American Express Devaluation
I can’t ignore it anymore. Amex has recently taken multiple steps to tighten up the benefits of holding their cards. In my view, no one of these changes is enough to warrant any big concern, but the summation of a few are enough to raise alarms. Is it enough to consider the moves an overall American Express devaluation? Opinions will differ, but here’s a case for why we should be concerned now.
The family rules across certain Amex cards are quite worrisome, both in terms of their reach and the speed of Amex’s implementation. Long story short, the family rule means if you currently hold or previously had one card, you’re ineligible for a welcome offer with that or other cards in a family. This is a concerning extension of Amex’s lifetime language from each specific card to a group of them.
As a result, Amex officially allows only one signup bonus from each of the following categories:
- Consumer Gold and Platinum cards
- Consumer Cash Back Cards
- Amex Everyday Cards
- Consumer Delta Cards
Taking into account the variety of cards within each category, that substantially limits what one can pick up now versus before. Long story short, that’s now only four signup bonuses instead of well over 10.
Amex has possessed higher minimum spend requirements than cards from other issuers for quite some time, especially on the Business Gold and Platinum welcome offers. But recently, higher requirements to obtain a signup bonus have been spreading to other cards. For instance, the current 125k Bonvoy Business welcome offer requires $8k spend. Sure, Amex gives new cardholders six months to reach that, but it’s still $8k. Back in late 2021, that same 125k bonus required $5k spend, and the offer also came with two bonus 50k free night awards! This is just one example; others are out there.
Higher Annual Fees
For years, Amex has buried annual fee increases within various card refreshes. Here are just a few cards where they’ve used this M.O.: Amex Platinum products (both consumer and business versions), Bonvoy Brilliant, Amex Business Gold, and most recently Hilton Aspire and Surpass.
Some cards come with benefits which more than make up the annual fee increase for certain cardholders. But more concerning and consistent across these cards is that coming out ahead puts much more responsibility, AKA work, on the cardholder. Amex puts a flashy bumper sticker of benefits on all of these products while conveniently burying the limitations in fine print. Many of us live for the fine print and can stomach the higher annual fees, but I suspect casual (read: most) cardholders come out losers here.
Do I consider these trends an overall American Express devaluation? In our situation, no. By adapting our Amex strategies, we can still do big things within and around the official rules. Indeed, many others will come to the conclusion that this is a true American Express devaluation when taking into account their own lifestyles. Across the board, coming out ahead with Amex has become even more nuanced. I’m not surprised or offended with these Amex making changes. As a business, it’s their prerogative to evolve as they pursue more profitability. It’s on me to tweak strategies to ensure wins keep coming on my end. And so, dear reader, I encourage you to revalidate your own goals and plans to keep doing big things with Amex. Enjoy!
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