[Update] Waves of Amex shut downs this week

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Update 11/16/21: A reader whose account was closed in this ordeal has reached out to let us know that some accounts have been reinstated for a $25 fee. If you were unfairly shut down, it may be worth calling.

~

Reports at Miles to Memories and Doctor of Credit indicate a wave of Amex shut downs in recent days (several waves I believe). I imagine that most readers won’t be affected by this, but with increasing reports I figured it was worth a quick post to highlight what happened and how to avoid being shut down like this.

It sounds like the initial wave of shut downs were people who applied for a specific card with a specific rep through an Amex Midmarket Sales Offer because this rep either had a special offer that did not include lifetime language or would make sure that applicants bypassed application rules (to get a welcome bonus on a card they had had before). It seems reasonable to guess that Amex caught on to what this rep was doing and dropped the hammer on anyone who applied through that rep side-stepping bonus rules. It sounds like even one application through that rep — and even if that one application was a couple of years ago — may have been enough to get the axe.

It certainly isn’t fair of Amex to punish customers for what sounds like a commission-hungry employee’s actions, but at the same time I think Amex has established firmly enough that this type of behavior is playing with fire (and some people brought a book of matches while others brought flame-throwers). I imagine that some in the first wave of shutdowns weren’t surprised — they took a calculated risk and got whatever they came for.

However, the pain point here is that some people only did this one or two times and in some cases even a couple of years ago. It seems very reasonable that someone would expect an offer being read off over the phone directly from an American Express representative was legitimate. Along the same lines, I don’t know if there are any folks who called and were randomly directed to this rep and got shut down. Either way, that would stink. I have heard from some cardholders who had only opened one Business Platinum card for a new business and had only done legitimate spending on the card. Unfortunately, having opened the card through this single employee appears to have marked them for shut down.

While my initial thought was that those opening through a rep with an outlier offer like this knew that there was some risk. On the flip side, who would expect an Amex sales representative to feed them an offer that will cause their accounts to be shut down? Surely there were some who expected to be shut down, but it seems that Amex has thrown out the baby with the bathwater here.

In the last day, we’ve seen additional reports in the comments of posts of people who claim to have applied through mailer offers with no lifetime language who were also shut down. I believe this may have even affected people who used a mailer in their name that did not include lifetime language. If true (we’re still not sure), that would be awful. If Amex has targeted you and sent you an offer that didn’t indicate you were ineligible, it would stand to reason that you’d be eligible for the offer — and certainly not at risk of an account shutdown.

While many regular blog readers may be familiar with Amex’s once-per-lifetime language that typically exists on their credit card offers, I imagine that the vast majority of Amex cardholders probably have no idea that most offers indicate you can only get the bonus once per lifetime. It would seem pretty unreasonable to close accounts that applied through a legitimate mail offer that didn’t indicate rules of eligibility for the bonus. Unfortunately, we’ve seen Amex be heavy-handed before — so while that scenario sounds completely unfair, it isn’t shocking.

Miles to Memories is now reporting some shut downs among people who took advantage of the  “Expand your Membership” offers. For months, Amex has been targeted existing Business Platinum cardholders to open a second Business Platinum card. It isn’t clear to me whether this wave is affecting people who only opened one additional Business Platinum card or if it is limited to those who used physical mailers or whether the reports of these “Expand Your Membership” shut downs are accurate. I haven’t yet heard reports of people who applied through links in their online accounts who have been shut down, but the story is clearly still developing.

The bottom line here is that Amex continues to move aggressively against those that they feel are gaming them. While I feel like the perception of Amex’s penchant for shutdowns is sometimes overblown, this case shows that there is real risk to stepping outside the bounds. The hardest part is not knowing where they will draw the line if they are shutting down accounts on people who opened an account through an Amex rep. Hopefully not many readers find themselves caught up in this one.

If you do find that your accounts are closed and you catch it quickly enough, you should be able to transfer points out to partners — though I understand that functionality doesn’t last for long beyond account closure, so you may want to keep a close eye on your account in the coming days if you think you have cause for concern.

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[…] Update: Waves of Amex Shut Downs this Week […]

Bulls Fan

So 45 days before the AF is due on my existing Biz plat (which earned 100k bonus ~a year ago(I also had 2 in the past- all 3 earning a welcome bonus of 100k over the years), I get an email offering me 150K to get a new one with no lifetime language that I can see. Nit to mention that I JUST yesterday got and accepted an offer to add up to 5 employee green cards for 20k MR each with $4k spend- which I expect(hope now) to be able to collect before closing my acct in front of the AF.

What to do?

Email subject line below, my name and email address in the body of the message and happy to copy/paste entire TOC if anyone wants to look here…

Earn 150k Membership Rewards Points after you add the reimagined Business Platinum Card to your wallet.

Frank

Well, what do you plan to do? I am in a similar situation.

Bulls Fan

I was gonna just shut it down and keep my personal platinum open because I’m too lazt to reset everything that’s on autopay and my Hilton/Hertz/etc/etc that are all set to the personal card- BUT, now I’m thinking maybe get the new 150kMR biz and shut the current one down as soon as my AU bonuses post in a few weeks and then let the personal plat die too. Not THAT hard to re-link everything and that’s a lot of points…

Frank

Make sure you keep the current one for a year or else you could invite retribution.

frank

Am I right in saying these comment used to be sorted so that the most recent was at the bottom?

frank

Sorry, it seems to be working correctly now.

[…] 11/18/21: According to Frequent Miler some people have been able to get their accounts reinstated by paying a $25 fee. I don’t see […]

Frank

I applied for and was approved for a Business Platinum a few months ago. I have spent the required amount and received my bonus points and am using the card regularly. Everything is good.

Then, just today, I received an email to me on my business email from Amex showing a picture of my existing Platinum card with my name on it, my business name and last 5 digits of the card – suggesting I might like another business Platinum card and a bonus of 150,000 points (which is more than my original bonus was on my current card) after spending $15K. And a reduced 1st year fee of only $595 instead of $695.

Is this a trap? I would love 150K more points, but I also have a large stack of Amex points i don’t want confiscated.

What am I to do?

Even if I were to transfer out all my 500K or so Amex points to airlines so I couldn’t lose them if this is a trap (something I would only do if I were guaranteed to get the new bonus … in which case I wouldn’tneed to protect these points in the first place!!) I still don’t want to upset my relationship with Amex.

How can I get a guarantee this is a genuine offer? It looks genuine, though I haven’t looked for the once in a lifetime language yet but if they are targeting me knowing I have the card, how can this not be a genuine offer unless it is entrapment? Why would Amex try to entrap me? I think I am a good customer now, spending on various cards regularly.

What is going on? Totally bewildered.

Eddie

I am in the same boat here, I have now 2 biz plats and got an offer for a 3rd. I am going to take the bait and hope for the best!

frank

Well, good luck.

Frank

Please leave a note on what happens to you.

[…] (Nov. 17, 2021) – Frequent Miler reports that Amex is reinstating accounts for some people that were shut down. But they are […]

YAK

Nick: Do you think we risk being shut down for opening additional cards for authorized users to take advantage of the 20,000 points in response to targeted offers to do so? My wife and I both have Platinum cards and both received such an offer. We finally clicked on it, adding each other as authorized Gold Card user on our respective accounts. I looked carefully through all of the T&Cs and did not see anything prohibiting us from adding as an authorized user anyone who already has a Platinum or a Gold card. But just wondering if you have heard of anyone being shut down for that. If so, we can still call in and cancel those additional cards before putting any spend on them. Thanks!

No One In Particular

Between personal and business spending, I put seven figures on my Amex cards year to date — and the first digit isn’t a one. Recently, Amex initiated a financial review. Fair enough. But, rather than go through my Amex business relationship manager, my first clue that something was happening was when I receive email after email from Google Pay that ALL of my cards were suspended. Upon calling Amex, I then learned what was going on. Bad form to say the least.

For the record, every single charge was a legitimate charge. No funny business. All merchants were recognized businesses. Never carried a balance.

The challenge was that my business team was unable to charge expenses during the entire review period. (It makes one feel as if one is being called a crook.) This necessitated moving charges to other card issuers. Roughly three and a half weeks later, all of my Amex cards were reactivated . No shutdowns. After all of this, I reached out to my Amex business relationship manager. I never received a response.

I simply can’t afford a repeat of this. To me, Amex is a risk to me and my company. There is no way any of those charges will be heading back to Amex.

Cavedweller

Love my Ink never any trouble only $50K one year. Get rid of the Hassle not worth it.

Nun

A $25 fee? How can this be real?

Gene

Yeah, WTH is with this fee? I don’t understand.

Tyler

Reminds me of the time a uniformed security guard at the Cairo airport asked me for a tip because he let my family go through the metal detector/x-ray checkpoint (which we did not set off anyway).

[…] also been seeing mixed reports of shutdowns from people who used targeted, no-lifetime language mailers, though I’ve as of yet been […]

Casey Mitcheltree

I was shut down by AMEX about two years ago. They closed all my accounts. My spouse has the AMEX platinum card with the free AU. When he went to add me, they were hesitant. I had to talk to them on the phone. I was very polite and I was honest about them shutting me down. They finally agreed to let be be added as an AU. How long do you think I need to wait before I can open my own AMEX card again? Just curious.

No One In Particular

Truly, likely seven years. But, I’ve heard of 10 and 15 years. It would likely depend on the seriousness of what Amex thinks you did.

[…] If you have been axed by American Express, read the comments too, by Frequent Miler. […]

[…] week has passed, which means reports of the AMEX RAT team in full force shutting down accounts. While I asked if AMEX would remain aggressive with shutdowns with the travel downturn, the RAT has […]

Joe Leung

The reason is possibly all the disputes and chargebacks filed by members of various groups that deal with Buying Clubs. Several encourage their members to file chargebacks on high ticket gear to offset losses and some to blatantly scam Amex. This is why many shutdown are due to disputes. Dig around the buying club whatsapp groups and you may find more info.

Just points

I have had a biz Plat, Gold, Blue, and Marriott for years. Received an offer for the 150k bonus for another Plat and 90k for another Gold. Took them up on the Platinum and decided to hold off on the Gold. Then a few months later they sent me a mailer for ANOTHER 150k Biz Platinum. I didn’t take it but I’m going to be super pissed if they shut me down. For the record, I have a legitimate business and buy several hundred k of materials in a year, don’t do any MS.

Wolfie52

I’m really amazed by the lengths people will go to to get a couple of hundred $ sign up bonus.

Chances are you can simply cut some wasteful spending (Starbucks, peleton, crap like that.) If it means so much you should perhaps rethink your finances.

This wasteful spending is a driver behind climate change. We need to rethink our behavior.

philco

Whether one agrees with the games or not you really don’t understand what is going on here. The offer in question here was potentially $1,875 cash out and folks aren’t really “spending” money in most circumstances to “buy” wasteful things as you put it. They are just moving money around.

Cavedweller

Wolfie52
I agree a Cheap person is a Green person. By Comed my 1988 house beats all houses unless u have Solar.. 15 year Life guard on Waikiki TOAD me every year Less and Less sand. Water in hotels like in 5 years not 20..

loungeabuser

I know I’m 3 weeks late on this comment, Cavedweller, but I have no idea what language you are speaking. Is there something in the cave affecting your frontal cortex ?
Me no green.

Cavedweller

Years of working hard unlike u but I’m sure ur Woke..Like I said everything I have is Greener then the crap u Got but u can Compost crap.

Brutus

Upon reading this, I attained enlightenment.

Chris

It reminds me of the AA shutdowns…maybe they were able to hire Toby.

At the end of the day the “exploit” was internal, an Amex employee screwed up.

I can see where things get sticky if someone was constantly churning NLL of the same card…but at the same time the company enabled it.

I miss when companies ate their shorts on their mistakes…

Hottub Cowboy

Member since ’83. Applied for a Biz Plat for a legit biz and was given Adams contact by a friend. He offered me a 100K bonus and since Wework access was being cut, I took up the offer. There was no MS or shady transactions on any of my Amex cards incl the Biz…. I got shut down.

Julius Rosen

And it’s really funny that they punish a salesperson actually doing a good job

Julius Rosen

Amex is to blame for even having miles I’m sorry to tell you. It’s really a tax Dodge from the IRS. Hey I would go into the bank to get a free toaster at every branch wouldn’t you? Yes they’re a good reasons to have frequent flyer programs and frequent buyer programs but they bring it upon themselves when they want to give you $1,000 in benefits for signing up for another card, do you really need four cards or eight cards in your wallet? Yes if you’re on business trips and you want to separate expenses maybe you need two extra cards one Amex and one visa / MC. That’s it and it’s really ridiculous to go out of your way.

Jane

Once you’re in the mid to late game I’m not sure it’s wise to think of Amex MR as a flexible currency anymore. A transferrable currency yes, but when you have to keep your MR balances low for fear of shutdowns there’s nothing ” flexible ” about that.

EricF

I feel bad for the people caught up in this. IMO cardholders were not guilty of anything, unless it became obvious that the rep was committing criminal activity against AmEx and they still went along. Doing business with an especially accommodating AmEx employee is not an acceptable reason for shutdowns.

LarryInNYC

I’m not sure I follow. When you say

this type of behavior is playing with fire (and some people brought a book of matches while others brought flame-throwers).

I fully understand that anyone who specifically contacted this agent with knowledge that they were working around Amex’s rules might expect to have their accounts shut down. It sounds like this extended to people who were randomly assigned to that agent, or even who responded to Amex mailers and didn’t speak to an agent?

I those later two cases — especially when it was just responding to a mailer –I think that Amex is out of bounds in even closing the single card that got approved — after all, it was a published offer! If Amex decided, after the fact, that they didn’t really mean to publish such an offer, I suppose they might feel warranted in sending the cardholder a polite apology noting that the card was issued in error and has been closed. But shutting down all of a users accounts because they responded to an offer from Amex in exactly the way described in the offer itself seems so far out there that I have to hope those reports are misstated in some way.

Josh

At the end of the day, people knew the consequences. Chalk it up to playing the game. Thankful they still have Chase, Citi, and Capital One to fall back on.

Cathy

J @millionmilesguy blog posted about his personal experience a couple days ago getting shut down for this…good read

LarryInNYC

Yes — very specific information on that post.

Gene

This guy has admitted to being shutdown by AMEX, Citi, BofA, Barclays and Capital One. He’s obviously got different boundaries than the average reader here, so I’m not sure his experience is that relevant. The one thing I don’t follow about this entire matter is why were people were calling AMEX to get approved for these offers rather than applying online. I don’t think I’ve applied for a credit card over the phone since the 1990s…

Shutdown

Because the rep had different offers than what was available publicly. He was also actively calling and emailing people about new offers.

Shutdown

I’ve always liked you Nick, but you made some incorrect assumptions in your article. People didn’t go through Adam to try to skirt rules. They went through him due to the offers he had available. People were getting approved for multiple cards and getting bonuses, with and without pop ups, even on cards they previously had. Amex was sending out mailers and emails with NLL. Adam wasn’t needed for NLL, so please don’t assume that’s why they contacted him and deserved what they got.

Tugboat

I share the exact same sentiments. FM has been my favorite blog since I got my first credit card, but certain phrases in this article such as “there is real risk to stepping outside the bounds” or “make sure that applicants bypassed application rules” rub me the wrong way. The entire “expand your business” campaign was targeted towards getting you to apply for “Additional American Express Platinum” or business gold cards. Any of these pop-ups, emails, amex offers, physical mailers, or any other Amex sales rep could do the exact same thing this particular rep did. The article makes it seem like customers conspired with this rep to work some magical and deceitful trickery to bypass NLL. Most if not all of the offers from the “Expand Your Business” campaign didn’t even have lifetime language. YOU CANT BYPASS SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T EXIST>>> really, there was no language in the terms to even bypass. Its not like Amex did not know they were trying to get their customers to sign up for multiple of the same card. In fact, they made it very clear that’s EXACTLY what they wanted you to do. The reality is that Amex is shutting down people for opening cards that they aggressively solicited their customers to sign up for.

Abey

I think it’s a bit petty of amex but fair game, people were gaming the system along with this employee and are likely not to bring any profit to amex in the future

Miz

That employee is AMEX!
Amex is the one who is gaming the system here and customers lost their money and time because of it.

Abey

See reply above

Skeletor

saw reports swirling access to this agent was also being sold by third parties!

Gene

@ Nick — May be time for a post re: pros and cons of which transfer partners to utilize. Regardless, transfers would have been better last month. 🙁

Al C

Amex is being totally ridiculous. I got shutdown. I had two Amex Business Platinums which were still open at the time that I got shutdown this week. One was obtained over two years ago. In May, I got a targeted personal mailer to open another Platinum card. Offer was NLL for 100k. But I’d heard of a better 150k offer was around. A friend gave me that rep’s name and I contacted him, and he said he checked my account and that I could get the 150k offer instead. Totally unreasonable that I should have my credit card situation upended because of their employee’s misbehaviors.

Abey

“Friend gave you reps name “ is not fair game you should’ve known the risk that amex will catch on

Bill C

You don’t understand. There is an entire department of Amex sales reps who sole job is to sell people/businesses on credit cards. Not only do they receive calls, but they actually actively call potential customers to drum up business. Hindsight is always 20-20.

Abey

While I’d be sympathetic to a customer that bumped into this rep for getting shut down, most of these shutdowns sought out this rep and as such they should’ve known it might come back to bite them

LarryInNYC

I dunno. I’m pretty sensitive to the sense of entitlement that some folks in this hobby have, so I can see that “a friend gave me the name of a rep who could approve the card” could be “I paid some guy $25 bucks to approve it” but it could also be completely legitimate.

For instance, P2 did the recent Chase Sapphire Preferred, for which I directed her to go into a Chase branch (because the offer was better) and, if they didn’t know about the offer, to try a different branch. I believed that there was such a legitimate offer and that not everyone would necessarily know about it — so I think my advice was completely ethical, even though someone else might consider it “rep shopping”. (In the event, when she mentioned “credit card” in the branch, the officer said “I bet you’re hear for the 100K Chase Sapphire, aren’t you?”

Darin

If true (I’m sill skeptical), this would be getting far beyond typical abuse territory and would leave them open to CFPB/legal action. Their “Expand Your Business” campaign has been aggressive. I already opted for a 2nd Business Plat and continue to get these nearly every time I login. I don’t see how they could possibly justify shutting customers down for activities they actively promote to you, especially when they’ve instituted measures via the pop-up to filter out people they don’t want to reward. If you take active measures to go around their built-in filters, then fine, you took the risk. But if you accept an offer marketed (aggressively) to you with no applicable restrictions, and they then retaliate against you by removing a currency of value you’ve earned by following their rules, that goes far beyond acceptable enforcement and deserves an action against them.

Last edited 8 months ago by Darin
Larry K

I’m not sure what the basis of the action would be though. I don’t think banks are compelled to do business with anyone and they can shut down customer accounts for various economic reasons as long as they don’t discriminate. If they confiscate all the points in your account without letting you use them, merely for signing up for offers they made to you, then, yeah, I think there would be a decent argument about the confiscated points. (Not legal advice, obviously.)

Darin

Right, I’m mainly referring to the loss of points, but even if they only gave you very short window to redeem, I think you could make the argument that it’s retaliatory and punitive. I would think it would at least run afoul of CFPB protections, if not a legal argument, but definitely speculating here.

Kaycee

Are they refunding the annual fees? If not then I would think they charged you for a service you didn’t receive.

Gene

Checked my SO’s new expand your membership Plat account, and this is what pops up at the top: “Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points. Add up to 5 new Employee Cards and earn 20,000 points after each new Employee Card Member spends $4,000 in eligible purchases on the new Card in their first 6 months of Card Membership, up to 100,000 points. Terms apply.” This whole thing is ridiculous. I mean does AMEX want to give out points like candy, or not?

frank

Well, you do have to spend $15K in 90 days and pay the annual fee … these are NOT free points. Compare to a 2% cash back card it comes to quite an investment $995 in my estimate.

Larry K

I’m really worried about this. P2 has a gold business card. She redeemed some points and got an offer to add a second gold business card. She applied but at the end of the process she got an error message. She tried again and got instant approval. A couple of days later, two cards came in the mail — two separate accounts. She called and in and asked what to do. She said she was concerned about cancelling one of them given the language about cancelling a card in the first year. A supervisor was eventually consulted and said that since marketing approved both cards, she was fine and could even earn the bonus twice. So, she did. But anyway, she has three gold business cards, all applied for in the last year, and she received three bonuses. During the call she said the she really values her relationship with Amex and asked that they make a note that she wasn’t trying to game the system, so hopefully there’s something to point back to. But I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time given these recent reports.

loungeabuser

I’m rather certain that asking forgiveness instead of permission is sort of like talking to the police or FBI when they want to interview you…. Sans the bright lights and 14 hours of continuous questioning until you admit to the murder you maybe didn’t commit. At least the cops will get you a coffee (or brown crayon dipped in water).

I’d skip the offer that you value the relationship, because clearly someone at AMEX doesn’t, and it isn’t the person with whom you are speaking.

Larry K

To be clear, she hasn’t been shut down. We already had this conversation a month ago, before any of this news came out.

Jocelyn K

As a precaution, I would transfer out all of the points now..‍♂️

Jake

If it becomes an issue tell them to pull the recordings of the call and get back to you. Years ago a citi rep told me my points wouldn’t be lost when I closed the account (bc I thought at the time that having another account in same points family keeps them alive but that’s not how citi works). The rep was wrong, and they took away the points. I called them and escalated the issue and told them that the rep said they were safe and I wouldn’t lose the points. The supervisor that I escalated it to went and listened to the recording in their system and called me back an hour later saying the rep told me wrong and they were sorry and were manually adding the points back immediately.

SgFm

I had a similar experience with Citi when I called to see if I could get a retention offer on the Prestige card. I didn’t get the offer I was looking for, so I told the CSR I would wait to make a decision about whether I wanted to keep the card open or not. I signed into my account the next day and found it closed! I called, asked to speak to a supervisor, and asked that the tape of the call be reviewed. The next time I signed into my Citi account the card had been restored and the annual fee rebated.

Julie Bellishson

Yupper. Spankings will be issued. 1 by 1

Frank

Very similar experience. In my case, I was applying through a mailer code (that was addressed to me). At the end, it said it was approved but then went to an error screen. After a couple of minutes, I still had not received a card approval email so when I went back to the account, there was an offer to apply while logged in for the same business gold card. So I applied there and was approved. Of course I then receive two emails for two separate cards and receive them a couple of days later.