Thursday, September 15, 2011

Say Goodbye To "Bump The Bonus"

American Express has long had a bad (good?) habit of applying targeted promotional offers to non-targeted cardholders' accounts and thereby "bumping the bonus" they receive. For example, I applied for an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card in May of this year and the promotion I signed up for only gave me 10,000 Membership Rewards points. There was another offer floating around, however, on Flyertalk which gave you 75,000 MR points after spending $500 within 3 months. Despite appearing targeted to specific customers only, I was able to call up American Express and have this offer applied to my account. After I completed the spend, I called them back and requested the full 75,000 points, which was promptly added to my account.

Well, it looks like those days of "bumping the bonus" are officially over. Since about a week ago, it looks like American Express has clamped down on this loophole and are now refusing to apply offers to non-targeted customers and also refusing to add bonus points to anyone's account - even those that have been previously notated with an offer code. It's unfortunate because in early August, I had another offer code applied to my Premier Rewards Gold account, giving me 10,000 MR points per additional user I added, after making the first spend on each card. I even blogged about it here. I added 5 additional users, and reconfirmed with another representative that the offer was applied to my account and that I would receive the points.

After hearing the chatter on Flyertalk regarding American Express' recent refusal of bonus points, I called up their Membership Rewards line (1-800-297-3276) to see for myself. Low and behold, I was denied the points since I was not specifically targeted for the promotion. After about half an hour on the line with both the representative and her supervisor, I hung up and dialed the American Express Executive Office line (212-640-2000). Apparently, the people at this office have more ability to "make things happen". I spoke at length with a pleasant lady who, despite continuing to deny me the points, still offered to do some more investigation into whether or not I was actually promised the points. I'm not worried about that since they can pull up phone records that show I indeed spoke to 2 different representatives who both confirmed that my account was notated and that I would receive the points after the first spend had been met. However, I'm not holding out hope that I will actually receive anything at the end of all this.

American Express has obviously realized that honoring these bonus points will cost them dearly, since the promotion code spread like wildfire and their own representatives were adding them onto everyone's accounts. They've clearly decided that cutting their losses far outweighs angering some of their customers and perhaps even some closed accounts. And frankly, I can't blame them.

I'll report back if I hear anything from the investigation, but it's definitely not looking good.

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