts but now I guess I need to track the 12 month calendar – kind of a mess.

      • If you wait until the actual day of the annual fee payment due date to cancel/downgrade, wouldn’t that technically passed month 12 and therefore outside of the 12 month cycle? For ex. upgrade date was 1/1/18, statement close date is every 15th, new AF posts on 1/16/19, new AF due date 1/11/19.

        • Things get a little different because it is an upgrade. Since you can get an upgrade offer in the middle of the year it messes up your annual fee timeline some.

          If your anniversary is in June and you upgrade in December then you would be charged a prorated annual fee in December and then a full one again in June. Some people have decided to downgrade in June but now they will have to wait to the following December to downgrade and hope Amex prorates the annual fee refund for them.

  6. Whoa! Very concerning! I’ll be downgrading my SPG Luxury card once the af hits in 2019 back to the regular personal. Here’s to hoping I’ll keep the 100k upgrade offer!

    • I unfortunately don’t have an upgrade offer to check the terms right now. I would imagine the terms are similar to their welcome bonus offers which does have the terminology in there. I will have to check it next time I get one though.


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