I really enjoy the American Express Membership Rewards program. I’ve earned a ton of transferable points and have received great value in return, particularly because of the ability to transfer points to Star Alliance members such as Air Canada and All Nippon Airways, both of whose miles I can use to book United and other Star Alliance members’ award flights.
BUT, it’s been well documented here and here that AMEX is putting a lot of effort into cracking down on abuse of their credit card benefits/bonus system. The problem with this, however, is that even customers following the terms have suffered as a consequence. Twice in 2016 AMEX failed to secure links that seemed to be meant for targeted 100k bonus offers with the approval of the AMEX Platinum card – once in May, once in November. My wife applied in November, even though there were many reports of Membership Rewards accounts frozen as a result of the first public link that surfaced. In essence, AMEX was freezing and reviewing MR accounts of folks that had applied through these ‘forbidden links’ and later clawed back the points of those who, according to them, had breached or abused the terms as established in the application. This process, they say, may at last from 6-8 weeks. Keep in mind though, AMEX has full control of what locations within their sites the general public has access to, so anyone that had access to offers that weren’t meant for them wasn’t doing anything illegal by applying for a live link on AMEX’s site. So who’s at fault here?
I kept thinking that AMEX should just deal with whomever left those links wide open instead of taking it out on the customers. But while that can be a way to deal with it, later I thought that if I left my front door unlocked and someone came and robbed my place, I wouldn’t just deal with myself for leaving the door unlocked; I’d definitely call the cops, file a report, and follow the process through – granted I’d be livid with myself. So I suppose I can’t be angry at AMEX for coming after abusers and term violators. However, I don’t believe they should automatically freeze the MR points accounts of everyone that was approved!! That’s like the cops arresting EVERYone that’s been around my place leading up to the robbery – it’d be ridiculous. So I challenge AMEX to find a better solution to weed out the folks that follow the rules and aren’t applying simply to abuse the system.
In our personal case, my wife has fully complied with the credit card agreement (no MS or any type of cash equivalents purchased) and it’s been now 6 of the 8 weeks the ‘review’ may take, although other of the November applicants’ accounts have been unfrozen. We’re entitled to those points and we’d prefer it if we didn’t have to wait so long needlessly to use them.
In conclusion, Membership Reward points are very valuable to be fit points-wise, especially because of the range of options that it provides, including those interested in United and its partners. Unfortunately, AMEX has been tightening up it’s grip on MR credit cards and, as a result, many of us have lost -at least for a period of time- the ability to utilize the points advertised as part of the perks of certain cards. For this reason, let’s be sure to follow your credit card application agreement with AMEX; but we should also expect that AMEX works to find a way to improve their current MR tracking process. If not, many of us may be thinking twice before applying for AMEX MR cards, even the ones with the juiciest offers, choosing Chase, Citi, Barclays, etc. instead.