Amex Bonus Clawbacks
American Express has recently begun taking back points from people who they think MSed to meet the minimum spend. Data-points on this starting coming in last year, during the summer, after lots of people applied through one of those leaked links, that are supposed to be targeted, but are somehow public. Those offers show up for a few days, or even hours and as expected, tons of people apply, and surely Amex notices. This was previously covered here.
What Happens When Amex Goes After You Points
The fine print on every Amex bonus offer clearly states that the purchase of cash equivalents does not count towards the minimum spend for a bonus. Specifically they say:
THE FOLLOWING CHARGES DO NOT COUNT TOWARDS THE THRESHOLD AMOUNT: FEES OR INTEREST CHARGES; BALANCE TRANSFERS; CASH ADVANCES; PURCHASES OF TRAVELERS CHECKS; PURCHASES OR RELOADING OF PREPAID CARDS; OR PURCHASES OF OTHER CASH EQUIVALENTS.
If American Express suspects that cash equivalents were used in meeting the spendthey will freeze your Membership Rewards account. When this happens, you won’t be able to use your points. This happened even to some who didn’t break the rules. The process of getting the points unfrozen was sometimes complicated, but I believe almost everyone was successful in getting use of their points again.
If Amex determines that cash equivalents were used in meeting the spend, they disqualify the purchases and claw back the points. What if you already transferred the points out to a travel partner? Well you aren’t off the hook either. Apparently Amex will just make your account balance negative. You can still fight that, but it will be much harder.
We knew this already, but some a new case that came up on r/churning today shows that those “leaked links” are even more risky than what we previously thought. In this data point, a new Amex Platinum card was opened over Thanksgiving, through one of those leaked links and there was no manufactured spending involved in getting the 100K bonus. But the points were still frozen and then clawed back.
However, the twist here is that the 100K bonus from the Platinum card wasn’t clawed back. It was the bonuses for other previously acquired Amex cards instead. Bonuses on the other cards were received after some manufactured spending. A total of 175k MR points was clawed back (75k BGR, 50k PRG, 25k Gold, 25k Green) and those cards had even since been closed.
So it looks like these links that are mistakenly made public, raise some kind of red flag on your account. Amex might look through your other bonuses and then claw those back, if you purchased cash equivalents. Even if you close you cards or use your MR points, you are still at risk.
It is now more important than ever to understand your requirements as a customer, to read the fine print and to make sure you have dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s. If not, you could run into lots of problems that will cost you thousands of dollar.
Did you have your points frozen or clawed back? Are you fighting Amex? What are your thoughts about this? Let us know in the comments!