This is a cautionary tale on how in the miles and points hobby it’s smart to abide by DBI rule (Don’t Be Interesting). Few weeks ago I wrote a post on how I’ve decided to convert mine and my husband’s Amex Platinum cards to Amex Green version. In retrospect, it was a foolish decision, but you can’t change the past.
On Saturday I logged in to my account, and couldn’t believe my eyes. Instead of the usual 103,820 points, here it was, a puny MR balance:
Say what? I checked my husband’s account, and it was the same story there as well. I started going into panic mode (breathe, breathe), and then called American Express. It was just what I suspected: the rep said they have reviewed our accounts and it was determined that we have abused MR program by converting Amex Platinum only three months after opening the cards.
I immediately asked to speak to supervisor, and my wish was granted.
Me: How can Amex just take the points from me when I have earned them fair and square? I didn’t violate any terms (100% true), and abided by all the rules set out in “T and C.” I spent over $3,000 in 3 months, and after getting the bonus I felt Amex Platinum was not the right product for me (100% true). So, I have converted it to Green card.
Amex Supervisor: I understand you are upset. But here is the thing. We want people to get the card and keep it long term.
Me: I get it. You want a loyal customer who will pay $450 fee for years. And you don’t like to give out such large quantities of points to just anyone. That’s understandable (no sarcasm).
Amex rep: No, it’s not like that.
Me: What I don’t understand is how Amex can make an offer to a customer and then snatch the bonus away when that person did nothing wrong. Once again, I didn’t violate any terms, I didn’t even take advantage of any perks on the card. Though I could have and still be in the right. You didn’t put conversion=losing bonus in the contract, so “abuse” here is in the eye of the beholder. And by beholder I mean Amex.
Also, when I changed the product via online chat, the rep never warned me that by converting Amex Platinum I would lose my 100K points. Obviously, I would never go ahead with it had I known that. In fact, he specifically told me I would NOT lose my points.
Amex rep: Well, the reps who handle online chats are not trained in that area.
Me: Perhaps Amex should train them, then. It’s unfair to blame customers for something that could have been prevented if the reps had been instructed ahead of time.
Amex rep: I understand you are very upset. In fact, I would be too. All I can do is forward the case to my supervisor and let them handle it.
Me: I appreciate that. I will also be filing a complaint with CFPB.
First, let me say that I hope this post doesn’t come across as whiny or self-entitled. I’ve said many times that I don’t feel like banks owe me anything. I don’t take it personally when I’m denied for a credit card, and if a bank decided to close my accounts for whatever reason, they would be within their rights to do so. Credit issuers are in the business of making money.
That said, in this particular case, I do feel like Amex owes me something, namely, 200K points that we’ve earned fair and square. I used a public link, available to everyone. I didn’t violate any terms, didn’t do any manufactured spending or took advantage of any loopholes.
Was it unwise to convert the card so soon? Obviously, the answer is yes. I don’t want to deal with all the potential rigamarole or get blacklisted with Amex. But it still doesn’t change the fact that those were our points. And they just took them from us because they felt like it.
I went ahead and filed complaints with CFPB. You can do it easily by clicking this link, and it usually takes just a few minutes of your time. There is a part that asks about a hoped for resolution. I put: “Reinstatement of points or $1,000 check.” Sure, the latter is low-end value estimate, but I’ll be happy to accept it just so I don’t have to deal with this whole thing anymore. Plus, I seriously doubt that Amex will actually reinstate the points.
If the complaints lead nowhere, I plan on filing a small claim and if that doesn’t work, I will consider hiring an attorney. Obviously, it’s not something I’m looking forward to, but we have $2,000 on the line here. Not to mention, we paid $360 in fees, and have nothing to show for it.
The fact that I have a blog is actually a good thing because I can document this whole ordeal publicly. I don’t delude myself into thinking that I have a whole lot of influence, but I know that Amex rep reads my posts. If one of my readers happens to be a lawyer, I will appreciate any advice you can give me. You can comment here or email me at email@example.com Thanks in advance!
1) Beware Amex bearing gifts.
It’s true that most of the recent issues had to do with this fateful 100K Amex offer. Someone dropped the ball by releasing it to the public, and Amex has been doing everything it can to weasel out of paying the bonus. However, this could affect any offer out there.
Don’t do any MS on Amex cards and don’t convert them too soon. When would it be safe to do so? Your guess is as good as mine, but at 8 months mark it should be OK. Canceling them will do no good since Amex no longer prorates annual fees. Basically, abide by DBI rule, and maybe you’ll be fine. Well, unless Amex feels like you are abusing the program based on their own criteria. Speaking of…
2) Think twice before you decide to collect Membership Rewards points through everyday spending.
This is especially true if you do tend to be “interesting.” The whole idea behind flexible points is that you can keep them in your account till decent redemption opportunity presents itself. Do you really want to trust the company that constantly scrutinizes your accounts and waits to pounce on anything they feel is “abusive”? Remember, there is no manual to define that term, so it could really be anything.
One of my favorite long-term card picks is Amex Everyday Preferred. I’ve recommended it to many readers as a great choice for everyday spending. This new development gives me pause.
3) Document everything.
This really applies to any bank, but apparently, it’s critical with Amex. When you apply via targeted link, save a screenshot that shows the bonus because they may try to give you an inferior public offer. If you have any communication with Amex, save it. It’s funny, I actually got this screenshot for my post, but it may end up helping me to fight these guys:
The rep did say “my existing points will not lose,” whatever that means. I went ahead and attached it to my CFPB complaint.
4) If you feel like you’ve been wronged, fight it.
I’m most certainly not letting it go, and will do my best to make Amex give us points or mail us a check. They offered me a deal, I’ve accepted it and fulfilled all the requirements. As far as I’m concerned, the points were stolen from us. And in an obnoxious manner too, with zero communication or warning.
I’ve let things go with Citi when I signed up for CitiGold account because, technically, it was a targeted offer. This one is totally different. Of course, it doesn’t pay to get emotional about these sort of things. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business. Speaking of…
5) Don’t let hobby mishaps spill over into your real life and rob you of your happiness.
This one is easier said than done, and I’m not the best example in that area. I was devastated and kept kicking myself for not speculatively transferring the points to Avios program. I should have done it and close the accounts right afterwards. But you can’t go back in time and change the past. I can do my best to rectify the situation, but if things don’t work out, I HAVE to let it go and move on.
We won’t be starving due to this loss, and my life doesn’t depend on having a healthy MR balance. It depends on me being healthy, period. And stress sure doesn’t help in this respect. On to the next one…
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.