They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Sadly, that statement sometimes rings true with referral offers: your friends might be better off knowing you than me when it comes to opening new credit cards because not all referral offers are created equally.
One of the most common questions we have gotten about the current best offer on the Platinum card is “How can I refer my others to that offer?”. The answer is that you can’t — at least not if you’re after a referral bonus. The best offer right now is only available via restaurant reservation website Resy (we link to that offer). If you send a friend your referral link for the Platinum card, they will get an inferior offer. Unfortunately, that’s a troubling trend: your referral offer may not always be the best offer for your friend.
Platinum card was an initial outlier
I first recall this being a consistent issue just over a year ago when Amex began with a welcome offer on the Platinum card that featured both bonus points and 10x in select categories.
At the time, the main promoted offer on the card was for 75,000 points and 10x in a couple of categories for the first six months. However, it was eventually discovered that some referral links produced an increased offer of 100K points along with the 10x categories.
Oddly, only some people had the ability to generate a link for the 100K offer. For example, my wife’s referral link for the Platinum card only showed 75K points at the time. However, Greg’s wife’s link offered new applicants 100K points along with the 10x categories. That was disappointing: if my wife weren’t a Frequent Miler reader, how would she know that her friends and family would be getting a raw deal by using her referral link? If she didn’t either check the Frequent Miler Best Offers page or know Mrs. Miler (Greg’s wife), how would she be able to help friends get the best offer?
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the last time my wife’s buddies would be in danger of getting the short end of the stick.
Amex isn’t alone: other issuers sometimes do this
Chase has had a similar situation now and then where the referral offer hasn’t been the best offer.
I believe the most recent time we saw this inferior referral offer situation was with the now-expired 100K offer for the Sapphire Preferred card. When that offer debuted in the summertime, refer-a-friend links only populated an offer for 80,000 points (and a $50 statement credit for grocery purchases) for several weeks after the 100K offer launched.
Eventually, cardholders were able to refer others to the 100K offer, but those who excitedly talked up the card in the first weeks after the 100K offer launched either referred friends to an inferior offer (and Chase would not match those who applied under the 80K offer and then saw the 100K offer after the fact) or perhaps they sent a link to friends only for their friends to Google the card name and find that the link their buddy sent them wasn’t the best deal.
Either way, it is a bummer that someone who does have the card and loves it and wants to help their pals get a similar experience can’t give out their referral link and count on friends getting the best offer.
Amex is at it again
Unfortunately, the problem appears to be becoming more widespread. Last night, when checking links and updating offers, I noticed that Greg’s wife’s friends are once again positioned to get a better deal than others.
That’s because as I was going to switch around some of our links, I realized that the referral link from Mrs. Miler’s Platinum card generated better offers than the referral link from my Platinum card. Here are some examples:
- Mrs. Miler’s referral for the Blue Cash Preferred offers $350 back after $3K in purchases in the first 6 months. My referral is only good for $300.
- Mrs. Miler’s referral for the Blue Cash Everyday offers $250 back after $2K in purchases in the first 6 months. My referral is only good for $200.
- Mrs. Miler’s referral for the Everyday Preferred offers 30,000 Membership Rewards points after $2K in purchases in the first 3 months. My referral is only good for 15K points.
- Mrs. Miler’s referral for the Delta Gold SkyMiles card offers 60,000 SkyMiles after $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. My referral is only good for 40K points.
- Mrs. Miler’s referral for the Delta Platinum SkyMiles card offers 75,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 MQMs after $3K in purchases in the first 3 months. My referral is only good for 50,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs.
Mrs. Miler’s referral for the Amex Gold card is also better at 75,000 Membership Rewards points after $4K in purchases in the first 6 months; mine is only good for 60K points on the same spend requirement. However, neither her friends nor mine can get the best deal from us because the best offer on that that card is only available via restaurant reservation website Resy. That offer, which is the one you’ll find listed on our Gold Card page, offers 75,000 points after $4K in purchases in the first 6 months and 20% back in statement credits on purchases at made at restaurants worldwide for the first 12 months (up to $250 back).
For clarity, the above emphasis on Mrs. Miler’s friends getting a better deal than mine is only a half-truth: the offers from her Platinum card are better than the offers that I can generate from my own Amex cards. However, my wife’s Platinum card generates the same offers as Mrs. Miler’s this time around (and so do other family cards I manage). At the end of the day, I have plenty of ways to refer friends to the best offers when combing through all of the cards that I manage, but if I only had one or two cards of my own I wouldn’t be able to get friends the best deal.
This difference in referral offers is frustrating
Lucky for friends who ask me for a referral link to open a new card, I will both recognize when my offer is inferior and point them to where they can find the best offer (our Best Offers page) rather than send along my inferior referral offer. However, how would the average Amex customer even know that their friends are getting a poor deal?
As noted above, my own Amex cards do not produce the best current offers on the cards noted above. If another cardholder were in my shoes, I can’t imagine they would even know that there is a better offer on those cards. The average person would likely assume that the referral offer is the best offer to share with friends. Can you imagine if you shared the same social circle as Mrs. Miler and you talked up a card and referred a mutual friend only to have them later find out that Mrs. Miler could have hooked them up with a better offer? Why does Amex set you up for that kind of embarrassment?
In the end, that’s my frustration here: I think it would be natural for people to assume that the offer that Amex (or any other issuer) encourages cardholders to share with their friends is the best offer. Surely the bank wouldn’t encourage them to share an inferior offer with their friends, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
I further think that the average person probably wouldn’t imagine that some cardholders make better friends than others. As shown above, you would be better off being friends with Mrs. Miler than with me. While that statement surely won’t shock any of Mrs. Miler’s friends, it doesn’t seem very fair to mine. Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of the last two people at my table pushing their chairs away to join Mrs. Miler’s table.
While I’m sure that the issuer’s intention isn’t to embarrass anyone, the unfortunate fact is that your referral offer just isn’t always the best deal. While that fact has likely been obvious to anyone aware of the Resy link for the Platinum card for the past several months, it may be less obvious to many that even when a referral offer is the best offer, it doesn’t mean that your referral offer is the best deal. As the old saying goes, it’s who you know that matters.