End of ‘mistake’ Membership Rewards points for Amex Gold holders

There has always been something odd about the way that American Express awards Membership Rewards points at certain retailers if you have an Amex Gold.

As a reminder, Amex Gold gives double points on all foreign spend transactions.  (It also gives double points on travel spend as well as, in the first year only, supermarket and petrol spend.  It is also free for the first year and has a bonus which converts into 20,000 Avios points – more in my review.)

In the internet age, the definition of ‘foreign spend’ is complicated.  You will have read how firms such as Amazon bill you in Luxembourg, for example, to take advantage of the lower VAT and corporate tax rates.

This led to strange anomalies.

Amex Gold 350

Back in December 2013 I wrote a piece entitled ‘When is £ credit card spend treated as foreign spend?‘.  The list of companies who processed your £ transactions outside the UK, thus triggering double points on the Amex Gold card, included Apple, iTunes, Amazon, easyJet, hotels.com, ebookers, American Airlines, Hotelopia, lastminute.com, Ocado and Paypal.

The following information has just started appearing on American Express Preferred Rewards Gold statements:

Information regarding additional Membership Rewards® points earned for spend at non-UK merchants

It has come to our attention that you may have previously earned additional Membership Rewards points where a transaction was charged and billed in pound Sterling at non-UK merchants, although such transactions do not attract a bonus under the Membership Rewards programme linked to your Card.

From 21 March 2015, transactions charged and billed in pound Sterling at non-UK merchants will no longer attract 1 additional Membership Rewards point for every equivalent £1 spent. This includes transactions that are converted into pound Sterling by the merchant before being charged and billed (known as “dynamic currency conversion”). Please note that we will not remove any additional Membership Rewards points that have been awarded to you for such transactions up to and including 20 March 2015.

You are (and will remain) eligible to earn an additional 1 Membership Rewards point for every equivalent £1 spent on non-Sterling transactions. If your transaction is converted into pound Sterling before submitting to us, you will earn at your normal rate. Transactions charged and billed in pound Sterling at merchants registered outside of the UK do not attract 1 additional Membership Rewards point for every equivalent £1 spent.

Looking at this, it seems that Amex was also giving double points if you used Dynamic Currency Conversion.  This is where you let an overseas shop or hotel charge your card in £ rather than in the local currency.  I hope that no Head for Points readers are daft enough to do this because the exchange rates used are generally pathetic.

Whilst Amex has changed its strategy, there are other credit card issuers who give double points for foreign spending.  These include the IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa and the TSB Avios and TSB Premier Avios cards.  Test in the past showed that a far smaller number of merchants triggered double points on these cards for £ transactions.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. IHG premium visa does double for Apple which is great for me as I spend about £10,000 a year with them as my other half works for them and we get fab discount for friends and family 🙂

    • I heard 25% for the employee and 15% for friends!

      • In the states it’s 25 staff, 15 friends 10 in store but in the UK it’s 27/17/12

        • Nathan,

          You need another friend? 😉

          If so you can mail me 😉

        • Camille says:

          abuse this benefit at your peril.

          I heard of someone that lost their job at apple for using that discount because they stretched the definition of “friends and family”.

          …..sorry, don’t mean to rain on the parade! just saying.

        • yeah when i worked there it was limited and now that its just my mrs there i don’t think i could abuse hers haha!

  2. Out of interest, what’s worse – dynamic currency loading, or Amex’s pretty grim foreign exchange charges? (I’ll only use my Amex abroad if someone else is picking up the bill!)

    • Usually DCC is worse. However, I thought that Amex didn’t allow DCC.

      DCC may have been a good option if you wre in Switzerland last week.

    • The problem is that some places refuse to give you a choice, and if you do not speak the language it makes getting understood impossible.

      • …. which is strictly not allowed under their agreement with the card companies!

      • Also when prepaying for hotels on the internet. I have found IHG properties in Europe often do this because the hotel processes the payment itself and conveniently choose DCC.

        • Something similar with booking.com / hotels.com when a hotel is priced in euros but located in another currency zone the price displayed when you book can be significantly different to when you pay at checkout.

          For example in Albania, the advertised price was 50euro but at checkout the hotel used its own exchange rate to convert to local currency and ended up costing 60euro on the credit card.

  3. Sam wardill says:

    I wonder if Amazon counts as a ‘supermarket’ still as they sell a lot of groceries. Marks and spencer does.

  4. Does this mean that amex gold is giving triple points on retailers such as hotels.com? So double for the foreign spend and triple for the travel spend? Similar to the way supermarket petrol gets triple (double for supermarket and triple for petrol). I know its not supposed to do this but it does

    • It was actually quadruple. I used Airbnb a bunch of times, paid in £, got 4 MR points per £1. Guess it gave double travel points on the already doubled ‘foreign spend’, another nice mistake. 🙂

      • That seems to have stopped recently. A couple of hotels.com transactions this month only gave double points.

        I have had a couple of direct hotel charges still give triple points in the last month though. I guess that will also come to an end.

  5. I didn’t think Dynamic Currency Conversion was possible when paying with Amex? I thought it was a Visa / Mastercard con only? I really hope Amex haven’t started allowing it, got a Lloyds Avios card in order to avoid it!

    • I have the Lloyds Avios and was asked in Berlin whether I wanted to pay in pounds. I was a bit distracted at the time and said yes, only realising my mistake just after the receptionist had already done the transaction. Fortunately, it was only for the city taxes part of the bill, not the actual stay. It was the Amex card, so yes, they must ‘allow’ it. And of course I was doubly stupid since there are no foreign transaction fees on the card anyway!

  6. I noticed recently on a credit card bill that a purchase from Currys had been charged in the Czech Republic!

    • andy stock says:

      My £3 a month tablet insurance from currys is billed on my amex gold is from the Czech republic but only ever got 1 point per £1.

      On the subject of credit/ debit cards charges, I see Metro Bank have a fee free debit card within the EU. To be honest I am quite lazy and just end up using my amex gold card.

  7. If it is just the outbound spend bonus when being charged abroad even though shopping in the UK then this is not as bad as I though when reading the headline. Luckily for me this is a small proportion of my spend.

    As with other posts I hope that the triple and even quadruple spends on some hotels and petrol remains!!

    • I only got double points on Intercontinental Times Square last November. Although got triple buying tickets at disney UK.
      About to pay for a hotel, through a UK travel agent, where I would get double, for travel spend, but they charge a higher fee for amex than M/card, wondering if it’s worth calling amex to see if they would add a hotel bonus which would swing it to use amex!

  8. I guess this means the end of double or triple points in Jersey then (unless spending on travel).

  9. One gets triple points on hotels abroad..

  10. Irons1980 says:

    Off topic, but I have just opened an IHG premium card – it says double points for hotel stays, but no-where can I see on my literature that is says double points for foreign spend?

  11. Andrew C says:

    It’s good to see Amex are handling this professionally at least. 1) advance notice 2) a few months grace period before introducing the changes and 3) not recovering points retrospectively (admittedly that could be very difficult to do)

  12. Hiltonhotelfans says:

    In the Netherlands Amex will also stop with double points at foreign expenses at their Amex Greencard. Lots of customers are not happy.

  13. Shame hotels.com don’t do gift cards like I understand they do in US and Canada, I’d probably stock up.

  14. Slight tangent (but related!). I have the Amex Gold and my wife has a supplementary card on my account.
    Would she get the 20k MR if she applied for the Amex Gold in her own name?
    Thanks all.