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American Express Shutdowns: Everything You Need To Know About Shutdowns & Clawbacks

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American Express has been Shutting Down Accounts

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

American Express Shutdowns

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:

Welcome Offers
Spending Offers
Upgrade Offers
Regular Spending
  • 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.
American Express Shutdowns
Photo Courtesy Saks 5th Avenue Toronto.

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:

Statement Credits

These are credits you get yearly from various promotions like the Saks Fifth Avenue $50 credit on the Amex Platinum:

Airline Incidental Credits
Amex Offers

American Express Shutdowns

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.

American Express Shutdowns

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:

Final Thoughts

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.

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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.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. American Express shut my business account down for no reason, followed by my personal accounts. They claimed that my payment was due one month out from when they shut the personal accounts down. They had also just charged me both annual fees $550 + per card within 60 days of cancelling the cards. I had 350k + points and have been a card member since 2013 and have spent in excess of $5M on amex cards. What a great way to treat top customers.

    • Sorry to hear that Aaron. You should be able to move the points out to a transfer partner if you call in. I think you get 30 days.

  2. Excellent updates here Mark. This is a great example of specific,in-depth content that makes MtM one of the top sites. Thanks

  3. “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.”

    Once the card you have got hit, that card is as good as DEAD on any non category bonus spend. Safest bet is to just close it.

    • I got caught up in the 12X with the Surpass and have been fine going forward. I think the system auto triggers above those amounts so if you play the long game I think you will be okay.

  4. Hey Mark years ago I had an Amex card went through a divorce and closed it for none payment. Will I be able to open another account?

  5. Hey Mark, have you heard about any issues with grocery store spending on the surpass card (aside from the obvious disaster that took place over the summer during the COVID bonus period)?

    How about sending bill pays to Amex to pay monthly bill?

    • There were a few issues in the first few months after that but I think things are back to normal.

      Bill pays are usually a bad idea.

    • Hi Mark,
      Did you mean bill pays are a bad idea in terms of earnings miles and points or that it’s a bad idea to use Amex to pay certain bills?

      Also regarding Paypal Key, if I use PayPal Key linked to an Amex card to pay my rent, would that cause me issues? The complex accepts both MasterCard and Amex but PayPal key counts as debit.

      • It is usually a bad idea to use Walmart Bill Pay etc. to pay your credit card bills. That leads to a shutdown from a few of the credit card issuers out there.

  6. “bonus points spending abuse”….
    I am no where even close to you pro points and miles folks, but I do use my Gold card for groceries, when not getting 5x somewhere (Chase). Also use Gold for dining when I can. Do not use it for day to day stuff (1x). Am I a target for these clawbacks?

  7. If I close an AMEX Delta credit card (for which I paid the annual fee when I opened it) at least a year and a day or so after I opened the card (in order to avoid the renewal annual fee), is it likely AMEX will claw back the welcome bonus? Any data points?

  8. Post would actually be useful if you guys added a note about what got updated. Just saying “was updated on 10/31/2020” isn’t enough to figure what new information was added. Where’s the update history?! To me, the post looks exactly like what it was the last time I read it.

  9. Opened my plat about a year ago, put all my 2020 travel on the card and earned the welcome bonus. BUT with Covid, most of my travel got cancelled and I managed to get refunded by the airlines. So far, they have not clawed back the bonus MR and my spend has been negligeble so hoping they don’t close me down. Do you think I should be worried?

    • I don’t know that there is much you can do about it and it isn’t like you were gaming it, everyone cancelled flights.

  10. I think I have done all of these with the exception of anything related to financial review.
    I started cleaning up my act though as I realized a shutdown would actually suck and I kept getting the pop up.

    • Actually it is not an AMEX shutdown that sucks, but AMEX itself. The article states that “Whether it is statement credits, airline incidental credits or Amex offers they have become a minefield.” But this is way too kind and should say – “Whether it is statement credits, airline incidental credits or Amex offers they have become like a one-way visit to the RAT infested basement of the Willard Stiles mansion.”

  11. These are typical “knee jerk reactions” to the current market conditions the same thing happened in the 2008/2010 recession with Amex as well as other issuers. If you have a business card and feeling the pain of Covid related payment issues call them. Here is what we all have worry about I have heard that some companies deeply effected by the virus are having their accounts shut down and one I know of actually had their account deemed uncollectible and written off by Amex. When I asked our attorney about this they said some lenders are purposely writing down accounts this year to take the loss and whatever they collect next year is pure profit. go figure. For me I have limited cc spend as much as possible and kept that to a select set of cards.

  12. Amex closed / shut down all the accounts earlier this month citing in a letter that my FICO score of 735, no installment account, revolving accts have no balance, too many inquiries in the last 2 yrs.

    The true facts are that, after receiving the notice, I pulled all my credit reports wherein it show my FICO score is between 760-775 reported by 3 agencies, not Amex’s 735; only 4 or 5 inquiries since Sept. 2017, not Amex’s ‘too many inquiries in the last 2 yrs’, revolving balance shows almost $4k, not Amex’s no balance. Amex also took away all the existing 21k MR points, citing that pts had been forfeited despite Amex ‘s Rep via chat & in MR dept. stated that customer with closed accts has 30 days to redeem the points.

    I feel the real reason for accts closure or relationship termination stemmed from a recent arbitration won few months ago whereby one of my Amex acct was wrongly denied a sign up bonus despite an written assurance via chat that the acct did qualify for the bonus.

    As I do feel the inaccurate reasons provided by Amex was false & bias for all the accts closure & lost MR pts. I did already contact Amex Rep. by phone, chat, Amex Executive by email, but no change in decision. I’d appreciate any help from anyone for advice or suggestion on what I should do. Thanks in advance

    • You did an arbitration with AX? Then you are done, history, blacklisted. Maybe in a decade or two you can try again.

    • Depends on how much you want to fight this. If the reasons they gave were all wrong, I don’t know … I’d contact a consumer protection lawyer.

      Google Alexander Bachuwa lawyer – I think he used to write for FM about some legal matters. I think the guy has had some experience with claims against banks. And he knows the miles and points hobby. Don’t know if he’s the right guy or would even help, but worth a shot.

      • After inquiring about my Aspire bonus in September and getting confirmation via chat that all my spend counted towards the bonus, I received word via chat just last week that I did not meet minimum spend because the $6k I spent towards paying my federal taxes does not count towards minimum spend. No where in the t&c’s does it say taxes don’t count. This is robbery.

        • Forgot to mention, I opened the card in June. Paid the $6k taxes July 14th. It is now November and no $150k bonus.

          • Amex generally counts taxes as spend. It almost seems like a YMMV situation if an account goes to manual review. Maybe some agents are misinformed and then flag it as not spend which stops people from getting the bonus. It’s known that arbitration can lead to a shutdown.

  13. There seems to be a new different kind of blacklist for people who Amex thinks abused the system.

    I know one person who had his Amex account closed for alleged “abuse.” He was able to reapply a few months later with no issues. Oddly enough, this was not my experience.

    Last year all I did on my Amex card was MS. They cancelled the account citing “abuse.” I paid it off and reapplied this year, and was approved but the card was cancelled 8 hours later. Amex sent the same letter when they cancelled this year citing “abuse.”

    When I called it to inquire, several staff members said I wasn’t on a blacklist because I paid it off and was approved. They were not sure if it was perhaps a glitch or other issue and said I was free to reapply again. I did not see any point of reapplying if they kept cancelling my card (not to mention that they pulled my credit when I applied, which is what they don’t do when you are on the blacklist).

    Is this issue permanent and will apply to all new accounts I get or will Amex likely let it go after a few years or if I call in to the right department to explain? Is there a particular department or Vice President/director I should contact about this?

    I no longer MS and want a second chance. Maybe they determined I wasn’t profitable and now just are going to blacklist me forever and are being mean by doing the hard pulls and giving me false hope of account approvals.

    I only heard of one other person who had their accounts closed due to not going through with financial review, and a new account was immediately cancelled after they applied again. I do not know much else about their circumstances. Everyone else is either blacklisted (no hard pull) or not blacklisted and can get cards with no issues.

    • I think what some people have done is become an AU on someone’s Amex account and then applied 6-12 months later to get in. There is a risk of tainting that person’s account but that is what I have read. To be honest Amex is so cloak and dagger with these things we never really know what gets someone off their list.

  14. Was under FR by Amex Canada.
    Send in the documents and was waiting for a response.
    MS on prepaid giftcards.
    Today, noticed on online banking that accounts were closed.
    I still had MR points on there.
    Are they gone?

      • I can no longer access the MR points on online banking,
        I have to call Amex credit department when they open.
        My concern is, can they just close my account without informing me first and give me a chance to transfer my MR points.
        Essentially can they just take my points like this? or has this happen to other people before and their points are gone?

        • I believe in their terms if they think you have been gaming the system they can keep the points. See if applying them to your balance works – only 1/2 a cent each but it has worked for others when transfers were frozen. I would try talking with them first and use it as a last resort to get something for them.

  15. They will likely let it go eventually – I wouldn’t stress too much about it. I’ve had cards closed by Amex multiple times over the past decade and after a few years I am able to get approved again.

  16. American Express cancelled all of my accounts last year because of MS. The staff told me I was free to reapply and that as long as I did not “abuse” the process I should be good to go.

    I reapplied last week and it was approved and 9 hours later they cancelled the card and sent the same email and letter from last year stating that I abused the system.

    I called back and was told it could be a glitch but nevertheless was free to apply again. It was unclear to the representative why I was cancelled again.

    If there was a blacklist they should not have pulled my credit or approved me for a card. I found out that they did pull my credit for this card.

    Does somebody out there still hate me and find the account to cancel 8 hours after applying or is it likely that there is an endless loop on my profile cancelling all cards from last year? If so, will this issue ever go away? I no longer MS and want a second chance.

    I do not see any point in applying again if they will keep cancelling.

    • Can you provide some additional details on what sort of activity led to the shut down last year?

      I.E. Were you MS’ing to meet a spend threshold for a sign-up bonus?

      Or was it just ongoing MS for a card you had for a while?

      What sort of $$$ volume were you doing? Grocery stores, pharmacies,

      • Ongoing MS on card had for a while.

        MS about $1000 a month for a year at grocery stores and pharmacies.

        • Yikes that’s pretty concerning to hear since it sounds like you weren’t doing very high volume? Any idea what triggered it?

          I’ve heard sometimes if a transaction triggers a fraud alert that can eventually lead to shutdown since it might put human eyes on your accounts.

          • Starwood preferred guest. It was likely triggered by many CVS transactions.

            Will they likely let this go after a few years or decades or is this permanent? I still do not know why they even approved me instead of declining my application without a hard pull. Does someone likely hate me out there or is the shutdown likely automated?

  17. do you think shut downs are forever? I know that chase is for 7 years but some people were able to reapply after 2

    • From what I have read it is best to get put on a family members Amex account as an AU. I guess that may open the doors sooner.

  18. My accounts got shut down yesterday. I remembered that around 2 weeks ago, I received an email titled “American Express Account Status Review” but I didn’t reply anything. Do you think it caused all my account got canceled?

    • I am guessing you got a financial review etc. and they decided to close the accounts after that. But usually they call asking for info etc. I would give them a call.

  19. I have been with AMEX for 25 years and have used autopay as long as I can remember. I had 355,000 points and my credit (per their site) is excellent (785 FICO, 0 late payments, 1% credit utilization). On Friday I received a call that after 25 years I was dropped as a customer. I thought it was a bad prank until I signed in to confirm. Today I received a letter stating “the card was cancelled because it was not being used for it’s intended purpose”. My wife and I reviewed EVERY purchase the past year and it’s travel, groceries, gas, etc. etc. I’m at a total loss and really p*ssed after 25 years that I was cancelled with no explanation.

    • Wow that is pretty terrible. Were you spending only in those areas so they thought you were abusing the rewards? Have you been able to talk to them and get more of an explanation?

  20. I had a financial review and they closed all of my accounts. I reapplied yesterday and they approved my application but then cancelled my card today citing previous unsatisfactory relationship.

    Can I call to request reopening? Also, the agent on reconsideration told me that I am not on a blacklist because I paid off the accounts but now they just cancelled my card right after approval. I find this concerning because that account had no issues or activity on it; it was just opened and I have not even received it.

    What should I do? Should I wait some time and reapply? I think Amex has a note flagging my account on my profile for previous closure.

  21. as an update – Amex let me keep my MR (even the pending points were added to the account), but made me transfer them within 30 days. I will miss Amex Platinum and Amex offers though. But on the other hand – if they can shut you down for this with no explanation (no matter how hard I tried to find out “why?”, all they could say was “it was a business decision”), then perhaps it’s for the better (otherwise, I would be constantly worrying if I should or shouldn’t buy even a “legitimate” gift card for a friend’s birthday).
    On the bright side – 3 points from Chase Reserve card on that 40K safari charge was not too bad.

    • Thanks for the update…I am glad they let you pull all of your points out at least. It is always tough when a company is unwilling to fully communicate with it’s customers.

  22. well, here is another DP –
    My Amex accounts were cancelled today with no other explanation but “we made this business decision”.

    Actually I received a voicemail from Amex a week ago (that said they are from Amex customer service and needed to talk to me) but I simply forgot to return the call.
    Today I got this call again (should have probably let it go to voicemail!) and they informed me of cancelling all of my accounts (Amex Platinum, Hilton, Amex Blue business card, SPG business and personal).

    I have been with Amex since 2010, no new cards in the past year (so it cannot be bonus-related), always pay in full, no late payments, income in the upper 6 figures, FICO in the lower 800s.

    Sure, I did some MS here and there but nothing major (just don’t have time for it) and always mixed with organic spend. I used Amex offers only occasionally, never referred anyone for bonus or added AU.

    The only thing I can think of is that I increased my SPG cards spend in the past two months, but well within my credit line. A few Simon Mall card purchases here and there (not even the max), 2 or 3 purchases, but as I said – all mixed up with regular spend. I even planned to put a 40K charge from a safari company on my SPG card! (I have not, so it could not be the reason for shutdown). Well, it’ll go to Chase Reserve now, so maybe this one was for the better.
    I had around 300,000 MR, none of them used in the past year and a half. At this point I don’t know what will happen to them. They gave me the number to call about my MR, but that office is till 4 pm and closed on weekends (this being Friday, I guess I’ll have to wait till Monday).

    • That blows. I am guessing the spike in spending put eyes on your account and then they saw some gift card activity. Pretty surprising though since you weren’t hitting it too hard.

  23. I was shut down without explanation (other than it being a internal business decision) a couple of months ago a few days after redeeming 600k points on United international flights for myself and 4 family members for which I would be eligible for 50% points refund due to the Amex biz plat. I have been with Amex for over 15 years, never manufacture spend (ALL my spend is a million percent legit both personal and business expenses), and I pay my bills in full every month 100% of the time. I called day after day multiple times a day and was talking to a brick wall and getting no info. I finally decided to write an email to corporate and also to file a claim with the BBB. Within 10 days ALL of my accounts were reopened and my MR points were reinstated (and I got the 50% points back shortly thereafter). I still do not know and was never told why I was shut down in the first place.

    • Wow that is a crazy story – thanks for sharing. I have no idea what would have caused it. I am glad you were able to get them opened again. Are you transferring out your points regularly now?

      • No, unfortunately not, although I probably should, but I’m having a hard time deciding where to put them. I had not used my MR points for awhile (although I was earning them very nicely through spend my Amex Plat and Gold cards), so I thought that maybe using 600k points at once via Amex travel was the trigger, however those points were earned fair and square through 100% legit spend and it would be disgusting of them not to let me use it. Maybe they didn’t want to have to give me the 50% points back… They would not tell me anything other than a letter stating that I was not using my account for it’s “intended purpose”, whatever that is supposed to mean because all I was doing was charging personal and business expenses same as I had been doing for the past 15+ years in a very consistent manner.

        • I could see an investigation getting started with a massive redemption but you wouldn’t think they would do a shut down.

  24. One more DP, all my accounts were shutdown this week. All existing MR transferred out, all OBC CBs were cashed out in the same day receiving Amex call. However, no AF refund per customer support. SPG points were credited to SPG account after statement closed later on. No luck for MR and other CB earned from the last statements.

          • IME, I don’t think so; there must be something in accounts that trip the alarm for rats to look carefully.

            I continue to MS 100% on 3 OBC accounts and have not encountered issues, no FRs either. I do NOT cycle my CL since they gave me substantial CL and with cap of $50K, no need to go hog in just a month or two to reach it.

            I noticed since the PO disallowed all VGCs for MOs in Nov 2017, a lot of MSers quit buying vanillas from drugstores. Aside from VGC fees they raised to $5.95, most, if not all MSers found other places to buy their VGCs that can be drained at WM and grocery stores.

  25. I have some updates. I called Amex and essentially did not give explanations. I talked to 2 people from different departments and …just no explanation.. but I did get my MR transferred out to an Airline when they transferred the call to MR department. What I didn’t get is the $800 left on OBC. . The annual fee I payed will be prorated and either credited back or they will send me check… Its really hard to live without centurion.

    • Is the $800 in your OBC acct from earned from last month and has not posted as available? If that’s the case, I remember back in Oct 2014 during the massive OBC purge, people who got the axe kept calling until they got a sympathetic rep who were able to cut them a check for their rewards dollars so even if they were shutdown, they got their RDs. It may not be a loss if you can spare time to HUCA and find an agent willing to help you.

  26. Three data points make a trend? Please.

    It’s a well-known fact that one of the individuals in Shutdown 1/2 have been less than forthcoming in their story and they’ve had issues with other aspects of human interaction within this space. An Amex shutdown is par for the course they’ve set themselves up for.

    Any further ‘data points’ from such a limited scope of incomplete information reminds me of the hard-hitting journalism behind the likes of The National Enquirer or Star.

    • There is another data point in the comments that was shut down for the same thing. This is new with Amex…in the past once you got past the sign up bonus it was assumed you were safe. I am sorry that you don’t find new data points that contradict past results worthy of a post. I think many do. A big part of posting this is to hope to gather further data points.

  27. I got entire amex shut down this month. Amex shut down your accounts as they notify you that your entire amex account canceled.

    I just do MS on my amex

    Good luck, people. Amex enforced the T&C