Amex clawing back travel credits

Anyone have this experience yet?


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Travel? What’s that??


I’ve seen notes mainly about returns/cancellations. Those clawbacks make sense. People were buying a fully-refundable ticket or hotel stay, for example, then cancelling months later. If there’s credible reports of “miscategorization” clawbacks, that’s more disturbing.

Amex recently updated their terms (to be in effect as of 5/1, if I remember right), saying that they’d reverse credits if there’s a later return and even if the annual credit was used and then the card was downgraded or cancelled (the second one at their discretion).

It’s the reason you’ve had to dump your milk and haven’t been able to leave your farm for like 7 weeks or whatever.

I didn’t dump milk

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If they changed the terms on 5/1, I don’t think they can legally claw back credits that were previously allowed but no longer under the new terms. Now if the new terms are only about them being more vigilant about clawing back credits that should not have been received in the first place, they’re within their rights to do so.

If you think you may be at risk though, it may be a good time to cancel the AMEX cards involved fast. If your account is closed (not just downgraded), I think they’ll just pound sand for clawing back credits as it’d be much more complicated to get money from someone who’s no longer a customer. Plus losing customers is something they may pay attention to.

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Here’s the terms I was referring to: Amex adds "anti-gaming" language to Hilton Aspire card - The Points Guy

“Effective May 1, 2020, American Express may reverse statement credits earned if your eligible purchase is returned / cancelled. American Express may also reverse the statement credit for “abuse” or “misuse” of the benefit and if you do not maintain the eligible card for the entire year.”

misuse possibly also covers Amex’s own mis-categorization at an earlier date, but it seems like a really big stretch and if they’re doing that people should be suing. The other parts of the terms are pretty clear that the qualification for credits relies solely on Amex’s own characterization of the charges and if merchant miscodes transactions then they don’t qualify. Shouldn’t be able to have it both ways, but we’re in America, so of course it probably flies that they can do whatever they want.

“if you do not maintain the eligible card for the entire year.” sounds ominous if you interpret as it applying in future card years so that whenever you finally cancel or downgrade you’ve lost the previous year of benefits. However, these terms are in the applications, so possibly this part only applies to the first year – similar to the “opening bonuses” that are stated to be clawed back if cancelled or downgraded in the first year.

I think it’s for every year to claw back credits customers get at the beginning of the calendar year and then canceling before paying that year’s annual fee. I’m guessing Chase will follow suit. That’s a real bummer because it was a nice way to get a little extra value out of the card before giving it up.

You pre-pay the annual fee at the start of the year, not at the end of the year. The terms refers to keeping the product through the whole year, not just until after the AF is paid.

Downgrades are a different situation since they do pro-rated AF refunds, but otherwise cancelling in the middle of the year you get no refund of the AF.

Most of these credits are based on the calendar year, but the annual fee is based on the membership year. The article you linked to actually specifically mentions that as the reason.

Say I joined in July 2018. I used all of my 2018 and 2019 credits. Then I could also use all the 2020 credits from Jan-Jun and then cancel before the 2020 AF is charged. Three years’ worth of credits for two AFs.

There’s a mix, but most are seem to be now on membership year. The Amex Aspire has a weekend night cert issued a ~month after the AF hits. There is a $250 hotel credit that resets after the AF bill hits. There is a $250 airline incidental that IS calendar year.

Chase Sapphire reserve, for example, was calendar year (or, more specifically, reset with december statement date) when it was initially released, but then quickly changed over where it is after the AF hits for all but those first cards that were initially opened.

Chase Southwest Priority has annual points post after the AF and the Southwest $$ credit and boarding upgrade $$ credits both reset based on the renewal time as well.

I was incorrect when I said “most”. Still, it seems clear that it’s the situation Amex is trying to crack down on for the airline incidental credit. One could also conceivably attempt to use the resort credit and free weekend night within the first 30 days of the membership year and then cancel for a refund of the AF, and presumably Amex would like to prevent that as well.