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American Express changes Membership Rewards terms – no more transfers on closure

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American Express has, quietly, slipped out a new version of the Membership Rewards terms and conditions.

You can see the document here (PDF) – you are looking for pages 18+.  The main Membership Rewards UK website is here.

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:

Purchasing points:

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.

The International Currency Cards Membership Rewards catalogue is here if you want to look at what is available.

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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Comments (101)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Genghis says:

    Slightly OT. What’s people’s opinion of transferring Amex MR->SPG when cancelling Amex? I’ve a healthy avios balance and wish to hit a Marriott travel package come year end and also keep points in a flexible currency

    • Trev says:

      If you don’t need them elsewhere (BA/VS) and you are happy with the 2:1 conversion to SPG then it does make sense to keep the flexibility – just make sure you use them you for something you couldn’t do with MR to start with (e.g not end up transferring to BA/VS) which it sounds like you would if using them for a Marriott package.

      Mind you if you had say 18k SPG and 4K MR then MR-SPG-BA would get you 25k Avios rather than 22k if you transferred them independently…

      • Alex W says:

        By my calculations, MR->SPG->Marriott travel package (7 nights/120,000 miles) gets you a value of 1.13p per MR point or 2.25p per SPG point. This is based on a miles value of 1p, so you are definitely getting more value per MR point than transferring to miles directly.

        • Genghis says:

          Thanks guys. On Marriott reward packages, we’d like to stay seven nights in a nice, relaxing, aspirational hotel. Any feedback on what it’d be like spending seven nights at the below hotels would be greatly received:
          – JWM Phu Quoc
          – JWM Venice
          – RC Kyoto
          – Autograph Domes of Elounda Crete

          • rams1981 says:

            I’ve thought the same and my last transfers from Amex have been to spg. Currently on 100k points. That’s quite a bit – I guess should cover a lot of the Marriott travel packages?

          • Pangolin says:

            JWM Phu Quoc looks an outstanding choice on a Travel Package. The cash prices are way too high but this property is getting excellent reviews all round. It hadn’t been built when I visited the island but I’d love to go back there and check it out.

          • Genghis says:

            Likewise, we stayed elsewhere when we went to Phu Quoc in 2015 but we really enjoyed our time in Vietnam and would love to return.

          • Talay says:

            JWM Phu Quoc wasn’t thought of when we first went there but though I suspect the place has been largely lost to commercialism (I was first there in the 1990s), it would be nice to go back.

      • Roger says:

        I have transferred some 100K+ MR points to spg with a view to use it towards Marriott Travel Package and get AA Miles (for EY flights).

        For a family I would be looking at a week’s stay at Disney Florida.
        Any recommendation for Marriott Category 1-5 hotels? 2 Adults + 2 Kids

    • Boi says:

      Interested in this too. I am interested in Marriott packages but have a long way to go. Currently have 33K SPG and 45K MR points. My MR would have gone to VS FC otherwise.

      As an aside a few months ago for some strange reason my Amex accounts were acting up which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My 26K BAPP bonus didn’t credit, Amex did manual credit after a week then few days later the original credited. SPG didn’t transfer across, Amex transferred manually after a month, then a month later the original points turned up. Lighting striking twice…..

      • Rob says:

        I moved my wife’s balance to SPG on closure. My logic is that Amex may lose the Marriott relationship and this would stop me picking up lots of Marriott in the future.

        • Scallder says:

          It’ll be interesting to see how Marriott go about merging the SPG award chart and their own (even more so if they keep the flights + hotel packages). This might be hoping for too much, but as they’ve been fairly decent about the merger already, I’m hopeful that Marriott will give some notification of the new charts and hotel category directory before the merger is complete (perhaps it’s done mid-next year but as you suggest they start from 1/1/19).

          Might be too much wishful thinking, but if that did happen could certainly allow for some opportunities to pick up some cheaper stays before the merger by booking ahead.

      • Roger says:

        You can always buy SPG points like I did earlier when they had 35% bonus couple of months ago. i bought my full allowance, will probably buy another 30K miles later in year when better bonus offer turns up. some £575 for 30K SPG points (less than 2p per point) is not a bad value to buy points particularly when you are looking to use it towards travel package.

    • AndyW says:

      OT – SPG again, I don’t have any experience with the program, hoping others may be able to advise. Is it possible to book more than a standard room with SPG points, simple searches on the website only seem to show basic rooms with no other points options.

      • Scallder says:

        It’s also worth calling the hotel and finding cash prices to upgrade. We stayed at the Westin in Whistler February of last year for a week. Having got a week on points in a standard room, I managed to upgrade for CAD 100 (pre tax) per night to a 1 bedroom suite. Given it was pre-Brexit times, it was something like £60 per night as opposed to an extra 12,000 Starpoints per night that was the upgrade price…

      • AndyW says:

        Thanks both much appreciated. Rob will ask you to refer in the near future.

  • John W says:

    How long do the referral bonus points take to arrive into your account . I have referred one friend for the BA PP card early in May and one friend for the Amex Plat in April . I have not received any points into my account as yet.
    Does it really take 10 weeks , if that is what I read I the T&C or is it worth phoning them ?
    I want to close both cards soon, so I can reopen one in 6 months or so

    • Genghis says:

      Referral points are usually received (every time I’ve done it) within a few days of applying and usually before the other person receives their card. Obvious Q perhaps but did your friends apply and were they accepted?

      • thereal harry1 says:

        yep our referral points always come within a couple of days of applying

        • Trev says:

          Ditto, the last referral I did, the points arrived in my account before my friend even had the acceptance email as it didn’t approve automatically when he signed up.

      • Chris C says:

        I’ll mirror the others, after my friend’s application was accepted (after a few days), points were posted to my account.

    • Nate1309 says:

      I have had a problem before. If this happens then contact you and the referee and then made me wait 10 weeks for it to be manually added.

  • John W says:

    Thanks Genghis , I watched them apply using my link as I was with them at the time . I’ve also seen their new cards !

    • Genghis says:

      Perhaps follow up with a secure message as it will need to be investigated and that way you have a paper trail.

      • John W says:

        Will do just that , good advice as usual !

        • ee says:

          Going through this at the moment. My partner referred me for the Gold card, I used the link but no bonus points have hit her account. I received the card about 2 weeks ago and have spent a reasonable amount on it since.

          Contacting Amex via messaging from her account, they have been unable to find my account (!) and the response has been you need to wait 10 weeks and message us again then.

          I posted on this on another article and several people were reporting similar issues.

          • Mzungu says:

            Exactly the same for me – referred by Mrs Mzungu, I’ve had my card for 2-3 weeks, and no points in her account. I questioned it when on the phone about something else, and they said to wait 10 weeks 🙁

            From all the other similar comments, I wonder if Amex are deliberately making people wait the full 10 weeks so that they collect more fees (assuming cards are subsequently cancelled).

            Secure message coming up I feel…

    • Rob says:

      48 hours from application if accepted immediately.

      • Leo says:

        48 hours since my partner accepted and nothing yet….I seem to have timed my Amex referrals/cancellations very badly this time.

        • Dennis says:

          Having the same issue with a SPG card. Must be a tracking issue at the moment.

  • Toby says:

    I need to close a platinum account soon. Is there any particular procedure to follow when closing the account? Can I just send them a secure message?

    • thehornets says:

      That’s what I have done in the past and continue to do. No issues, except it may take a couple of days longer than if you call them (and therefore cost you a few pounds extra).

      IIRC the secure message feature allows you to select ‘card closure’ from the ‘Card Management’ drop downs.

    • Mycity says:

      I’ve always called them, dead easy and strangely for a business never ask why, it’s closed there and then

      • Genghis says:

        I always call but always get asked why I’m leaving. Standard response is “I don’t think I will use the card any more”.

        • Peter K says:

          I’ve only ever had one person be a bit snotty with me about cancelling as I was also cancelling my wife’s card at the same (she was there to give permission) but usually Amex call centre staff are lovely about helping, even when you are cancelling.
          I often use the line that “I am concentrating on the [insert other Amex card I own] at the moment”.

          • Genghis says:

            🙂 Do people have any theories as to why one might be made an offer (i.e. double points) to stay? I got that last time on SPG and declined as wanted to churn but would probably go for it if they offered it this time around.

      • the_real_a says:

        Genghis – i asked the agent 4 times for double points and he finally relented. The offers are available on the system, just need to be a bit forceful with the request. In my case i said i had a period of heavy spend and wanted to use AMEX but my MBNA card was offering 2 x the points.

  • Choons says:

    Slight OT too – has anyone else had difficulty enrolling their Amex card onto the Amazon spend MR points scheme. I’ve had no success with various routes on their website and with Amazon CS, so will try Amex next but have a feeling I will just get bounced between the two.

    • the real harry1 says:

      my card didn’t need enrolling, it was automatic once I added it to Amazon as a card – when I choose to pay with it the MR points option pops up automatically

    • Paul says:

      Hi Choons.
      I’ve had some issues and narrowed it down to trying to link my BA Amex to Amazon. Perhaps that’s the problem?

    • Toby says:

      Yes – worked fine with one card last month, tried with different card/account on the weekend and didn’t work at all. Maybe they have a problem?

    • Andrew* says:

      Yes, couldn’t get my wife’s Amex Plat to link to Amazon.

      Amazon CS was spectacularly and infuriatingly useless… knew nothing…

  • Frenske says:

    Another slight OT. When does the 20.000 sign-up bonus appear on the AmEx Gold Reward account?
    I thought normally it was as soon you hit the £2000 spend, but nothing has appeared. Will it arrive when you paid off the balances or after the 3 months deadline. Oddly the counter on the main page of the account tells me I still need to spend £1936 before late June to get the bonus.

    • Rob says:

      Posts with the base points for the transaction which takes you over £2000.

      • Frenske says:

        Thanks. It looks like I need to contact the help desk.

        • Frenske says:

          Yep. Apparently a technical glitch. Customer service guy said bonus points should post within 4 weeks.

    • Dave says:

      mine was delayed by a couple of days (spent the money on Friday to > £2000, got the bonus on Tuesday.

      I blamed the American / British bank holiday weekend for the delay

  • Grimz says:

    OT – Do people churn the Lloyds Avios CC?

    • Aliks says:

      Only if you can benefit from the double avios on Amex spend. You are unlikely to get another referral bonus.

      • Alex W says:

        You can also benefit from the interest free period again – currently 29 months!

  • Alex W says:

    Amex related. Does getting the Gold/Plat companion credit card allow you to keep your MR account and also get referral bonuses? I need to keep MR account open for 6+ months but don’t want to pay 6 months of Plat fees…

    • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

      It lets you keep your MR without paying a fee but you will NOT reset the six month churn date.

    • RIcatti says:

      Can’t do that. You will remain ineligible for bonus as long as you have ANY MR account opened within the last six months.

    • Alex W says:

      Sorry I have phrased the question badly. I want to keep the companion credit card for 6 months while my wife’s 6 months since cancelling elapses. Can I then refer her for another Plat and get the referral points?

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