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Amex Took 200K Membership Rewards Points from Us, and My Plans to Get Them Back

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:

amex-clawback

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.

Next steps

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 milesforfamily@gmail.com Thanks in advance!

The takeaway

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:

amex conversion

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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Author: Leana

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.

92 thoughts on “Amex Took 200K Membership Rewards Points from Us, and My Plans to Get Them Back

  1. Ugh, this stinks. My husband and both did this 100K Amex offer, and so far we’re good. I’ve gone through both of our accounts and we did not do any MS or irregular spending. Hopefully we’re safe.

    Sorry you’re going through this! They have pissed a lot of people off with this issue and clawing back so many points =/

    • @Holly Thanks! Definitely don’t convert your cards for few months. I also recommend you put some spending on them just in case. Amex is watching you! And no, I’m not being paranoid.

      • No plans to downgrade either of them. We have used the travel credit on both and love Centurion Lounges and other perks. We are also using our cards for small purchases, just to keep on Amex’s good side. My husband knows he is to use his Amex Plat for anything under $15! (Everything else goes on Chase)

    • @Hilary Thank you. I hope I’ll get the points back or at least, get a check as a form of compensation. I don’t mean to spread panic. In all likelihood, you should be fine as long as you follow DBI rule.
      But personally, if by some miracle the points are reinstated, I’m immediately transferring them to miles or redeeming them on gift cards. Fool me once… and you know the rest. 🙂

  2. Ugh, I’ve tried commenting using the newest version of the Microsoft Edge browser (pushed to my PC as part of Windows 10 Anniversary Update) on your site the past few days and it didn’t work. I wonder if anyone else is having this issue.

    That sucks, but it is a known risk that you take with any of the banks when you are cancelling a card shortly after receiving a signup bonus. Points can be clawed back. You downgraded to a lesser product, but from Amex’s perspective, it seems clear that you never had any intention of keeping the Platinum card to trial the benefits (at minimum). Which is kind of the whole point of the bonus….to get you to try/use the card. When you try to game the system, sometimes you lose.

    Honestly, I never understood why you did the conversion. Even if you didn’t recover the annual fee via the airline credits and global entry, $450 for 100K points is a great bargain by any standard – that is less than half a penny per point.

    Your saving grace may be your screenshot of the chat, which certainly implied that you would keep the points. Good luck.

    I wonder what would have happened if you had immediately transferred those points to SkyMiles, KrisFlyer, Flying Blue, or their other MR partners. Would they have made the extra effort to claw them back from a 3rd party or just let it go? That definitely would be an interesting data point.

    • @Erik First, I’m very sorry you are having trouble commenting. Ugh, I wish I could tell you what the problem is. Thank you for taking the time, though.
      You make some valid points. I can definitely see Amex side on this one. I wouldn’t want someone to just take the bonus and convert the card shortly after. That said, they should put it in writing. In the end, I don’t feel I broke any rules. Not to mention, I didn’t take advantage of any of Platinum perks. I was planning on it, like getting TSA reimbursement, lounge access and airline credits, but it never worked out.
      Ironically, I didn’t feel right about getting airline gift cards and taking advantage of the loophole. So, keeping the card long term felt like a sunk cost. Obviously, if I could go back in time, I would have kept it. You are absolutely right, paying $450 for 100K points is a great deal indeed. But there is nothing I can do now to change what happened. I honestly didn’t think conversion would be viewed the same way as canceling the card. But apparently, Amex feels differently. I don’t know what will come of this whole thing, but I do intend to fight it. I made a mistake, but I don’t think it’s an excuse for Amex to just take my points.

    • @Cate I’m very sorry, your comment originally ended up in spam. I just found it there. My spam filter has been overzealous lately, sort of like Amex!
      I’m not sure I can take on a corporation like American Express, but I will give it my best shot. Thanks!

  3. Really, really hope you get them back. My guess is you will get something back because of the customer representative not warning you when converting the cards, and because you did not abuse the program in any legal sense. Keeping fingers crossed.

    • @Uri Thank you so much! My hope is that my experience will spare others similar outcome. I didn’t want to come across as some sort of a victim/crybaby because let’s face it, I could have kept the Platinum card. But I wan’t using any of the benefits, and honestly thought conversion wouldn’t count against me. I was wrong. I wish they would have given me a chance to convert it back, but they didn’t. They simply took the points without any kind of notice. I am a bit surprised at how ruthless Amex has become lately.

  4. Wow that’s a lot of points to just let go. I did keep my card and didn’t have any issues but I get some extra value with Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia besides all the other extras.

    Good luck! Hopefully it works out. That screenshot and CFPB should help. The fact that you didn’t take advantage of any of the perks should also be a plus.

    • @Danny Thanks for stopping by! I don’t know if the CFPB complaint will do any good, but I will exhaust whatever options I have before I let this issue drop.

  5. Oh, that stinks! I hope you get your points back. We just renewed my husband’s platinum card last week. We weren’t going to, but they offered 25,000 with no spending just to keep it. I’m trying to get enough Avios to fly our family to Spain next fall, and with the bonus now it works out to buying them at 1.5 cpm. Looking at the fares, it looks like we can get at least 2 cpm out of them, so I figured it was a good enough deal. And we actually fly Frontier quite a bit, so I used the airline credit to buy our seats, check bags, etc. Thanks for the data point. It is a good heads up for future interactions with AmEx.

    • @Cynthia That actually seems like a decent retention offer, especially if you plan on using $200 airline credit. MR points are definitely very useful, which is why I’m so upset to lose them!

  6. I am SO sorry about this! And I really, really hope that you get all your points back, or least a good chunk of them. In this game we play, we are all grabbing the low hanging fruit for as little cost as possible, and we well know we are not using the cards as they were intended to be used. How far we go depends on our own personal sense of ethics as well as risk tolerance. Please know that after years of reading this blog, I would never consider you a “hog”, and I’m not judging, just trying to foster a discussion where we can all gain some knowledge from this horrible experience… so with that in mind, I do think closing after three months was a risky move, especially considering the spate of clawbacks and shutdowns from Amex. And unfortunately, the definition of “abuse” is pretty much up to them. But I still honestly think you have a good chance at getting at least a chunk of your points back. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease… if you remain courteous but absolutely insistent and continue to escalate, I believe you will succeed. Best of luck to you!!!

    • @Debra Thanks! I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely foolish to do this conversion. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. I wouldn’t have done it if I utilized even one benefit, but I didn’t see myself using any of the perks in a near future. Of course, I was mainly in it for the points.
      Thanks for your kind words. Amex obviously feels that I’m a “hog,” and I suppose that definition is too in the eye of the beholder.
      Still, I feel like this is some sort of a witch hunt where they are waiting for a customer to trip up so they can claw back the points. Very concerning for everyone involved, including those who just accumulate points through regular spend. If conversion is defined as “abuse,” there should be some sort of a warning given.

  7. I called AMEX on Oct 9 2015 (keeping records of interactions) and asked to limit cash advance on Gold Business Rewards. I was told it was not possible and a new conversation started where the CSR was asking me as to why some of my transactions at Premium Outlets are flat at $1200, $900, etc. I had some explanation yet found the entire discussion very strange. At this time I was working on a $10k spend for this card (75k points after $10k) and some other cards splitting payments. Rewind a few months and in January Bluebird shut down. Clearly AMEX has been looking into spending patterns for some time and is very well aware of “serial starters” (term as we know coined by Chase) and determined to simply stop this practice. Terms and conditions on all new cards clearly mention cash equivalents and prepaid cards (= read Visa GC) are not allowed. My theory is that if the vendor does not support data level 3, AMEX cannot know what I purchased. So I may take the risk with the next offer as the spending limit is usually high ($5k and up). Their terms and conditions state they as a matter of fact they can do whatever they consider correct and they are right in their own way. We are the ones asking not the ones entitled to have. We are using corporate greed to our own benefit. Your story suggests the game is heating up and is a great reminder of the old rule – Always pay your annual fee if it is not waived the first year. Keeping low profile seems to be the best way to go now and in the future. Slow and steady, generate little or no warning signs, and avoid breaching of possible computer algorithms in place. It is extremely easy to see pattern for each customer as we leave the data trail behind us and all can be compiled within a few keyboard strokes. It is a loss that would bring me down to my knees as 200k of MRs are an amazing value for those of us who like to fly. Yet we all have done many many mistakes but in the long run will always be ahead. Only long term investing will make for an experienced investor, so hopefully you are diversified and can tap another stash when the tickets come due.

    • @Seth Very true! I broke my own rule of keeping low profile. I don’t know why I thought this conversion would be viewed as harmless. Believe me, I wish I could go back and do things differently.
      And I agree, the game is heating up, no question about it. This loss brought me down to my knees, figuratively speaking. Unfortunately, I know you are right about Amex having the final say as to definition of abuse.

  8. Good luck to you! I personally am in the middle of a dispute with Amex as well. I was never credited for participating in Amex offers. It’s been 6 months and counting and I had the runaround from online chat representatives, phone agents, you name it. I filed a CFPB complaint against Amex, and Amex gave me some credit back, but not the full amount. I disputed their response and it’s still ongoing. I’m going to file a BBB complaint too as well. I hope your dispute process won’t be as eventful as mine. Good luck Leana!

    • @Winni Sorry about your Amex troubles! Hope you’ll get them resolved eventually. Even if things don’t work out with my issue, I still came out ahead over the last 10 years of doing this hobby. That’s what I keep telling myself.

  9. I hope you get your points back…it sucks that you are getting punished even though you are following the rules. I would have been tempted for a early downgrade/cancellation if not for the fact that I am utilizing the $200 credit (in ways that you wouldn’t approve). I think AMEX is having a tough time with losing a lot of the major co-brand partners (look at their stock price), but it certainly doesn’t justify clawing back points from rule-abiding customers. Very poor business decision…I smell class action lawsuit down the road.

    • @Katye Thank you so much! Believe me, I ain’t judging you on utilizing $200 credit! 🙂 I honestly don’t want to come across as a whiny baby on this whole thing. This hobby is like a game of poker between us and the banks. And the banks are getting better at the game, for sure.

  10. Almost samething happened to me except I closed my card after got bonus instead of downgrading. After talking with supervisor and receive same response as you, I gave up since I still have about 600k MR and didn’t want to ruin my relationship with Amex. CFPB doesn’t work for this case based on recent FT post with same issue and Amex response.

    • @VM Heck, I need to find that Flyertalk thread. This is what I was afraid of. Oh well, I’ll give it my best shot anyway. Thanks for letting me know!

  11. I know how you felt as I’m one of those got clawed back when applying for the Platinum 100K card. My heart just dropped and wanted to cry when I saw my balance was down to a few thousands. I’m not a millionaire and don’t spend thousand of dollars every month. My minimum spending was met by one-third of normal spending and two-third by purchasing gift cards. I filed complaint to CFPB and Executive office to no avail.
    I do not look for loopholes and don’t apply for a lot of cards. I was not aware that it was meant to be a targeted offer otherwise I would not apply for it. Also, didn’t pay attention to T&C about buying gift card. I guess you have a better case then I do. So keep fighting.

    • @Sheila Oh no! I’m so sorry. It actually wasn’t a targeted offer, so you did nothing wrong by using that application link. Also, Amex has never enforced “no Visa/MasterCard gift card” policy, so don’t feel bad for not following the terms. Nobody expected this sort of a fallout. It’s crazy but apparently, some people had their bonus clawed back for buying AMAZON gift cards. Say what?!

  12. I just did this same thing. Got 100k points from platinum…waited a bit…downgraded to green. Asked chat if id keep my points. Rep said yes (and I believe i took a screen shot). That was a month or so ago. Still have the points.

    • @Benj It took them a little over a month to pull this stunt on me. I don’t mean to scare you, but you might want to figure out what to do with your points ASAP and then consider closing the card immediately, so they don’t charge you for them. It’s up to you, of course. I know I would.

      • Applied for the platinum 8-27-15. Received 100k bonus. Product changed over to the green card last day or so in August 2016. Still have my 100k points as of this morning. Product changed via amex chat who said I’d retain the points. Literally did it this product change after reading your original post Hello Green Card.

  13. So sorry to hear about this!
    What’s done is done, only thing you can do now is focus on how to get your points back without burning bridges with Amex. Best of luck!!

    • @TropicGal Thanks! I was so upset about it yesterday, I could hardly sleep. I guess the post just kind of stirred it all back up. I honestly doubt I’ll get the points back, but I’ll give it my best shot.

  14. I think for the case like me and @MilesForFamily Amex has clawed back 100K MR right after a month of closing or downgrading because for Amex card you can re-open or re-upgrade your closed or downgraded card within 30 days. For my case I closed My card on Aug 7th and 100K MR was clawed back on Sep 9th.

    • @VM Same here! I converted the card on August 16th, the points were clawed back on September 22nd. I didn’t realize it till few days ago.

  15. I feel bad for you and your family… but on the other hand, people making the bonus spend AND immediately downgrading the card is a move I believe many bloggers and points enthusiasts warn everyone not to do. First and foremost, I think it makes it harder for your family to get points from Amex in the future and you’ll obviously be under more scrutiny — which is never good in this hobby. Additionally, I think these kind of actions (as well as MS) are not great for the hobby as a whole — although who knows, Chase just unleashed the CSR.

    American Express has always been good to me, and I churn quite a bit. I do not blame them for freezing and clawing back points in cases of MS, immediate downgrade, etc. Of course, it sucks if it hits you. Given that they offer 2x $200 airline credits what is the incentive to do the downgrade (to get the $200 refund AND no annual fee??) If you didn’t take advantage of the “perks” I assume you didn’t get the $200 airline credit — why not just keep it a full year and benefit x2 from the airline credit?

    Have you considered asking them if they would reinstate the points if you go back to the platinum card — and agree to keep it for a year?

    • @Joe Thanks for stopping by! You are definitely making some valid points here. It was a huge mistake, no question about it. That said, I wish the rep would have said something. Also, I didn’t take advantage of $200 credit because, ironically enough, I didn’t feel right about buying gift cards. I’m not trying to make an excuse because clearly, it was the case of poor judgement on my part. If we don’t get the points back, we’ll survive, but it was a brutal lesson to learn.
      Oh, and I did offer to upgrade the card, but no go. Not only that, but we are now ineligible for Platinum bonus.

      • Let’s be honest, all of us in the hobby are to some extent taking advantage of or “abusing” the system. (Myself included) I don’t want people losing their points, but I also don’t want the big banks (esp Amex, Chase and CITI) adding more onerous rules. Rules like Chase’s 5/24, Citi’s new recent rules, and Amex’s once per life time are not good for us! I’d think long and hard about exactly what action I would take against Amex, because if I had the choice between being paid $2K (and being blacklisted by Amex) vs continuing to be able to get Amex bonuses and using their cards I’d choose the latter in a heartbeat despite having exhausted many once per lifetime bonuses already).

  16. I believe that you plan to covert to low fee green card before you apply the platinum card right? Get 100k and 200 travel credit, but only pay a little annual fee. I can understand you don’t violate any T&C, but you should keep the card for at least a year just to keep good relationship with AMEX. Don’t hit too hard on AMEX. Your Membership Rewards belongs to them.

  17. By the way, were these miles earned from the 100K offer from May? Seems Amex is being unusually strict and ruthless about that particular offer.

    • @Joe Yes, sir! It was the offer from May. And you are right, Amex is ruthless about it, which is why I was totally dumb to do this whole thing. I’ve seen reports of them clawing back bonus for buying Amazon gift cards and saying it’s a cash equivalent. Totally nuts!

  18. I’m sorry to hear this happened. I suffered a similar issue with my Hilton HHonors account recently (took advantage of their status match promo after having already received a match previously) and they shut down my account, even though the limit of one match per lifetime is only colloquial knowledge and nowhere in their terms. On the bright side, after pointing this out to them and heavily hinting that a negative response would result in a small claims dispute, my account was reinstated with all of my points. Still left a dirty taste in my mouth though.

    My recommendation is why not pursue the CFPB complaint and small claims court at the same time? I think it’s interesting that so many “escalation guides” recommend using the CFPB and BBB before small claims, where companies almost always lose by the virtue of not showing up. And in a case such as yours, I have a hard time seeing how you would be denied your claim. I would also ask in the court for not only compensation for the points, a higher than conservative value, but also for the time you used, based off of your salary, computed into an hourly wage. Just make sure you don’t ask for so much that you break the limit on what can be litigated in small claims. Wishing you the best.

    • @Garet Thanks for your advice! I’m seriously thinking about pursuing small claims court option. This whole thing happened a few days ago, so I’m still processing it all. I just emailed Amex executive office because I want to settle this issue peacefully if at all possible. But it’s looking very unlikely. As much as I hate to burn my bridges with Amex, for $2000 I totally will.

      • Maybe I’m missing something…but how are you “out” $2000? Is that your calculated value of the MR points that were clawed back (100K x 2 accounts x $0.01)? It’s not like you spent $2000 of actual money and lost it. Amex themselves only value MR points at $0.006 each, because that’s what you get if you redeem MR points for charges. Using their valuation, that’s $600 per card. If you really pursued legal action, I would guess that small claims would have to be filed separately for each account. After paying court filing fees and attorney fees, the juice is simply not worth the squeeze. The likelihood that you would win is small, and even if you did, it would be something like a Pyrrhic victory along with the risk of being blacklisted by Amex. You could actually lose money.

        I recommend pursuing it as much as you can via the non-legal channels and if you eventually reach the conclusion that you’re not getting anywhere after 30-60 days, consider it an expensive lesson (the pro-rated annual fees you did pay) and move on. It sucks, but the more adventurous aspects of this “hobby” carry risks and, unfortunately, sometimes those risks are realized.

      • @Erik I don’t believe I’ve said anywhere that I’m “out” $2,000. Of course not. If that’s how it came across, it wasn’t my intention.
        At this point we sunk $360 in fees into this whole thing. But yes, that’s a low-end value I place on 200K MR points. I know you can redeem them for much less if you take cash, but I would never do that. I would just get the gift cards. Obviously, Amex is the one that determines the value, but I believe I saw somewhere that it’s in the neighborhood of 1.2 cents per MR point. I’m not sure if that’s correct, but I doubt it’s less than 1 cent.
        I’m not certain yet that I will pursue legal action. I will definitely research it before I decide on what to do. Obviously, I have to take into account my relationship with Amex. I just got a response from CFPB, and now Amex is saying that even though they have deposited the points, they were technically pending in my account. So since I converted the account, they were in the right to claw them back. That sounds ridiculous because I could have redeemed them, so I’m no sure how the word “pending” applies. By that logic, clawback should be in pending status as well.
        Look, I’m not trying to act like some sort of a victim. If it looks hopeless or requires a lot of investment, I will let this thing go. I have benefited greatly from banks, Amex included. I defininetely want a peaceful resolution. But I will do my best to recover the points. I made a mistake, but I believe they should have given me a chance to upgrade the accounts back to Platinum before just taking the points away. Obviously, I’m biased on this one. Thanks for your feedback, as always.

      • Sorry Eric, but you’re wrong on a number of points. First, computed value of points is a moving target and arguing for a certain monetary equivalent would be up to the plaintiff in the event of a small court filing. Further, the whole point of small claims court is to circumvent the problem you cite regarding attorney fees, as the courts are designed so that individuals can represent themselves. The court fee varies, but its typically around 50USD on the high side.

      • So much of the commentary here is rooted in a faulty understanding of both contract law and the rights of consumers. It is not “selfish” or “entitled” to expect a corporation, or any entity, to adhere to the contracts it forms. Especially because in the case of contracts like loyalty programs, the rules are wholly written by the companies and come with all kinds of arbitrary restrictions that users learn to live with. If Amex didn’t want people to switch products, they should have written it into their terms and conditions. They did not. Thus, it is fully in the author’s right to pursue this through the legal system in place for compensation if the company refuses to be reasonable. That is why we have a legal system.

        Further, the concern about “burning bridges” is a bit overblown, if only because I doubt that AMEX would be inclined to open themselves up to further allegations of discriminatory business practices if they denied credit to someone who (either successfully or unsuccessfully) pursued legal action against them. In the case written above, AMEX clearly is violating its own terms and hoping that recipients of their decisions will either be a) too lazy b) too intimidated or c) too uninformed to hold them to the terms they originally laid out.

      • @Anon Sure, but if an attorney is used for legal consultation and/or assistance with filing the small claim, she would likely incur some fees. Most attorneys don’t work for free unless they get something out of it (i.e. the ambulance chasers).

        Also true that she can argue whatever she wants as a valuation for MR points. But I think the likelihood of winning that amount is questionable when Amex can argue that they have already established a cash equivalent value which is less than one cent (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they claim that any value determination is solely up to them per T+Cs since it is their point system).

        My point is that it’s not likely worth the time/effort/cost to pursue a legal resolution when the probability of obtaining the desired outcome and being “ahead” is small. She may disagree and that’s OK – it’s a free country.

      • @Erik Actually, I don’t disagree with you at all! You’ve made a valid argument that Amex may establish a floor of 0.6 cents per MR point based on cash redemption option. That makes a lot of sense. Obviously, we all know MR points are worth much more than that, even if you choose to redeem for merchant gift cards and then sell them for cash. But proving it could be problematic. And believe me, the last thing I want is some sort of a court litigation. I don’t need the stress and all the potential ramifications, including being blacklisted.
        I can see both sides of the argument here.
        I don’t want to make myself into a poor victim, but I also want to exercise my rights if at all possible. Amex is now saying that the points were technically pending, no mention of abuse. This is bizarre to me on so many levels, since they were available for redemption the entire time. While I certainly displayed poor judgement, I also feel Amex could have prevented this whole thing if they simply warned us about the outcome during the conversion process. Instead, they are saying they are not responsible for actions of their own reps.
        Either way, I welcome any feedback and certainly appreciated your input, as I always do!

  19. I think you should, of course, attempt to get the 200K MR points back. However, I urge you to strongly reconsider the following statement : “As much as I hate to burn my bridges with Amex, for $2000 I totally will.”

    First off, availability of credit is quite valuable — you don’t really want to shoot yourself in the foot and lose access to a company like American Express. Also in terms of just rewards benefits, unless you think Amex is going to stop generous welcome bonuses in the near future and police every sign up bonus like they have the dreaded 100K Platinum bonus in May — Amex has a lot more to offer you and your family in the coming years than 200K MR points. Even if you’ve used up a lot of the once in a lifetime signing bonuses, there are so many different cards, so many different flavors of cards, new partnerships, etc. FWIW, Amex has always said that is takes ~8 weeks+ for the points to actually be yours (although even then they’ve clawed back) — they’re kind of just advancing you the points for your convenience to be “friendly”.

    • @Joe You definitely have a point. Man, this is a tricky situation. I’ll have to think about it some more because I don’t want to do anything stupid (again). By the way, I never knew about 8-week policy. That’s what Amex rep told me as well. It’s a bit contradictory in nature, and I’ll have more on it tomorrow.

      • Follow Garrett’s advice. Typical company response is to settle prior to court or win by default if they no show. Your case appears a slam dunk win. You did not violate any T&Cs so there is no legal basis for them to take your points.

      • @Mser Thanks for your advice! I may end up going this route after all. I do want to look into mediation first, especially since there is a report of success on Flyertalk. This whole thing is a bit of a nightmare. Self-enflicted one, admittedly.

  20. Pingback: Miles and Points Recap: Plastiq, Free Miles, Delta Offers, Update on My Amex Saga and More! - Miles For Family

  21. Pingback: Another Amex Clawback Excuse, Bulk Fares & Mileage, Missing a Chase Payment & More! - Miles to Memories

  22. So, they took my 100k bonus again for the same reason. And in the CPFB replies their exact wording is that the points were not “available” during review period, and therefore couldn’t be applied/given-back when the review was over.

    I took screenshots of my balance showing the points being “available”, and have started a JAMS mediation process with them (in the CPFB back and forth they wouldn’t budge).

    You will likely need to send this to arbitration also. There is atleast one report on flyertalk that once it reaches arbitration stage they give back the points since its not worth their time.

  23. I did something stupid, after they clawed my 100k points back I cancelled the card. At that time they were still prorating the fee, so I got 335 dollars back. I wonder if I am blacklisted?
    Jim

  24. I also got my 100K points clawed back, but that was because when I tried to cancel Platinum Benz they actually cancelled Platinum card. I spent over $5500 on the Platinum card and no MS whatsoever. I tried to reason with several MR CSRs over the phone but they basically said “sorry, but your account looks suspicious and there’s nothing we can do, this decision is final”.
    So I filed complaint with CFPB and BBB at the same time, 5 days later received response back basically stating that it’s their fault my account was cancelled and 100K will be returned back. Another 4-5 days later and the 100K posted back.

    • @Anonymous Wow, that’s crazy! This is what I meant about thinking twice before leaving large quantities of points in your MR account. How nuts for a company to say the account looks suspicious, so we can just take your points away from you if you choose to cancel the card. Glad it worked out.

  25. This is very interesting. I think you will win, but I agree with others that you may want to let it go in order to preserve your future relationship with Amex. I received the 100,000 MR via mostly regular spend, but also about $800 of “other.” I’m wondering if I am safe now or if I should transfer the points out. I’ve used almost all of the benefits and I have kept it open. Thoughts?

    • @Anne Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure if I will win, but I’m inclined to give it a shot anyway. While I was stupid, I didn’t break any rules. But yeah, I’m not crazy about potentially burning bridges with Amex.
      As far as your question, hmm, that’s tough. I don’t know how far back Amex may look, it’s hard to say. Personally, I would transfer the points to Avios due to current promo. I would then cancel the card in order to avoid chargeback. I’m not saying you should do it, but that’s my two cents.

  26. Thanks for posting this horrendous, if cautionary tale. Further reinforces my hesitation about doing ANY business with Amex, if I can avoid it with alternatives. My go to cards these days are with Chase and now Barclays. (sic — the insider promos on the Wyndham card are…. well, since nobody writes on them, I won’t either. 😉 ) Bottom of the sock drawer cards are now from Amex and esp. Bank of America (the promises-broken Amtrak card….)

    Single best post in this thread thus far was by Garrett, challenging the disposition of so many here to presume AMEX (and others) has the status of some sort of free-market deity that we dare not challenge, lest we lose even more, that those “with the power” can at their discretion black-ball us, etc. (When Donald Trump — the “saint” to so many — when he stiffed the endlesss parade of contractors, didn’t pay taxes, played insidious JR Ewing style hard-ball with my neighbors (and Bank of America) near Monticello to get his winery for pennies on the dollar, he and his supplicants call it “smart business.”

    But if we take advantage of a credit card offer to earn a promotion, we get all sorts of insinuations of impropriety thrown at us…. unless we come across as not whining, as supplicants to the financial Lord$ of the realm.

    Sure, if you willfully, knowingly violate t&c’s of the card offer, we earn their wrath. But in this case, just as with the now infamous shut-downs of Blue-Bird for thentofore unspecified violations (e.g., ms), you and others apparently are being punished for something you hadn’t been previously advised was going to be a problem… Moreover, you even have a detail from one of their authorized reps that your action was not going to result in the very penalty they later inflicted. That their corporate right arms says the corporate left arm didn’t understand what he was saying is no excuse.

    Best wishes for your challenge. No need to apologize.

    Resistance is not Futile. ~ Hugh, 3rd of Five

    • @Guess who? Thanks for your comment. I’ve always tried to maintain good relaonship with banks. I don’t do MS or anything that may attract unwanted attention, well, till now, that is. I don’t delude myself into thinking that Amex will be crying over losing my business. That said, I don’t cry for them when they have to pay me a sign-up bonus they promised in writing.
      It’s important to remember that we are not dealing with starving orphans but a large corporation that will have no problem exercising their rights when a customer messes up. They can raise interest rates and change the terms on cards anytime, and they certainly expect payment on time or they charge you a penalty. I’m not saying banks are evil, but they aren’t victims either.

  27. I am new to all this. I just got an Amex card that offered 30,000 Delta points with account fee waived the first year. Two days after getting approved for this card, I (stupidly) applied for the Citicard via the American Airlines website and I was denied. DENIED! I have excellent credit and I don’t think I’ve been denied for any request for credit in over 30 years. What makes it even more spectacular is that I’ve had a Citicard in the past and although I cancelled it when the annual fee was going to kick in, I used it for a year and never bought gift cards or any of the other ‘tricks’ I am starting to learn about reading these types of blogs. I have paid off my house, I wonder if entering ‘o’ in the housing field is killing me on applying for new credit or if it was just too close on the heels of the Amex application.

    Anyway, thank you, I’ve enjoyed reading about some of these experiences and seeing how some people are figuring out how to rack up enormous points in Frequent Flyer programs. I would like the Citicard and their website bonus of 50,000 AA miles, though, too. When I called Citibank for more info on the denial, the rep said I could reapply in 60 days. I’m not sure what is going to change in 60 days since the inquiries will still be showing on my credit report. It does seem to me to be getting harder to qualify for bonuses, even for the ‘small fry’ types like me who only have a couple of cards. I don’t understand the reference to Amex once in a lifetime I see mentioned– is my 30,000 Delta perk the only one I’ll ever qualify for with Amex? Is that what they mean by once in a lifetime? I have a lot of research to do!

    • @Noobie Welcome to this hobby as well as my blog! First of all, you weren’t stupid to apply for Citi credit card right after Amex. I can’t imagine that would kill you chances, especially since you are just getting started. There has to be something else going on, but then again, Citi is a weird bank. I would reapply in 60 days if you really like collecting AA miles. Make sure you don’t settle for anything less than 50K miles. Offers change, but there is usually a working link on Flyertalk and other sites.
      Speaking of, you should call Amex and see if they can add another 20K miles on this Delta offer you’ve just applied for. Ask to speak to a supervisor if necessary. Unfortunately, you got a lower offer, and Amex has just raised this bonus to 50K miles+$50 credit. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news and yes, Amex has a policy of 1 bonus/per lifetime. That’s why I recommend you try to get them to match it.
      Above all else, don’t stress too much over this. You are just getting started, and there are many offers you’ll be able to get in the future. Don’t let one Citi fail discourage you. You also may want to focus on flexible points and cash back, unless you have specific plans for miles.
      I recommend you do wait a bit, of course. Oh, and not having a mortgage shouldn’t matter a whole lot as long as you have a decent credit score and long history.
      Please, feel free to email me at milesforfamily@gmail.com if you have any questions.

      • I just called Amex and was told it was ‘impossible’ to change my 30,000 card to the same card offering the 50,000 award. I asked to talk to a supervisor, was put on hold 5 minutes then hung up on, called back, same ‘impossible’ claim. I really have a bad taste in my mouth about Amex after this. I only got approved for this card on 9/20, so I don’t see what is so ‘impossible’ about upgrading my offer to the one they have on their website. They don’t have an email option, only a ‘chat’ which is as useless as talking to their foreign based customer service dept. I will write them a letter, then I will probably spend what I need to spend to reach that threshold to get the 30,000 miles and then cancel the card.

        I’m not impressed with Amex and even less so right now with this ‘impossible’ crap. I am going to also write a letter to Citibank because I got their written denial and one of the reasons is because I have no recent mortgage activity… yeah, that is because I paid it off!! It just seems so arbitrary and stupid the way some of these credit offers work. I do have a Chase card with United miles, they seem pretty good right now, more impressed with them than anything Amex is throwing my way. I’m sorry I ever applied for that stupid card!

    • @Noobie I’m so sorry to hear it! Do try to contact Amex via Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes it helps to do it via social media channel because it’s in public eye. You may want to also send a letter to Citi asking for reconsideration. I don’t know the address of the top of my head, so Google it. Banks can be a pain to deal with sometimes. Chase is the best of the bunch, and they do match the offers.

  28. What an awful situation! And it’s ridiculous that you would to have to pay for JAMS, given that you haven’t violated T&Cs and you also have a screenshot of the CSR telling you that you would keep your points. You might try a second CFPB complaint. I had a different situation with this whole mess, but it took 2 CFPB complaints before Amex agreed to restore my points. I also let them know on my second CFPB complaint that I would be pursuing arbitration if they sent me another boilerplate response to my CFPB complaint and that I expected them to actually address my specific situation in their response. I would itemize your specific complaints & ask them to specifically explain each question, including the following: a) if points had to be reissued following your “review”, then what specifically is the problem, given that you still have a vehicle to receive the points (Green card, that earns the exact same kind of MR points)? b) given that you double-checked on this and have a screenshot, how do they justify directly contradicting the info that their CSR gave to you regarding losing your sign up bonus by switching to different MR-earning American Express card?

    • @GCB Thanks for commenting! I just got a CFPB response letter for my husband. In it they are saying that rep was referring to 3800 points he earned from spending, not 100K points bonus. That contradicts how events went down since the bonus was deposited few months before the conversion, and the points were clearly available. The rep had to see them when we converted the card. I had more on this in a follow-up post from yesterday.

      It’s very clear to me that Amex is making excuses in order to keep the points. I plan to file another CFPB complaint just like you’ve suggested. I would like to exhaust all peaceful options and give them a chance to upgrade the card to Platinum, and charge us the fees, of course. If they refuse, I will file a small claim/ pursue arbitration. If I lose, well, at least I’ve tried. Stay calm, stay calm (that’s me talking to myself).:)

      • Right, I feel for you–I found this whole experience so frustrating and needlessly time-consuming. I think you have an excellent chance of prevailing, however. Amex is acting like an insurance company where they just deny, deny, deny, and I think they figure that many people with rightful claims won’t take the time required to pursue getting their points reinstated.

  29. Just as an FYI for everyone: I too was subject to the 100K point clawback. This happened on 9/16. I called up to complain and ask WTF had happened. They investigated for a while, and then called me back on 9/27. I spoke to Michael, who stated that I’d purchased gift cards to meet part of the minimum spend, which was in violation of the T&Cs. I went back and forth with him for a while, but eventually gave up, and canceled the card after confirming that I’d be receiving $337.50 back as a pro-rated refund of my annual fee. I have since received the refund credit and transferred it to another AMEX card.

    So, bottom line: As of 9/27/2016, in some or all cases, you can still cancel your AMEX card and receive a pro-rated refund. Make sure to confirm this with the agent prior to canceling!

    Especially if you’ve utilized the $200 airline credit and/or $100 Global Entry credit, canceling and receiving the pro-rated annual fee refund can, if not make you whole, at least prevent you from losing money on the deal…

    • @Raphael That’s a great data point, thanks for sharing! I’m really glad you at least broke even on this whole deal. Honestly, I would probably consider letting it go if We took advantage of a few perks. But we didn’t, and at this point, we are in a $360 hole due to this mess. Obviously, I made a poor choice, but I still believe we didn’t break any rules. I guess we’ll let the court decide.

  30. Pingback: Another 100k Chance for Amex to Accuse Its Customers of Fraud - Rapid Travel Chai

  31. Pingback: An Update on My Fight with American Express - Miles For Family

  32. I spent 3 years accumulating about 100k points on my AMEX Corporate platinum. When I left my employer, I closed my AMEX account, and requested through the Amex Rewards site that the points be transferred to Delta Airlines after linking the accounts.Spoke to a CSR by phone shortly thereafter, who told me it would take about 6 weeks for the points to transfer over. By AMEX rules, there is a 4-week window to initiate the transfer request, which I did. Because the CSR set a longer-term expectation for the transfer than the window for requests, the points had disappeared by the time I discovered it. Just verified all this today. They will make no accommodation for my situation despite my using no special offers, just ordinary “loyalty” spending, and paying a fat annual fee for the privilege of being fleeced at the end.
    Lesson learned: screenshot everything when dealing with AMEX. (Sadly, I trusted the system — stupid!)
    Anybody have a similar story? Is there a class action lawsuit here?

    • @Michael Wow! That’s horrible. I can’t believe this happened to you. I would file a complaint and consider getting a lawyer/filing a small claim. That’s just wrong, especially considering the fact that you earned the points via everyday spending for THREE WHOLE YEARS. Maybe call Amex again and plead with them to resolve it peacefully. But I wouldn’t let it go.
      P.S. Normally, you need to transfer points before closing the account. But since Amex rep told you you were fine, its’ clearly their fault. Also, I’m confused by 4-week window. Transfer to Delta should happen instantly. Very strange.

  33. There’s definitely a targetted class of people who signed up for the 100K links, all of whom were negatively impacted. Unfortunately, it would take someone with lots of money to pursue it since the arbitration laws etc would make it very very hard to sue as a class.

    If some big blogger with money pursues a class action, I’m sure it would be easy to get people from 100K clawbacks to sign on via reddit/flyertalk.

      • That’s why I said it has to be someone with deep pockets, because atleast IMO just having the clause “you can’t sue us as a class” isn’t enough to prevent someone suing you as a class, specially since this 100K issue isn’t fixed via arbitration for anyone that we know (so no one has waived their rights by taking arbitration).

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