Last week I promoted an offer, now closed, for 30,000 bonus American Express Membership Rewards points with the fee-free Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card. A lot of people took this offer up, and now have to spend £2,000 within 90 days to trigger the bonus.
Some people struggle to achieve the £2,000 target spend within 90 days. Historically, I have suggested booking something refundable – like a fully flexible BA flight, cancellable for a £15 fee. If Amex has set your account up properly, the 20,000 points would post instantly when the transaction that takes you over £2,000 of spending posts to your Amex statement. You could then cancel the BA flight and retain the bonus.
Amex now seems to be taking a harder line on this. A number of different reports, from different people, both from Head for Points readers and Flyertalk posters, makes it quite clear that Amex is now removing sign-up bonuses if a refund causes your net spend within the first 90 days to fall below £2,000. And fair enough, of course. Amex is already being hugely generous with their sign-up bonuses in the first place.
The best way to deal with this is, frankly, to spend £2,000 in 90 days cleanly! This may mean, for example, thinking about how much spending you can realistically do in the next 90 days. If you are going on holiday in March, for example, you may want to delay getting the card until January so that your hotel bill will fall into the 90 day period.
What are your other options?
Transfer your Membership Rewards bonus into Avios before your refund goes through. This will leave you with a large negative MR balance, which would almost force you to cancel the card since you would take years to clear it with normal spend alone. However, cancelling a card whilst leaving a negative MR balance is not going to endear you to Amex next time you want to apply for a card.
Do not refund your BA flight for a few months. I doubt that the bonus points would get taken away if you triggered your refund outside the 90 day period. This may mean, of course, that you have to settle your card bill for the flight now. When you refund it, you will end up with a big credit balance on your card which will take a couple of months to work through.
Try to bring forward as much spending as possible to reach the £2,000. If you spend £50 per week in Tesco, for example, why not buy £750 of Tesco giftcards? You will have worked through them in 4 months and it is not a major complication to your life. Perhaps you could top up your Oyster card with a few hundred pounds, or buy an annual rail season ticket instead of monthly ones?
Please post any other thoughts in the Comments below. Whatever you do, though, do not burn your bridges with Amex. Amex is THE major player in the UK loyalty credit card industry, and if you have a falling out with them then you will be the loser in the long run.
On a more positive note, I am pulling together a post on the quirks in the Amex Gold bonus points system (it is often possible to earn 3 or even 4 points per £1 instead of the usual 1) which will go up in a day or so.
(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)