American Express Shutdowns: Everything You Need To Know
As we all know, American Express shutdowns and clawbacks have been on the rise the last few years. I figured I would put together a American Express naughty list guide so to speak. I will share previous Amex shutdown and clawback data points all in one place. This will give you an idea of what they are looking for and what to be careful with going forward. Be sure to bookmark this page since I will update it over time as new shutdown and clawback reports come in.
Updated 10/23/21 – updates in bold
Welcome, Spending & Upgrade Offers
Let’s kick this off with the easy, well known stuff. Whenever American Express offers people a new card welcome offer or an increased spending offer it is best to tread lightly. If there are any cash equivalents purchased, like Visa gift cards, then they will often deny or clawback the points. Here are some data points on it:
- American Express added anti gaming language to their welcome offers a few years back. If you make any cash like purchases during that time frame or they can clawback your points.
- They have denied welcome offers and frozen accounts for leaked welcome offers too. And if you use a leaked offer they may check your previous applications as well.
- If you close your card before 12 months have passed you forfeit your welcome offer on a new account.
- Amex instituted the Popup to warn when you were not eligible for welcome offers. Although if you don’t see one they may still deny you the welcome offer. Here is how I defeated the Amex Popup.
- Some people have run into issues with the no lifetime language offers. Mainly for using offers that were sent to other people, like their spouse etc.
- Amex has clawed back, or refused, some welcome offers even when the pop up didn’t appear.
- American Express posts and clawsback Hilton points. They have now sent out letters to people where points were withheld saying that the cash equivalents terms with broken.
- Amex also posts and claws back Bonvoy & Delta points from recent grocery offer.
- Points were clawed back from the Home Improvement 4X spending offers on new accounts and from the refer a friend offer. If people had large purchases of gift cards, or sometimes just large purchases, Amex clawed back the points.
- Amex changed their rules on upgrade offers a few years ago too. They will take back the upgrade bonus points if you close the account (or downgrade) within a year. That is a year from when you upgraded and NOT your original cardmember year.
- People have still been reporting (August 2021) that they have issues sometimes having Bonvoy Business or Hilton Surpass increased earnings clawed back some months. It appears if you go above the $4-$5,000 threshold in a billing period that they may claw back points. Even though this is standard earning rates and not a part of a spending offer etc.
Card Perks Lead To Clawbacks
The caution does not end with welcome and spending offers though. They have slowly, but continuously, ramped up their rules on card perks. Whether it is statement credits, airline incidental credits or Amex offers they have become a minefield. Here is what you need to watch for:
These are credits you get yearly from various promotions like the Saks Fifth Avenue $50 credit on the Amex Platinum:
- Buying gift cards at Sak’s Fifth Avenue leads to clawbacks.
- Dell credits used to purchase gift cards or stacking with Amex Offers may be clawed back.
Airline Incidental Credits
- Amex goes back as far as 2 years to clawback airline incidental credits used on gift cards.
- If your flight was canceled and you are refunded for the flight and seat fees etc. then Amex may clawback the airline incidental. Even though the airline incidental tracker never resets.
- If you stack Amex Offers with statement credits they may be clawed back.
- You used to be able to add Amex Offers to multiple cards on the same account. American Express finally had enough of that and sent cardholders the bill for one deal in particular.
Referral Bonuses Lead To Issues
American Express revamped their referral system a little while back and it has been mostly beneficial. It allowed people to refer friends and family to other Amex cards, even if they didn’t carry them themselves. I felt like it was a little bit of a trap when it was first launched and people did run into some issues but it has mostly been a positive change.
- Self referral points will get taken back.
- If the referrer or referee gets shutdown they will sometimes shut down the other person’s account too.
- Sometimes using a personal referral can lead to the popup.
American Express Shutdowns: Data Points
I am going to try to focus on the larger instances of total account shutdowns and what led to them. Here are the various data points:
- People that applied for a business card product through a specific banker were shutdown.
- Some people that took advantage of targeted no lifetime language offers were shut down. Even when the mailers were sent directly to them.
- Buying gift cards for spending requirements
- Buying gift cards for Amex Offers or credits
- Self Referrals
- Previous financial review
- Doing multiple pay-over-time offers
- Bonus point spending abuse (too much spending in bonus categories)
- Multiple airline incidental clawbacks have led to shutdowns
- Upgrading and downgrading a card multiple times and not waiting a year in between
- A spike in spending and failed financial review
- Using leaked offer links for new welcome offers
- If you referred or were a referral by someone that gets shutdown you may get shutdown too
- Using a no lifetime language offer intended for someone else will lead to a shutdown.
- Using PayPal Key and Plastiq to pay Amex credit card (most notably with an Amex card).
I think I hit most of the
highlights lowlights of American Express shutdowns, clawbacks and welcome offer denials. If I missed something please let me know in the comments and I will add it in. Also let us know of any new data points going forward and I will continue to update this.
As you can see there are a lot of landmines to avoid with Amex and the rules are continuously changing.