Three months ago, I wrote a post about why I was frustrated with American Express. It discussed many of the shortcomings of Amex including their rules and policies. Since then, things have gotten worse for a plethora of cardholders (and now former cardholders). That is why a second post about my Amex sentiments is warranted. This post explains why I’m still frustrated with American Express.

The issues expressed in this post are in no particular order. But they are there in light of recent news and anything that I missed in my first post.


Rewards Clawbacks

American Express is infamous for taking back sign-up bonuses, Membership Rewards (MR) points, and other rewards if they feel you have abused them. Amex even has a dedicated department that monitors such rewards and corresponding activity. This department is known as the Rewards Abuse Team (or RAT for short).

2019 has been a terrible year for American Express clawbacks as their RAT has been hard at work. American Express recently began taking away rewards retroactively from cardholders who they feel did not follow the rules.

For example, Doctor of Credit (H/T) reported that Amex is prorating the Dell Credit from the Business Platinum Card for cardholders who “double dipped” with a Dell Amex Offer. Such “double dipping” was an excellent strategy when it lasted. But what annoys me is that American Express put out that Amex Offer for Business Platinum cardholders in the first place. It makes me wonder why they would have even presented that offer in the first place knowing they would eventually claw it back.

I used the same Amex offer in June 2019 when I had my Business Platinum Card. I received a bill for almost $10 six months later to pay back Amex for that offer. Receiving such a clawback firsthand only increases my frustrations with American Express.

But there’s another Amex nightmare that scares me even more…


Account Shutdowns

Getting a credit card account closed by any issuer is a terrible experience. American Express appears to be on a war path lately closing accounts. They are trying to get rid of churners and those who they feel are “gaming the system”.

A user from Reddit (H/T) reported that Amex appears to be targeting six different sub-groups. Each sub-group involves a different activity:

  • Manufactured Spending within bonus categories
  • Multiple Pay Over Times
  • Self-Referrals
  • (Dreaded) Financial Reviews
  • Using certain methods to can reset spending limits
  • Having multiples of the same card

A seventh category was added for those who applied for the Hilton Aspire Card using the now-dead special link.

Reddit currently has a thread discussing Amex account shutdowns and how cardholders are being affected.


American Express Network Issues

Spotty International Acceptance

This issue is not as significant as the previous ones, but it is still relevant for those who travel internationally as many Amex cardholders do. Visa and MasterCard are the two biggest card networks stateside and internationally. American Express is behind them in many countries, including the United States.

Many places outside of the United States do not accept American Express. But they do accept Visa and MasterCards, giving Amex a huge disadvantage. Why bring a card overseas when there is a good chance its not going to be accepted?

Coding and Rewards

American Express operates under its own card network, which means that different merchants code differently than Visa or MasterCard. American Express has a plethora of coding issues with various merchants around the world, especially smaller businesses.

Those who hold the Gold Card are particularly affected. That’s because not all restaurants and grocery stores code as such under the American Express network. Amex has codes (such as “Bars”) that they use to exclude certain restaurants and grocery stores from earning points. It is a shame that Gold cardholders are missing out on 3x extra points just because they shop or dine at a merchant that doesn’t code how they imagined.


Final Draw

Halloween has been extended into November and December for many American Express cardholders. Their recent rounds of clawbacks and account shutdowns is harrowing. And what’s even more shameful is that some people who have followed the rules have been negatively affected. I too have been clawed back and the feeling was awful.

Furthermore, American Express’ network and coding issues can be inconvenient for cardholders. Such hassle can be enough for some to give their spend to another issuer by choice or by necessity.

The silver lining is that there are three other issuers (Chase, Citi, and Capital One) that offer cards that earn transferrable points. Plus, all three of Amex’s competitors issue either Visas or MasterCards. Having those cards ensures that network acceptance and coding are nothing to worry about. The same logic applies to co-branded cards outside of Delta and Hilton.