American Express has, quietly, slipped out a new version of the Membership Rewards terms and conditions.
The new document is dated May 2017. American Express is, according to its own rules, meant to give you 30 days notice of changes to Membership Rewards unless the changes are unilaterally better for you. This is not the case with the change they have made to the ‘transfer on closure’ rules, so technically you can still act under the old rules until Amex gives you 30 days notice.
The only major change, I think, is this:
Transfers of Membership Rewards points to another random person when you close your charge card no longer appear to be possible.
This is an odd story which I outlined here. In 2013 – as I understand it – Amex meant to get rid of this rule at the same time as they got rid of the ability to transfer your points to anyone, anytime for £15. They forgot to amend their own Terms & Conditions, however.
Every so often, a Head for Points reader would ring up and ask for their Membership Rewards points to be given to a friend or relative because they were closing their account. Amex would refuse, and a war of wills would break out. I know some readers had to take Amex to arbitration in order to get the points transferred. Others finally found a manager in the call centre willing to read their own rules.
This clause was in the Terms & Conditions of new Platinum, Green and Gold charge cards as late as last month. The new version is dated May 2017 and I have confirmed with someone who applied for a card in April that the old wording – allowing transfers on closure – was still there.
American Express has not given you 30 days notice of this change so, technically, the old rules still apply for the forseeable future. That said, I really don’t recommend trying to do this because you will lose the will to live getting Amex to agree to it, based on previous reader experiences. Far easier to empty your Membership Rewards account out by moving the points to Avios or another partner.
The other things that jumped out from the new Membership Rewards terms are not changes but are admissions of things which were not widely publicised before:
You can buy between 1,000 and 10,000 Membership Rewards points per year. The price is not quoted but used to be £15 per 1,000. In extreme circumstances this can be a way of buying yourself additional airline miles or hotel points if you really need them, although the price is too high to make sense most of the time.
Transferring your Membership Rewards points to an account in another currency:
This is the best kept secret about Membership Rewards, although it is pretty much a waste of time given the current pathetic state of Sterling unless you have a huge points balance. If you open a US$ or Euro Amex card, you can transfer your points balance from one card to the other. The points are translated using the current exchange rate. 1,000 UK MR points become 1,250 when transferred to a US$ card for example.
I wrote about this opportunity here. When the £ was 1.60 to the $ it was a very interesting arbitrage. It also gave you a way of transferring Amex points into Jumeirah Sirius or Malaysia Airlines, both of which are partners of the $ and € International Currency Cards.
Dealing with your Membership Rewards points on account closure:
If you close your last Membership Rewards earning card, the closure policy is now clearly outlined:
“If you close your Card Account and there are no other Linked Card Accounts on your Points Account, you will have thirty (30) days from the date you tell us that you are closing the Card Account to redeem your Points.
If you hold a corporate Card and your employer requests that your participation in the Programme is cancelled, you will have thirty (30) days from the date we receive the request to redeem any Points that have not already been linked to another Points Account.
If you do not redeem your Points within thirty (30) days, they will be forfeited.”
The full document is here. Pages 18+ cover Membership Rewards.
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