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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.

  • Another Phil says:

    Rob – where do you think all the membership rewards schemes are headed in general? It seems that these days there is no good news! I’m relatively new to the hobby and it seems like I’ve well and truly missed the golden years that will probably never return!

    • Rob says:

      Amex charge cards are not impacted by the interchange fee cap (except for general competitive pressure on Amex to cut fees when Visa and MC have lower fees) so there shouldn’t be any major change there. The co-brand cards are theoretically unaffordable now BUT the travel companies are desperate to get their logo in your wallet. This means that the travel companies are likely to accept lower returns in return for keeping cards going, but you are likely to see more perks (ie elite status) and fewer points.

      • Ro says:

        How will open banking affect things next year?
        If merchants can be paid directly via your bank account, rather than through visa/mastercard/amex, there is less incentive for merchants to allow those forms of payment, making it less profitable for people like amex to continue offering even current sign on bonuses/allow churning etc? Or have i got that wrong?

        • Rob says:

          Bigger risk is card unbranding. Use Apple Pay and you don’t see the card logo, which is what BA etc depends on.

  • Mark says:

    Hi, O/T but CC related. I am just about to cancel my amex plat, my partner only recently cancelled their Amex plat, we’ve hit a 241 on BAPP and downgraded and partner can’t get a BA card until Nov.

    Which card would you recommend between this churn? I was thinking Lloyds but having one each? if so could i get your email Rob for referrals, although I’ve got a halifax clarity so not sure I’ll get the bonus.


    • Mark says:

      its asking for a membership number for the lloyds card?

    • SteveB says:

      Interesting to know that a referral bonus exists for SPG card. That doesn’t seem to be as widely publicised as for the Amex PRG or BA cards. Too late for me unfortunately. I’m adopting a similiar approach of shifting as many pts to SPG in the hope I will have enough for Marriott vacation package. I’m pretty sure I saw a banner on the Starwood site last week saying they didn’t expect the two programme so to be merged till ‘late 2018’. Wouldn’t be surprised if it has been delayed. Just hope the travel packages survive long enough.

      • Rob says:

        Merging mid year would be tricky anyway. If it is slipping then it makes sense to start fresh on 1/1/19 so people are clear what targets they need for elite status.

        • Mark says:

          Rob can I get you email? I need an spg referral for me and a lloyds referral for my partner. Thanks

        • Pangolin says:

          1/1/19 would be perfect for me. At the moment you can get the best of both worlds by linking status and cherry picking which promos work best for you (e.g SPG for nights + spend; MR for hotel-hopping and brand-hopping).

          I should achieve MR/SPG Plat in July which will likely be valid till Feb 2019 (under the current rules) and I’d like to start under the new combined program as a Plat, obviously!

        • Mark says:

          emailed you, Thanks!

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Apologies in advance for the stupid question – where are the 5k extra points coming from?
      Thought sign up bonus was 10k for 1k spending plus 1k if referred?

  • Really says:

    Potentially O/T

    Both myself and Mrs R have yet to receive the 30 day notice for this change. I recently closed an Amex Gold and was able to transfer my points easily to my partner’s Amex Gold card over the phone. My 6 month period will roughly coincide with the end of her 1st free year for Amex Gold.

    Key question: Will it be taking the p*ss a bit if she refers me for the Amex Gold, and after we receive the referral bonuses she cancels her card and requests the points to be transferred back to me? Do you think Amex might blacklist either of us for this practice? I’d rather keep the flexibility of MR points as at this stage the only transfer I would contemplate is SPG points (as a principle I’m refusing to give BA anymore of my business).

    Any input appreciated.

    • the real harry1 says:

      you’ll be fine for now, we all do that or similar

      there will come a time when they stop it, at that point you’ll regret not having done it more in the past, I’ll wager

    • Rick says:

      Depends where points are going.
      If its going to SPG it does not matter whether you combine in MR or once inside your/partner’s SPG account or indeed as Marriott account if you are targeting Travel Package.

  • Roger says:

    What is everyone’s experience of PRGC -> Platinum upgrade and fees?
    I am in my second month of platinum and about another 3/4 months before anniversary of my PRGC.
    When am I likely to get hit with £450 fees? If so does it apply from start of Platinum card or after free PRGC period ends?

  • Alex W says:

    OT but Amex MR – “Mrs W” secure messaged Amex yesterday and today Mrs W got the 20,000 bonus points for upgrading from gold to plat.

    • Leo says:

      That depresses me as I received a blunt refusal the day before yesterday. Well done her though

    • Chelseafi says:

      I tried phone call twice and secure message once, all within week, All “no sorry offer no longer available”, so cancelled card earlier today

    • Mzungu says:

      Same here – I asked on the phone a couple of days ago, received a blunt ‘no’. In the light of this, maybe worth trying a secure message I guess. Otherwise we’ll cancel her card ready for the next churn.

  • Raj says:

    If I open a US$ Amex card can the points from say a family member who has a UK Amex Gr card be transferred into this ?

  • Optimus Prime says:

    Have received Amex Platinum bonus. Can I downgrade to Gold? Reason being my wife wont’t be eligible for bonus until October and I want to refer her.

    • Rob says:

      Yes but £140 fee starts immediately

      • Alex W says:

        Or, can you canx the Plat, keep the companion credit card for 6 months and then refer the wife? Trying to answer my badly phrased question above!

        • Polly says:

          Alex, you can only refer BAPP to ba Amex, or plat to plat or gold cards. But if you mean you are waiting for your wife’s 6/12 to pass before referring her also for a companion card ie ? BAPP? Then that’s fine. But we would suggest maybe stretching it to 7or 8 mths wait so it’s not too Obvious!

        • Lee says:

          The companion card would be cancelled if the main card is cancelled. Surely?

          • Polly says:

            I think Alex means the BA Amex which gets him the companion ticket! Am trying to work out which he means myself to advise!

        • Genghis says:

          What Alex W means is whether he can take out the Amex Platinum Credit card (, cancel the Platinum charge card so as to not pay the Charge card fees and to keep open his MR account, but use the Platinum credit card to refer others for the Platinum / Gold charge cards.

          I don’t know.

          • Alex W says:

            Correct Genghis that’s what I meant. If there’s nothing in writing I guess this is too high risk for anyone to test the water since the penalty for failure is 18,000 MR lost! Downgrade to gold is not ideal either because ISTR you only get 9,000 not 18,000 for referring to Plat.

  • Optimus Prime says:

    @Alex W: you get 18k when your partner takes out Platinum even if you have referred from Gold. That’s what we did.

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

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