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Amex has a pretty generous referral program. Perviously, you could only refer friends to cards from the same brand. For example, you could refer a friend for a Hilton co-branded credit card only if you had one already. Amex improved the program to help you refer to any of Amex’s cards if you held a Membership Rewards points earning card.
Accounts Shut Down
Multiple reports on reddit confirm that Amex is shutting down accounts for ‘abusing’ their referral program. These primarily include self referrals. Given these data points, what exactly constitutes referral program abuse? American Express recently updated their terms and conditions in order to include specific details about the kind of behavior that’ll invite their attention.
Amex Referral Program T&Cs
Amex updated the terms and conditions on their referral program on June 19, 2019. Following are some of the key things that stand out. These appear under the section titled Program Restrictions.
Standard Terms & Conditions
Your Card account’s eligibility to participate in the Refer a Friend program is based on your creditworthiness and other factors including your account history with American Express.
This seems to be pretty standard in nature. The terms and conditions get more specific and stringent as we go further.
You are not eligible to participate in the Refer a Friend program if you have a history of referring friends who cancel their Card within their first three months of Card Membership, if you have a history of opening and closing American Express Cards, or if we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with any American Express offers or promotions in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you cancel or return purchases you made to redeem an offer)
This is particularly interesting. Amex is taking a two pronged approach. It means that they have the discretion to crack down on both you and the person you refer to. For example, if you refer a friend and he cancels the card in the first three months after getting the bonus, Amex can effectively go after you and your friend and claw back the points.
Self Referral Crackdown
The updated terms and conditions specifically prohibit referring yourself for an American Express card. This part is really important.
This program intends for you to invite only your interested personal friends, family and known acquaintances to take advantage of the Card Offers above utilizing the referral link and sharing tools we provide. You may not share referrals with yourself.
One of the sections to the end clearly lays out the extent to which Amex can go if they find that you’ve abused the referral program’s terms and conditions.
Any violation or abuse of this program may result in the forfeiture of the Referral Bonus and/or your termination or suspension from participation in this program.
American Express reserves the right to limit, cancel, or revoke Referral or Welcome Bonuses if American Express determines, in its sole discretion, that you have violated these terms and conditions, or if we restrict or close your account pursuant to our Card Member Agreement with you.
The Pundit’s Mantra
If you look at some of the discussions on Reddit, it seems like Amex is enforcing these new terms and conditions. A lot of the newer shutdowns seemed to have occurred after Amex starting combing through the data. The new terms and conditions have been in effect since June. Amex is well within their right to claw back points or shut down accounts. The part where they mention “If we in our sole discretion determine that..” gives them pretty broad authority to crack down.
I hope I was able to shed some light by bringing forth some of the fine print. It gives Amex pretty broad discretion in taking action. As per discussions on Reddit, Amex tends to do these claw backs and shut downs in waves. That’s probably on expected lines given the vast expanse of customer data at hand.
What do you think about these updated terms and conditions? Do you think that these would be enforced to the full extent that Amex legally can? Let us know in the comments section.