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“AmEx Seeks to Weed Out Credit-Card Churners Chasing Rewards”

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News in brief:

“AmEx Seeks to Weed Out Credit-Card Churners Chasing Rewards”

Bloomberg ran this headline last week.  The good news is that it focuses on the US market and not the UK market although presumably the sentiment is a global one.

The odd thing, though, is that American Express in the US has ALREADY done this and I’m not sure what else they can do.  In the US, sign-up bonuses on American Express cards are now strictly enforced as one bonus per card per lifetime.  And they stick to it.

Which means that phrases like this:

An increase in incentive bonuses has boosted so-called gaming by credit-card applicants looking for a quick reward, Doug Buckminster, president of global consumer services, said Wednesday at the firm’s investor day in New York. AmEx is using analytics to identify and “suppress” gamers, while creating offers that incentivize long-term loyalty, the company said.

… don’t really make sense.  The only thing Amex can do to encourage “the right sort of customer” is to cut sign-up bonuses, and it can’t do this because it is being trounced by the Chase Sapphire Reserve product in the market for premium customers.

“The right sort of customer”, of course, is someone who doesn’t care or realise that they aren’t getting decent value for the membership fee they are paying.  Increasing the membership fee for Amex Platinum in the US to $550 from $450 – and offsetting this with some Uber credit – is apparently the way to go.

This is the reality for American Express, of course:

American Express was battered last year after parting ways with its biggest co-brand partner, Costco Wholesale Corp., which accounted for 10 percent of AmEx cards in circulation. The lender also broke ties with Fidelity Investments. The firm trades for less than its 2014 closing price and slipped 0.7 percent to $79.04 Wednesday in New York.

There is still no word on whether Marriott will break the long-standing deal between Amex and Starwood following its takeover .  Back when I started in this hobby, the US version of the Starwood Amex was THE best card to hold and there must be a lot of high spending legacy customers at risk.

Marriott MasterCard

Is the Marriott Rewards Mastercard returning soon?

The Marriott Rewards Mastercard, issued by Creation, has been unavailable to new applicants for over a year.

This is believed to be because Marriott does not have an FCA credit broking licence.  You can check this on the FCA website.  Ironically, I have a licence – Marriott didn’t need to withdraw the card, they could have let me be the exclusive promoter in the UK instead.

A reader pointed out that the website saying that you can’t apply has been changed.  The card which you can’t get now has a new design, see above.

As it would be a bit odd to redesign a card which is unavailable – although obviously they are replacing existing cards as they reach expiry – this offers a glimmer of hope that the card may reappear at some point.  Note that there isn’t a ‘contactless’ logo there, which is my main problem with the current Marriott card and the main reason I have it linked to my contactless Curve Card.

It isn’t the most generous card in the world at 1 Marriott Rewards point per £1 but it is free to apply, it gets you Marriott Rewards Silver status and you get an ANNUAL loyalty bonus of 2,000 points just for keeping it.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – July 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our July 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the other top current deals:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers.

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending:

Barclaycard Select Cashback Credit Card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (87)

  • Lumma says:

    There are some contactless cards that have the sign on the back of the card. The Curve card itself for one thing. I sure there’s some gold amex cards with it on the back as well.

    • RussellH says:

      I do not have any cards with the contactless symbol only on the back, but most of my Amex cards (and all the ones issued by Amex themselves) have it both front and back.

  • the real harry1 says:

    seems pretty clear to me that in Brighton there are senior people tasked to achieve new sign-up numbers and don’t really care how they achieve this – after all, a 6 month re-apply rule (which isn’t even enforced) is just plain daft for most customers from the business’s point of view, ie they consistently lose money on serial churners (and also on modest churners), yet the practice is easy to monitor & stop if they wanted

    • Matthew says:

      6 month rule was enforced on my friend who mistakenly applied after 5 months & 2 weeks and was denied the PRG bonus.

      • Nick says:

        Good to know, was tempted to reapply a tad early for the spg card but I’ll hold off in that case!

      • Czechoslovakia says:

        I was advised to reapply at 5 months 1 week by Brighton, as it took a few weeks to process. Suffice to say, it took one week and hence no bonus. A call back rectified that, added manually as cash points, or something along those lines. Had spent the 3k on the day I got the card, so had the bonus posted and transferred out before 6 months had passed from first cancelling. Had the first agent told me to wait, I would’ve. Luckily noted down the name, date and time of call.

    • James67 says:

      All amex CS agents I have spoken to over the last few years proactively or passively encouraged churning.

  • Alan says:

    Here’s hoping for a sign-up bonus when they finally relaunch it! I might do one last SPG churn too before it goes…

  • Anna says:

    OT – I’ve got a rare CW cash ticket booked with BA and on the booking it says I will get 175 tier points for this. Apparently I have 150 lifetime tier points already but little idea what it means as I’m not a frequent traveller! Will 275 points give me any kind of benefit?

    • Walty says:

      Short answer is No, even if your lifetime tierpoints were earned in this membership year. The minimum I think is 300 odd for bronze status

      • Walty says:

        And 175 + 150 is 325 🙂

        • Anna says:

          Lol, hope the BAEC system is better at maths than me! So bronze then?

          • Genghis says:

            But 150 lifetime tier points say earned last year and 175 earned this year only gives 175 this year, less than 300 for bronze

          • Peter K says:

            Following on from the previous comments. You need 300 TPs in your *annual* traveling year (found on your BA exec club homepage) to get bronze. Ones earned in previous years vanish.

            However, any you earn get added to those in previous years (ie your 150) towards “gold for life”, but you need shed loads to achieve that, 35k TPs iirc.

          • Alan says:

            Until you get into the many thousands the lifetime tier points are irrelevant – the main thing is how many you’ve earned in the current collection year (your BA account tells you when yours ends). BA website details flight and TP requirements for each level.

          • Anna says:

            I’ll never reach the 1,000s – it would be better if BA offered a few extra avios instead of tier points for people like me!

  • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    The Marriott card update might just be for the new MasterCard logo. MasterCard are pushing issuers to have the new logo in place for April 1st, presumably this would include a new plastic for natural re-issues for the Marriott back book.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Since we are on SPG/Marriot, do Ilose my free SPG night for spending whatever it was if I cancel my SPG card?

    (as Amex threaten about the 241?)

  • Stuart says:

    Does this mean we can expect a H4P credit card in the near future with a huge (one time only) sign up bonus?

    • Rob says:

      Curve did offer to do a HFP-branded card for me, but I felt it blurred the boundaries between the site and the companies we cover a bit too much.

      • Mr Dee says:

        Also if HFP did a rewards card it would have to be the best, of which Curve is not even close.

        • Rob says:

          That is another reason I don’t put my name to things, although as Curve is now free and functioning fine it would have been OK (the 1% FX fee would be the only downside). I was offered a white-label hotel booking site last year (Expedia, booking.com etc will white label a site for you) but, again, it wouldn’t have been ‘best in class’ – or even close – so no point.

          • Mr Dee says:

            the 1% fx fee is avoided if you have a card in the currency you are spending in.

  • JamesW says:

    Compared to the US the problem in the UK must be of miniscule concern. First, the number of people who indulge in the practice will be tiny in comparison & secondly the number of points per churn is far fewer by a large factor.
    I am often sent invites to apply for US cards (for which I am ineligible of course) and am astounded by the number of points on offer. We have 20,000 points dangled in front of us whereas 100k is very common in the US.

    • Anna says:

      Yes it does seem to be a whole other ball game across the Atlantic, also more of their shops seem to accept Amex whenever I’ve been in the US, the UK must be a niche market by comparison.

    • Mr Dee says:

      If the signup bonuses are once in a lifetime then the large sign up bonus is to try and encourage customers for life rather than just churn. Amex in the UK is definitely a niche market and I think a lot of small merchants have no understanding of Amex apart from the high fees, its often I hear things like they take ages to pay or they are no good from merchants that don’t accept them.

      • Will says:

        I mean being a small business that takes Amex I can tell you it takes 2 weeks from transaction to getting the money in the bank with Amex as opposed to 2 days with Visa/Mcard.

        That’s a cash flow problem if your transaction volumes on Amex are relatively high.

        • RussellH says:

          When I was taking Amex cards it took just under a week for the money to be credited.

          What I and others I worked with really disliked was the way that Amex “discount” their charges from each transaction, rather than paying you the face value of the transaction and sending a monthly bill for the charges, as did the merchant aquirers for Visa/MC. In my case I was more than prepared to put up with this niggle as Amex only wanted 1.5%, while Visa/MC were charged at 1.8% and upwards, depending on the actual card scheme.

          • Ross says:

            They’ve changed that now so you can choose whether they discount from transaction or invoice at end of the month. I used to take AMEX, stopped for a few years and now accept it again – definitely better service to merchants than it was a few years ago. Annoys me that more small businesses don’t bother accepting it.

        • Talay says:

          Amex funding is the same as Visa / Mastercard. There are no “delays”.

          All merchant services allow you to receive gross and pay commissions later or to PAYG. However, PAYG must be a nightmare for reconciliation so you’;d be mad to do that IMHO.

          I don’t see what the beef is with Amex. For sure they charge more, around 1.9% against circa 0.3% (and rising) for debit cards and circa 0.6% (having fallen) for mainstream credit cards.

          But no-one says “sorry, you cannot use a World Mastercard or Corporate Barclaycard or JCB card”, all of which can cost way more than the Amex fee.

          Every week I run into issues with non acceptance of Amex. My main suppliers now all take Amex and I have told some others that unless they start to accept Amex, I will no long buy from them.

          Their resistance is sometimes down the the fact that they do take Amex but just don’t know or just say they don’t when they do or that their EPOS software excludes Amex when their merchant services actually can process Amex or that they are simply unaware of what it costs and think it is 5% or 10% or some other nonsense figure.

          • RussellH says:

            > circa 0.6% (having fallen) for mainstream credit cards.

            Really? Large companies yes, but not small ones.

            Travel Trade Gazette had an article just some weeks ago about many travel companies being charged 3%, a recent rise. Friends with small hotels are still paying 2.5% or so.

            Interchange has gone down, but merchant aquirers are still screwing their rates up.

    • Brighton Belle says:

      I have told umpteen friends to get an Amex Gold for the intro bonus because they like to travel.

      They just can’t be bothered to apply and can’t handle “eek” having multiple cards – i.e. 2!. Some folks find this game just too uncomfortable to manage in their life…… like paying the card balance to zero by direct debit so payment never goes wrong. All they see are problems problems problems.

      If you aren’t fazed by churning you are in an exclusive minority.

      • Anna says:

        I agree, people can’t get their heads around it and seem to think I get my redemption flights either through dishonesty or sorcery!

        • the real harry1 says:

          many of us struggle to convince our better half of the validity of what we are doing

          my wife sort of gets it then often goes ape if I ask her to stop using this card & start using that; sign here please; please give them your ID details then kindly hand the phone to me etc etc – we’ve mostly all been there or you soon will be 🙂

          yet she pretty much revels in the cheap flights & free lounge passes lol (can’t say we do upgrades as that’s not truthful – pointless – Europe under 3 hrs)

          • Yuff says:

            If you email a 3rd party authorisation form to Amex you don’t even have to get your wife to speak to Amex 🙂 , same with BA if you are using a 241, although it sounds as you might not do that too often 😉

          • Alan says:

            I am in the fortunate position that my wife understands all the ideas I present to her regarding card churning, multiple bank accounts (for interest) etc etc. She will often ask “Now, which card should I be using for this?”

            Lets hope we can keep churning.

          • Lewis says:

            I managed to convince my other half to keep up with my new cards quite easily. It’s enabled us to fly first class this year – something she’s very excited for!

        • Alan says:

          Haha just keep the mystery going and agree that it is – Business and First flights leave from Gate 9 3/4 😉

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