Amex sends out 1099s the week before tax day, AA downgrades Alaska elites and Bilt mistakenly sends shutdown e-mails (Saturday Selection)


Amex gives taxpayers a nasty tax day surprise, Bilt plays a late April Fool’s Day joke and…is it time to say goodbye to one of our favorite travel rewards cards? All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

Bilt erroneously sends shutdown e-mails to thousands of customers

You got us this time, Bilt Rewards!

There’s a lot of strangely big feelings out there about the Bilt Rewards program. Many people love it for the ability to earn points on rent and then redeem those points with absurd transfer bonuses to an enviable list of travel partners. Other really don’t like Bilt, seeing it as an overblown elephant in the room, overhyped by points and miles bloggers and surely guilty of devious behind-the-scenes machinations. Last week, Bilt evidently decided to do something to win everyone over by playing a whimsical April Fool’s joke on its members. The only problem was that it wasn’t April Fool’s Day. The company sent out thousands of e-mails to unsuspecting Bilt Rewards members, telling them that their accounts were being shut down for misuse, that their points were being confiscated and that Bilt’s legal team was being copied on the whole affair. Many of these accounts were owned by folks who didn’t even have a Bilt Mastercard to abuse and only earned a few hundred points a month through the company’s Rent Day quiz show promos. The interwebs blew up for a short time, until Bilt sent out a second “oopsies” e-mail to let everyone know that it was all just a big misunderstanding and that there was nothing to see here. Unfortunately, in the interim, many panicked members scrambled to redeem whatever points they had in an effort to keep them away from the repo man (Bilt has since promised to reverse any transfers that members made because of the erroneous e-mails). I can’t wait to see what those Bilt folks cook up for next April.

Alaska elites will no longer get upgrades on long haul AA flights

Alaska and American have never been quite sure what they think of each other. For years, before Alaska was a oneworld member, AA and Alaska were partners, offering codeshares, some reciprocal elite benefits and the ability to earn miles on each other’s flights. Later, American decided that Alaska was actually a competitor and that it wanted to battle Alaska for West Coast market share, only to switch course less than a year later. That about face led to an impressive slate of reciprocal elite benefits, including giving top-tier Alaska elites a one-way confirmed upgrade on certain American long-haul flights…something that was a bit of an irritant to some AA elite members. Alas, those upgrade certs will soon be a thing of the past, as Alaska has announced that it will be “sunsetting” the benefit in 2025. I’ve never actually been able to find bookable space that allowed me to use any of my upgrade certs, but I’m told that they were occasionally useful for some folks. Regardless, they’ll soon belong to history and Gary Leff’s here to tell you exactly why.

American Express sending 1099s  after many people have filed their taxes

Most of us don’t like tax time (unless you’re into points and miles and know that it means you get to sail through minimum spend on a new welcome offer or two). Not only do you get to discover the size of your tab to the public coffers, there can be an incredible amount of paperwork. Those of us who take advantage of bank account bonuses and credit card referrals end up with a small library of 1099s that we have to sort through…I just inputted over 30 of my own last weekend. It’s a pain. That said, for those who don’t procrastinate, you’re probably feeling good about life by the time early April rolls around…taxes done, payments sent, credit card points on the way. That is, unless you took advantage of one of American Express’ Business Checking bonuses last year. Amex evidently had some internal wires crossed and didn’t send out any 1099-INTs to people who had participated in the promo. Amex then realized that it had made a mistake and sent an e-mail to those affected…less than a week before taxes are due. Many folks are understandably miffed, among them Mark Ostermann of Travel on Points, a normally affable early tax-filer who’s so angry he’s throwing around words like (trigger warning) bull-pucky.

Saying goodbye to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Area woman collecting herself after cancelling her Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

I don’t recall a card launch in the last ten years that received as much fanfare and anticipation as the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s (CSR) in 2016. The first ultra-premium offering from the big blue bank hit the market like wildfire with its massive annual fee, even more (at the time) massive welcome offer, terrific redemption options and copious card benefits. I used to be a strong proponent of the CSR, even after the annual fee went up and naysayers argued that the additional juice wasn’t worth the squeeze when you could get almost as much for 1/5 of the price with the Sapphire Preferred (CSP). No more though. I’m officially a CSP truther. Chase’s Pay-Yourself-Back program turning into the walked dead, combined with the ability to get the same travel protections in a cheaper (and better value) package with the Ritz Carlton card, finally turned me against the Sapphire Reserve, leading me to cancel it after seven happy years…and that was before the recent metamorphosis of the CSR-linked Priority Pass from a restaurant-including butterfly to an Amex-like caterpillar. Your Mileage May Vary is thinking about calling it quits for similar reasons and lays them all out in the post linked above.

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Last week I was “Bilted”. I had followed the rules to earn 2,000 points. A month later, I tried to transfer those 2,000 points to a linked airline. Bilt cancelled the transfer and closed my account. Maybe my account was shut down because I am homeowner who does not pay rent through Bilt.


That bit with AmEx blows. Holy crap.


The loss of PP restaurants and many airports I use not having lPP ounges is one main reason Chase is getting shuffled for me. Will focus on hitting the 75k on AmEx and look at Capital One X seriously. If X biz had employee benefits (even for a fee) I’d have already done it.


Prediction: Alaska’s move to deny partner tier benefits on award tickets will spread to other One World airlines. And ultimately lounge access will only be granted if the person has tier status with the airline issuing the award ticket. I hope I’m wrong. But, as Han Solo said, I got a bad feeling about this.


I got these emails from Bilt:

April 10, 2024
CC: Bilt Legal
We are reaching out regarding your Bilt Rewards Membership and associated Points balance. We have reason to believe that behavior on your account demonstrates an intent to engage in sustained misconduct and wrongdoing in connection to the program.
Pursuant to the legally binding Bilt Rewards Terms & Conditions, Bilt has the right to “reject, revoke, cancel, terminate, or suspend any membership, benefit, and/or any and all points, or take any other action at its discretion, at any time, if Bilt, believes: (a) the member has (1) violated any of the program rules; (2) acted in a manner inconsistent with applicable law, regulations or ordinances; (3) engaged in any misconduct or wrongdoing in connection with the program; or (4) engaged in abusive, fraudulent, inappropriate, or hostile conduct in connection with the program.”
This letter serves as formal notice of the closure of your Bilt Rewards Membership and, effective immediately, the forfeiture of any remaining Bilt points.
Please note that all capitalized terms used but not defined herein shall have the same meanings as defined in the Bilt Rewards Terms and Conditions.
Bilt Rewards Team


About 60 minutes later, they say it’s “our mistake, please disregard prior email”.

I knew I had violated no Bilt term, so I was curious what happened and thought maybe it was yet another fishing or hacker attempt by a troublemaker.