Has Amex Become The Least Transparent Lender Almost Overnight?

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American Express Making Up The Rules

Is American Express Making Up The Rules As They Go Along?

It isn’t news that card issuers have been cracking down on serial applicationists (I totally just made that word up).  But the one issuer that has been a little late to the party seems to be going over the top lately.  It has reached the the point where you don’t even know where you stand with American Express. If Amex wants to put in new anti “gaming” terms then go for it. I may not like it but I get it.  But to just kind of do whatever you want whenever you want leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and it ends up costing you more in the long run when the goal was to save money.

This is the exact situation many of us feared when American Express recently changed their terms to include this gem:

“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.”

That is basically saying we do what we want and you get what you get.

American Express Making Up The Rules


I have noticed a theme popping up over the last week or two and I wanted to break them down for you. These come from various sources and from various levels of card ownership.

Charles Schwab Application

The first situation is my own.  I tried to apply for Charles Schwab Platinum card after signing up for a Schwab checking account.  When I submitted my application I received the Amex pop up (a warning saying you won’t get the bonus for various reasons).  This surprised me since I had never had the card and had only had 2 applications in the past 12 months with Amex. And I have only closed two cards in the last 12 months as well. One of the cards was closed after carrying it for over 24 months the other after 12 months.

I assume it may be because the 2nd application was only a month prior and they may be more sensitive to recent inquiries?  To be honest I have no idea what the real cause for the pop up was. I have paid a ton of annual fees to Amex and I have held a few cards for a very long time.

Facebook Group Member and AU Cards

We had a Facebook Member post a very strange decision on American Express’ part.  He had a family member apply for a Hilton card.  This was their first ever Amex card and they did not receive the pop up message when submitting their application. The family member had been an authorized user (AU) on some cards in the past but never carried their own.  After completing the minimum spend the points never posted.

American Express told them that the family member was not eligible because they had been an AU in the past and the cards were closed after only one year. I have no idea why this matters, the AU has no power over when cards are opened or closed etc. This is a strange decision that looks to be overly punitive and alienates a brand new customer right off the bat.

American Express Making Up The Rules

Mercedes Benz Platinum Clawback

American Express clawing back points if you close your card before a year is nothing new.  But their Mercedes Benz card was thought to be different since they were discontinuing the product.  They even sent out a letter offering a prorated refund to cardmembers.  They offered the refund because it was being transitioned into a regular Platinum card without cardmembers agreeing to it.

That was an issue for some cardholders who had never had the regular Platinum card before. The change would make them ineligible for a future Platinum card welcome bonus. With American Express it doesn’t matter if you have ever received a bonus on a card or not, it only matters if you have ever had the card.  Another confounding rule that really doesn’t make sense. So some people decided to cancel the card and get a partial refund before they are forced into a card they didn’t sign up for.  Amex thanked them by yanking back 60,000 points.

Facebook Ad

I like looking at Facebook ads to see what the regular folk have to say about certain credit cards.  This helps me get the mindset of people outside the hobby.  Let me tell you, many think Delta cards are the best thing ever – no joke!

On one of these such occasions I noticed a poster was complaining about the Amex pop up. He was hit with the pop up even though he only has one card with Amex and has had it for many years.  He asked if having one Amex card disqualifies him from all other offers.  This sent chills down my spine. If people like him are disqualified what does that mean for the rest of us?


So there you have it.  There are 4 very different instances that occurred all over the past week or two that don’t really make sense to me.  American Express seems to be making it up as they go along right now. And they are completely alienating customers as they do it.

They have driven away brand new customers, long term loyal customers, and people in the hobby all at the same time.  This system that was supposed to flesh out “gamers” but it has pretty much told people from every different kind of situation that they are not worthy.

What does this mean going forward?  I honestly have no idea and I am not sure American Express does either.  Until Amex figures it out I think I am giving them #Deuces for a while.

Share your thoughts below.


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. On 2/8/19, I applied for SPG (now Marriott Bonvoy) personal card. Offer terms as widely advertised said ineligible if I had either Chase Marriott or Ritz in last 30 days (I had the Ritz closed out 13 months prior). However, when I went to apply I got the dreaded pop up, which had language contradicting the app’s offer terms (same but no 30 days, just ever). Before proceeding, I called Amex and rep told me to ignore pop up and apply as I was eligible. Highly skeptical I applied and was approved. Upon activation I confirmed bonus. No go I was told, I was not eligible because of the pop-up offer terms (not the actual application’s offer terms I saved). They investigated and ruled the app’s offer terms were correct (not the pop up) but I was still ineligible but they couldn’t say why. 2nd investigation I got a letter stating I was ineligible because of the pop-up offer terms, and the letter completely ignored not only the app’s actual offer terms but the findings of Amex’s own first investigation! I filed a CPFB complaint which did nothing but Amex repeated the letter of the 2nd investigation.

    You are totally right. They make this up as they go along.

    • It is very frustrating – sorry to hear about your situation. Nothing is worse than not knowing where you stand with a provider.

  2. I did not get anything in writing via chat or email however AMEX did pull my recordings and they admitted their AMEX rep mis-informed me but AMEX was unwilling to change their position.
    Below is some of the verbiage from AMEX’s reply to my CFPB complaint. “The terms of the promotion, which were provided during the application process, explain that the
    welcome bonus offer is not available to applicants who have or have had the product. 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. In accordance with these terms we determined
    that, regrettably, you are not eligible for the welcome bonus.
    We had the opportunity to more clearly explain you were not eligible
    for the welcome bonus. We apologize for any misunderstanding you may have experienced as a
    result of this matter. We made sure to provide feedback to the appropriate leaders about this
    experience.” AMEX went on to say they thanked be for my 5 years of service but hoped it explained their position.

  3. My issue is with being told I was eligible by an AMEX employee before I applied for the card after AMEX reviewed the terms and conditions with me over the phone. They encouraged me to apply. Even after I received the card I called AMEX a couple of weeks later and assured spend 5k in 90 days and 100k Marriott points would be awarded. I even called one week before the 90 day period was up and AMEX again told me all was OK and I had met the qualifications and would get the 100k points. I intended to keep this card long term as it fit well into my travel plans. It is hard to understand how AMEX can get away with this activity. What happened to consumer protection? If AMEX told me up front I was not eligible and denied my application I would be OK with it but to tell me after I spent $5K is wrong. Sorry do not EVER trust AMEX again.

    • I would file a CFPB just to see if that gets you anywhere. Or maybe write to the office of the President etc. something along those lines.

      • Mark, I tried both, CFPB & Exe Off, but both were no help; esp. its Exe Off where simply referred the inquiry / complaint back to the same group called customer advocate team that denied the eligible bonus offer

    • Erick, did u get any conf in writing like chat, or it was all verbal? Not that it may be matter much to Amex, but anything in writing should likely be better

  4. On October 31, 2018, I applied for the 100,000-point Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card with $450 annual fee and 50k points free night on each anniversary. Was told before I qualified by AMEX over the phone. Met the 90 spend then AMEX declined to give me the 100k bonus point stating “Welcome bonus history”. Did not care to explain but stated I can certainly keep the card for all the great benefits. No thanks AMEX. I think it is pretty low to tell a customer you quality not only before I made application but after I received the card they encouraged me to spend $5k to meet the bonus then did not even tell me I would not get the points until I called and inquired. To me this is bait and switch and should be a class action law suit.

  5. My guess is that they are following people who close cards in a year or two, rather than people getting new cards too often.

    Look for example at people who try to double- or triple-dip on the $200 airline credit. Saw that recommended in December on some blogs: Get the card, spend $200 in Dec. 2018, $200 in 2019, $200 on Jan 1, 2020. Cancel card instantly, don’t pay annual fee. Make a profit.

    I would ban such people also if I were running Amex.

    Too many folks think this is a sprint rather than a marathon. Ask my friends who have been banned for life by Chase AND Amex for pushing the envelope.

    • That could be the case – it is hard to tell for sure what triggers it at this point which is the frustrating part.

  6. For the MB cards specifically, I’m surprised the bloggers weren’t out there telling people to sign up for the vanilla plat/EDP in December if they’d never had them before AND gotten the MB cards in 2018. The T&C were pretty clear at sign up, if you want an issuers cards you play by their rules. For those that cancelled, you will get your AF prorated refund, but you will also get your sign up bonus yanked for closing the card in less than 12 months. The two are not mutually exclusive. I had the MB cc & applied for EDP specifically for this reason a few weeks ago. Now I have 2 EDP’s.
    For Amex in general, it seems to me you just have to spend a lot of money with them. I have 12 Amex cards, all sign up bonuses have posted without issue, all AU bonuses have posted without issue. Retention offers asked for & granted. I max all my lucrative AO’s & those of my AU. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I spend 6 figures with them every year (a lot of it in creative ways). I just opened a personal savings account with them as well this week. By letting me have their cards I reward them with spend, Chase won’t even let me apply for a god forsaken Southwest or United card (cattle call boarding & being dragged off airplanes is apparently an exclusive club to be in), let alone give me a sign up bonus.
    Finally, if the story about the AU getting denied for a sign up bonus is true (which honestly I doubt) then it should have been escalated, ‘I wasn’t financially responsible for that card and had no authority to close it, could you explain why I’m ineligible, isn’t there something we can do?’ ‘I was looking forward to becoming an Amex customer in my own right, isn’t there anything we can do about this?’ I mean, it’s not difficult… HUCA x12 if you have to. Feels like people want 60k-100k sign up bonuses & to be spoonfed at the same time… /rant

      • Haha thank t bot – I was gonna say there was at least one blogger that talked about it a few times 🙂

        Parts Unknown the AU person did call Amex on a few different instances and tried to plead their case. Amex doesn’t really listen to anything once their mind is made up these days. I think they are trying CFPB next which probably won’t do much either but worth a try.

        • Ok, fair enough. If the situation is truly as presented then Amex is at fault & that person should definitely exhaust all options if it’s something that matters to them.

      • That article talks about downgrading & cancelling, which is the exact opposite of what someone in the specific circumstance of getting the MB plat as their first Amex plat in 2018 should’ve done. If you’d only had the MB & we’re in your 1st year you should’ve applied for the vanilla plat somewhere along the way before the product change.

        • They offered people the opportunity to downgrade instead of closing before January 10th because of the change over. Some went to Gold – could have gone to Green as well if you have already had one of those cards.

          It was an option outside of getting another Platinum card before the end. But could have brought that up more for sure. I tend to believe people should hold out for a 75K or 100K offer for the vanilla version that is why I was pushing towards that vs just signing up to sign up.

  7. “Ya, it’s a game. Churn and burn.” No, the game AMEX is playing is actually called Bait and Switch. Possibly less profitable to the bankers than laundering money, illegally foreclosing on mortgages or gaming LIBOR Rates, but more profitable than identity theft and illegally opening bank accounts. Who knows, maybe AMEX management has a bonus metric for luring in customers without paying bonuses? As Teddy Roosevelt once said about bloodsucking banks – “Walk softly and carry a big stake!”

  8. I agree it’s willy-nilly. Last year, I applied for the AMEX Schwab card and was approved, including the bonus. When the card arrived, I called customer service to acknowledge receipt AND asked again to verify the bonus. I was told that I could keep the card but NO bonus without an explanation! I have both Schwab brokerage and bank accounts and average a credit score of 826! Go figure. Ya, it’s a game. Churn and burn.

      • Yep, cancel the account, shred the card and move on. I imagine the whole process cost them a lot more than it did me, which was nothing. Pretty much settled on CSR, AMEX ASCEND & ASPIRE.

  9. I wonder if your Schwab app has to do with their “other factors.” And maybe they are looking at data beyond Amex to decide bonus eligibility vs only their own cards.

  10. Well, as a data point, I opened and closed 3 amex cards from 2013-2016. I’ve opened three in the last 6 months…no issues so far.

  11. It does suck that CFPB has been gutted but we got a great tax cut that only the rich can enjoy and finally we will get a pure bred aryan culture. I wonder when trump will start wearing that funny mustache that he was supposed to.

    Heil trump. I mean #maga . Whatever.

  12. I applied for the vanilla plat last night after being confounded by a CSR “in Ft Lauderdale” who very nicely but in a snickery way said he would take back the 60,000 bonus points from the MB card if I proceeded to cancel. I decided not to cancel. I was immediately approved for the vanilla card. I didn’t get a pop-up but I did note that the new language on the application page. To be honest I won’t be surprised if I don’t end up getting the bonus points for the platinum card. I will have the MB card through April probably. I suppose I should try to meet my minimum spend on the vanilla card before I cancel the MB version.

    • The MB card will be transitioned into the regular Platinum in a few days so that may cause some issues. Not sure how it will play out but worth the chance imo to go for it.

      • worst case I end up paying $550 annual fee for MAYBE 2x $200 travel credits (will have to charge first thing next year, again) and the occasional uber credits that I can rarely use, and the Saks credits that I don’t really need.

        • If you have Uber in your town use the Uber credits on Uber eats each month and if you have a Saks buy a $50 gift card in store and resell it (not sure if online works or not). That should net you some more $$$ off the annual fee.

          • Yeah I’ve been lazy so haven’t used uber eats yet. I checked it earlier this week and it has a handful of mostly junk food places that will deliver near me. The Saks GC works online if you buy a hard card (not ecard) but there’s a $150 minimum online. I’m in Houston though so honestly I will be near a regular Saks at least once every six months. My wife got a nice leather wallet this week using the credit, it made it about half off. I’m not saving money in that nature since I wouldn’t otherwise but it, but it’s a nice comfort/gift for her twice a year. Can’t complain, it was added mid-year so at least Amex is adding a positive benefit that we didn’t apply for initially!

          • @Mark, maybe you should have just [punched a small hole in each gift card to string them together] and given your wife a gift card necklace. 🙂

            Necklace of gift cards (or debit cards) > necklace of gemstones/metals?

          • Haha I will have to use that one next year. Just keep all the metal cards for the bling bling!

  13. Amex initially qualified my credit card spend by awarding reward points to the acct, along with written & verbal confirmation from Amex Reps that account had met the requirement that will receive a welcome bonus; but then, months after the facts Amex decided to exclude some of those spend which was initially qualified and refused to award the welcome bonus as previously confirmed; very disturbing & frustrating….

  14. Amex isn’t the only crazy issuer and CFPB never did much wrt to these issues anyway.

    Take noob complaints with a huge grain of salt – if someone was an AU on an account that was closed or deemed a gamer, I know Citi, Chase, US Bank, BoA and Cap1 close all accounts and ban everyone (including AUs) from getting cards.

    • I know CFPB helped me out when they froze my 100K sign up bonus. Never got anywhere till I filed a complaint. Points were unfroze a few days later.

  15. I walked away from Amex three years ago over a similar issue. I asked for my platinum SUB to be advanced as I needed to transfer points out (granted, I met the minimum, paid the balance in full, and paid the AF). Amex flat out accused me a fraud. Closed all my accounts and walked away from them. Took 100% of my business to Chase.

    They have been scheming for years to go after anyone who wants to actually use their points in a reasonable time or in their subjective analysis believe you are a “scammer”.

    • I do hate that you have to wait two months for most points to post…even if you pay before the statement closes. So many strange rules that were instilled when they ruled the land and people would take it because of the prestige that came with carrying an Amex card.

      • That was because people took the points and returned the items.

        Let’s be clear people have been assholes. Complete POS. Amex has gone to the other extreme because of people. Before that they were generous and gave you benefit of the doubt.

        • They could give them a negative balance if that happens like other issuers. I don’t doubt people have gamed them in the past and been SOBs about it but no other issuer acts this way and deals with the same issues. I think losing a lot of their card partnerships and losing the high end market has put them in a bind and they are panicking.

  16. I’m done with Amex for the foreseeable future. And I’m going to move all my spending away from my 3 Amex cards, including my business spend. I think they’ll regret this ultimately. At least with Chase, you know where you stand.

  17. Yep didn’t get pop up. Applied put legitimate spend on gold card biz. Had DMs confirmed never had card before. Didn’t get the bonus. No explanation.

    • It is crazy to me. I think the fact that the CFPB has virtually no power now just emboldened them to make unfair decisions towards their customers.

      • Same issue with a capital one $500 bank bonus where C1 just denied the bonus and made up their T&C that weren’t listed on the offer. CFPB doesn’t have teeth and the banks know it.

        • That blows. I always get nervous with bank bonuses because their tracking systems are so out of date that they won’t track or pay properly.


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