I Lost $275 in Cell Phone Amex Credits Last Year, Thanks to Google Fi

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I Lost $275 in Cell Phone Amex Credits Last Year, Thanks to Google Fi

I Lost $275 in Cell Phone Amex Credits Last Year, Thanks to Google Fi

One of the most stellar perks of 2021 was the monthly Amex cell phone credits, but I lost out on $275 here–thanks to the run-around from Google Fi. There’s something to be learned for the future here, for anyone who uses (or is thinking about using) this service.

Recap on the Credits

American Express had a bunch of temporary monthly credits in 2021. Depending on what Amex cards you had, you could get monthly credits on your cell phone bill, as long as the carrier is on the approved list (which Google Fi is).

My wife and I both have the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card. This card was offering $15 in monthly statement credits from February to December 2021. 11 months x $15 x 2 cards = $330 in credits towards my cell phone bill. Yay! 

Google Fi Doesn’t Report Correctly

After not getting the credit in February of 2021, I contacted Amex. They said that the credits will only trigger if the charge comes through as “mobile phone” or “cell phone service” and from an approved carrier. Google Fi is an approved carrier from Amex, but the charges don’t report correctly.

Depending on the month, my payments to Google Fi showed up as:

  • Cable TV
  • Internet services
  • Business services
  • Online gaming
  • Toy stores
  • General merchandise

American Express gave me a one-time credit on my account in February. They refused to do this for my wife, and they noted both of our accounts that courtesy credits can’t be issued for the future. (We figured this out when asking for courtesy credits in the future and being told about this note)

image of frustrated man on phone

Working with Google Fi – A Waste of Time

Since American Express told me that the credits would only trigger if the billing codes showed up correctly, I reached out to Google Fi in March of 2021. To say I encountered massive incompetence would be understatement. Like them or not, you’d figure “it’s Google, they know technology” right?

My email chain with Google Fi from 2021 includes 72 messages, believe it or not. This was from trying to get them to update their billing with American Express to report correctly, which would then help us receive the $15 in monthly Amex credits for my wife and I. At one point, I even provided a sheet of instructions from American Express. Amazingly, I don’t know how they didn’t get it right in the end (more on that later).

The customer service team supposedly worked with the engineers to investigate this billing / coding throughout the year. Aside from 2 periods of time where they completely stopped replying for over a month, Google Fi promised me multiple times that they were working to update their billing with Amex to report as “wireless services”.

On January 6, 2022, after giving me the runaround for nearly a year, I received an email informing me that Google Fi has decided to bill as “internet services” with Amex. This is because they don’t consider themselves a traditional mobile phone service.

Fi gave me a one-time “sorry” credit on my bill of $40 as an apology.

Here’s the math on my lost credits:

$330 eligible – $40 one-time credit from Fi – $15 one-time credit from Amex = $275 in lost credits

Some Takeaways

Since Google Fi codes as “internet services” with American Express, you could use a card that earns well in this category to get extra points. If you use Google Fi as your wireless service, don’t expect it to code as mobile / cell phone with Amex. Cards that earn well in those categories won’t help you out here. And it obviously didn’t help me with these temporary monthly credits that are now gone.

With other banks, Fi still reports in varying ways. This is because of their multiple servers. Depending on which bank your credit card is from AND depending on which server your payment bounces off of, your payment can still show a different merchant category each month. They have only standardized their billing with Amex at this point (as far as I understand it).

I had thought Google could figure this stuff out, but I guess not. I replied multiple times in incredulity, saying things like “You guys are Google” when they told me they didn’t know how to update things correctly. Even more boggling considering Amex had given me a sheet of instructions, which I gave to Fi.

Final Thoughts

The key takeaway here is about billing coding for anyone who wants to maximize points earning and credits available from your credit cards. It’s also a bit of a rant against the insanity of Google Fi promising things, cycling through a lot of delays and idiocy, and then swapping out their promise for something else when it’s too late for me to have other options.

And, if nothing else, you can feel good that you likely got much more in Amex monthly cell phone credits than I did last year — unless you also have Google Fi.

In case you have to ask: I’m also changing my cell phone service.

Ryan Smith
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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47 COMMENTS

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47 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t pay for cell phone service because my company pays for it. But my parents have Fi so every month I just logged in my dad’s account and make a $20 for him. AmEx Plat credited it automatically every month except one time. I chatted with them and they applied the credit right away.

  2. Google Fi has really dropped the ball on customer service over the years. In December, they mislabelled the package to deliver me a Pixel 5 subscription I purchased as a replacement when I cracked my phone. Because of the mislabel it was returned to sender. Multiple attempts to resolve this with support went nowhere for over a MONTH while charges for my phone that never showed up started to accrue. Meanwhile they kept insisting that I provide them a RMA number for the return. No one seemed to comprehend that I didn’t return the phone, the package was simply returned!!!! I wound up being forced to self rescue and order another model of phone because they couldn’t initiate a second order for the same phone. And naturally, they couldn’t figure out how to expedite shipping or provide me compensatory credits. I was phoneless for over a week So I’m leaving them behind once I earn the credits for this piece of junk Moto.

      • So you paid for your bill with your American Express card and you kept your end of the bargain but this is Google’s fault? At no time did you think that maybe American Express is the person to blame here? Why is American Express making their coding problems your problem? Why is American Express forcing you to reach out to Google engineers to fix their problem? Unbelievable. You’re blaming the wrong person. Don’t get me wrong Google fi sucks. They screwed me over and after three months of doing business with them I jumped ship. But it’s not Google’s responsibility to ensure that you can take advantage of your American Express credits. Like

      • You’re blaming the wrong party. It’s not your responsibility to figure out what the coding is really like crap. That’s on American Express. And the fact that they made you go give me instructions to Google is hilarious. Maybe they should figure out that stuff before running a promotion. Also, what does Google get out of this? They don’t care if you’re getting some credit card perks. You’re blaming the wrong people. The fact that I can express didn’t eventually give you these credits is terrible. It’s not Google’s fault. Google should whip out some money for you because your credit card perks didn’t work? The fact that they give you 40 bucks is astounding. I’m blown away that they did that. Seriously dude, you need to call American Express and complain to them. Can’t believe they made you do their dirty work. I used to have Google fi, and it was a nightmare but this is not their fault dude. Like gimme a Break.

        • Patrick – I think you are unfamiliar with Amex’s terms about billing codes. This is 100% Google Fi’s fault. It’s 100% the responsibility of a business to tell Amex what it does and choose a correct billing category.

    • I had the same repeated problems with phone delivery with verizon. I think they both outsource phone fulfillment to a third party.

    • Google Fi is Garbage! Fell for Moto junk scam.
      Tried to switch to a TMobile ghetto account on speed talk wireless. After several days without service, speed talk said Google gave wrong account number to port number.Then it was Google fails to release number. This BS went on for a week with both parties to blame. I decided to try Mint mobile and just give up my number of like 5 years. I was not a happy camper. While filling out the form, I remembered I had an offer from Q wireless and forgot about it. I went to my trash bin where I had accidentally thrown away this offer. After inserting sim card, I called Q wireless to activate on a burner phone I had for emergency service. I then found out that this was the company, I applied for through the government for unlimited talk, text and data!
      If you make like less than 94K a year, you qualify. I don’t know how long this program runs, I’m going to guess at least 6 more months or better.

  3. I have had truly horrendous customer service experiences with American Express (I currently have two cards from them, and those two will be my last) not sure why everyone brags about AmEx service, but maybe I got the short end of the stick because I have no annual fee cards. Either way the classification of the merchant sounds far more like a bank-end issue than a merchant issue. I’ve been with Fi for years and never had a problem on Chase cards having the charges classified correctly to get me the bonus points (assuming the specific card has such a bonus). Regardless, it sucks that you got stuck in the middle of that pissing contest, but if you decide to cease doing business with one of the parties over it I would suggest giving AmEx the ax for a better bank.

    • Amex likely has no control over how Google reports the merchant code. They don’t “classify” a merchant since individual merchants can have multiple products and services that they provide. Comparing to Chase isn’t relevant since MCCs are determined by network, so Chase will report either VISA’s or Mastercard’s MCC.

  4. Google Fi was decent service for the price, until I got locked out of my Google account when UbreakIfix reset my phone without my consent. The only way to pay for the bill is via the app, and Google themselves reset tool was screwing up. After a month of going back and forth the 3 phones in my plan, we all got disconnected, and we couldn’t port our numbers away. Two more months of calls and emails and ticket after ticket the smartest tool in the shed knew what to do and got our numbers released and we went to the local Verizon store and moved our service back to them. Fi was kind enough to send me a final bill as well, for when we didn’t have service.

    • Mat – there is a way to pay on the website — both in advance and auto pay. Not sure how long ago your issue was, but since I signed up 2 years ago I’ve been able to pay in the website.

      • Their cust service had me try several ways using other accounts on the plan. I was locked out of my Google account though and their recovery site wasn’t working for a while, this happened in August 2021 through Nov 2021. I tried using one of the other lines to pay the bill but since it was a shared unlimited data plan, only my account could make the payments.
        After we left Fi and back to Verizon, randomly the Google account recovery system worked and I could get in.

  5. IMO, what it all really boiled down to is Customer Service. Amex is typically known for their great customer service and standing with their customers. That’s why I have 3 of their cards. Google… based on the above, it seems as though they didn’t care. Making matters worse, you had to request assistance via messaging…. probably because they don’t offer phone support, which in a word…. sucks. I try to avoid companies that do not offer phone support and I will pay a bit more for a company that does. That doesn’t necessarily mean I will get good service but I prefer to speak to a human vs messaging. The reality is…. again IMO, Customer Service is only going to get worse…. and after all, how long are they going to be able to blame it on Covid? The tail end of the baby boomers are retiring (me being one of the them). There are not enough Qualified ppl to replace us. Most young workers today have a very poor work ethic. When I receive bad customer service, I remind them that they are not the only game in town and that I can and will take my business elsewhere (and then hope for better service). When I’m told that I can look for the answer online…. I reply with something like…. keep saying that and the computer will take over your job and you will no longer have your job. I also let them know that just because I am not a computer geek like they are doesn’t mean that I am stupid…. I then let them know all of my qualifications & credentials including that I speak 3 languages and the Fortune 100 companies I have worked for. I close by saying, I don’t expect you to know my job… please don’t expect me to know yours. Just my 2 cents.

    • Judy – I disagree that young people have a poor work ethic. That aside, yes, Fi doesn’t offer phone support for anything but tech/troubleshooting. Customer service-related stuff is only via email.

  6. I had Google Fi for almost a year.
    It was decent service, but as soon as I needed assistance from customer service it became trash also. I got locked out of my Google account and recovery wasn’t working. The only way to pay the bill for my families 3 phones was in my app, which I couldn’t access. Eventually our service got disconnected because no one at Fi could help. Two months later eventually got someone who knew what to do and “released” our numbers, we promptly moved back to Verizon as nothing beats a store experience when help is needed. Guess you get what you pay for…

      • I was locked out of my Google account, so regardless couldn’t log into there either to pay. Google Fi said no one has locked themselves out before so weren’t sure how to handle it. Even one of the call center reps tried the account recovery process while I was on the phone with him and was dumbfounded, especially when my service got cut and it wanted to authenticate by sending me a text.

  7. I got all my Amex cell service credits, despite having to contact them multiple times. The charge on my Amex statement literally says “GOOGLE FI” in it’s summary description; despite using a code that Amex doesn’t recognize as cell service, I can’t comprehend why this is at all difficult to correct on Amex’s side.

    • Amex isn’t responsible for how billing reports from a company, for good or bad. The company must tell Amex what type of business it is, so Amex can code it. Fi decided in the end to tell Amex they’re an internet service.

      • Looking at the description of a charge from a supported cell service alongside its code is a far cry from rocket science.

        • Oh, I agree. Just pointing out that their terms all say they don’t have to give credits if billing doesn’t report correctly from the company itself.

  8. Well, you were definitely committed to this. I think I would have given up after one month and found a friend’s cell phone service I could help pay for. Really if you can send your phone bills to Amex, they should come through if they said Fi was an approved carrier.

    • But only if it codes correctly. Amex won’t give you a credit for a restaurant if that place is inside a supermarket and codes as supermarket. I don’t really fault Amex for Fi not telling them what billing coding is appropriate for its own business.

  9. I would look at the positive though. I saved more than $300 last year by using Google FI over ATT or Verizon. That being said it codes as internet services on my AMEX Blue Cash Preferred and gets 6% cash back.

  10. What happens when you try to use the cell phone protection benefit supported by an internet bill from Google Fi.

    • An excellent question. Assuming your card offers that protection and you need to make a claim, that could be a big hassle.

  11. Maybe switching the billing to a different card would help?
    My guess is they save a bit of money by coding the transaction as one type of service over another type of service.

    • Robert – switching the billing to a different card wouldn’t apply, since the monthly credits in 2021 were attached to specific cards. I had to use *that* card for the monthly rebates.

  12. We use Google Fi because they are by far the best service choice for our unusual needs (expats who return to the US periodically). HOWEVER, we signed up with them knowing they are legendarily terrible for customer service. They are a great example of the trade-off between “cheap and no frill” vs “effective when problems arise).

  13. Amex credited every single one of my mobile credits with Google Fi. Took some arguing, but a Twitter rep told me that they modified to include Google Fi, and I had to escalate to executive office once they started refusing but I literally had a message that said “if any don’t post automatically I will manually credit them for you”

  14. The other problem is that it wastes more time to contest the error than it is worth. A hundred emails or several hours on the phone is just too aggravating. The only revenge is to take your business elsewhere.

  15. I had a service issue that went on beyond 131 emails over the course of 8 months – no exaggeration. Painful would be an understatement. It’s mind-blowing to me how bad and ineffective their customer service is for mobile service. I would switch except it’s more affordable right now than other options (I wish I could get Mint coverage!)

  16. Oddest coding I ever saw was for a high end restaurant in Edinburgh. Had a lovely meal with a chef’s modern twist on haggis and cock-a-leekie all washed down with a plethora of single malt scotches. Used Chase Sapphire Reserve, coded as medical supplies 1x.

    • Lolol! I had a restaurant not credit on my Aspire last year so missed that month. It finally coded as Fuel since on a marina also selling gas for boats? Too bad not my Surpass at least with some extra gas points

  17. Google sucks Ass. Really they are horrible. The bigger they have become the worse they are getting. They bought Nest a few years ago and I thought that would be great for Nest but it’s been horrific! So much so that I bought a new Nest doorbell and it won’t even work in the NEST App. They used the Name NEST on the packaging and it won’t connect in Nest. They make you use the inferior and horribly unuser friendly Google Home App.

    This doesn’t surprise me. They are just horrible. I can give other examples but this example with Nest is the worst.

  18. Ugh, Google Fi was a complete nightmare for me trying it last month. I switched my phone service to Fi for December in anticipation of roaming in the UAE over winter break. So i discover first, wifi calling doesn’t work on iPhones, Fi somehow has LESS coverage than T-Mobile (I use T-mobile on my iPad) and notoriously spotty coverage near my home. I wasn’t able to get phone calls in my house! Fine, i figure, at least i can roam in UAE for free. Well, in the UAE, I’m limited to 3G service on their roaming partner (UGH!!). And, in order to get my Al Hosn app to work, I ended up buying a local SIM card anyways. UGH UGH UGH!

    • You didn’t do your research. This has been common knowledge since Fi added the ability to use iPhones. They don’t have the radios to switch networks like Pixel and other select Android phones. Just as Apple has an ecosystem; so does Google and you’ll only get the best out of the service using their products.

  19. So that sounds like a nightmare but I have to say this bill coding complaint isn’t just related to Google Fi, especially when it comes to the 4x restaurants on the Amex Gold.

    There have been many times where I’ve made a reservation at a restaurant, showed up at the restaurant, was seated by a host who provided menus, was served by a waiter whom we paid with tip. I then get my Amex statement and see the dreaded word “Cafe” with “1x points.” We live in a world where a McDonalds codes properly at 4x points but a full-service restaurant doesn’t qualify.

    Amex could have gone the Chase route and simply said “4x point on dining”, but that would have been too simple. Instead, if there’s an inkling of doubt (does the restaurant have the word “cafe” in it? Am I in France where everything is a cafe? Is this a restaurant in a hotel?) I reached for my Chase card instead to avoid the hassle.

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