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Expecting a refund to your American Express card? Here’s how it impacts your voucher or bonus

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A recent email from a reader reminded me that you may not be familiar with how American Express treats refunds when you have a spend target to hit.

With flight refunds still being triggered on a regular basis it is important to know where you stand.

The answer is simple:  all American Express spend targets are based on NET spend, not GROSS spend.  Your spending is adjusted for refunds, irrespective of when the original transaction took place.

How does American Express handle refunds

The “irrespective of when the original transaction took place” bit is important. Here is an example.

My British Airways American Express Premium Plus membership year runs to late February.  I need to spend £10,000 between late February 2021 and late February 2022 to receive my next 2-4-1 Avios companion voucher.

Let’s assume that I am about to receive a £2,000 refund from British Airways for a flight booked last December. Because it was booked last year, it counted towards my 2020/21 companion voucher.

When this refund turns up, it counts against my target spend for the current year.  This means that I will need to spend £12,000 this year – not £10,000 – in order to trigger my 2-4-1 voucher.

It makes no difference that the original purchase took place in my old membership year.  Amex deducts the £2,000 from my gross spending in this membership year so, to hit £10,000 of net spend, I now need to hit £12,000 of gross spend.

More obviously, the refund would also count against my £10,000 total spending if the original purchase has taken place in my current membership year.

The identical situation applies if you are working towards any other American Express spend bonuses:

  • Any sign-up bonus on any American Express card
How does American Express handle refunds

Does this apply to other card issuers too?

I don’t know, unfortunately.  It will vary on a case by case basis, but you should assume any award is based on net spend and not gross spend.

This would include:

  • A free night for spending £10,000 in a year on the IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard (no longer available to new applicants)

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

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our November 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 top current deals:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

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

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

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios 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 (65)

  • Andy says:

    What happens to the spend £5000 get 10000 avoid if a refund posts during this three month spend period from a booking a year ago? Does it affect it at all?

  • Richard B says:

    Datapoint: When a flights refund hit my IHG Premium Card in April of this year, it did move my ‘spend X’ counter back by the value of the refund.

  • Steve says:

    I had a large amex points bonus on an Amex BUSINESS charge card through my own company. Just about to get a £1000 plus refund from a BA holiday. I have already transferred the AMEX membership rewards into BA Exec club points. Can they claw that back?

  • Ls says:

    Ca€hbavk from offers on the card does not result in any avios being removed

  • Michael C says:

    If you hit one of the recent megabonuses of, say, 60,000 points, which were then transferred into your BA account, is that bonus clawed back by Amex if a refund arrives later?

    • Alex says:

      No, once it’s out of MR points, they can’t touch it.

      • Memesweeper says:

        …but your MR balance can go negative. Best to try and overshoot targets not scrape in in case of unexpected refunds.

  • Colin JE says:

    Sorry if I’d missed this but on an unrelated note but still about credit cards.
    IHG Creation cards can no longer be used with Curve. I got a text this week from Creation, as did many other people according to the Curve discussion board. This is starting to make Curve a bit pointless (pardon the pun).
    Certainly not sure I’ll be renewing my IHG Premium card if I can’t use it for HMRC.

    • Froggee says:

      You missed it.

    • Andrew says:

      See over 1000 comments on Thursdays chat, 90% of which related to this.

    • Lady London says:

      Quite surprised that existing threads including on recent days aren’t checked if people think they’ve come across some news.

      I can’t remember anything massive and truly noteworthy that didn’t appear at least in the comments on HfP first.

      • BJ says:

        Yeah, I even reported my new MS routes in the comments, or at least I placed them in a very small ball park to be figured out
        (cannot spoon feed everybody all the time!). However, readers took their eye of the ball and missed them by focusing on the MAS/IATA nonsense as @FFox rightly put it. Meanwhile @Harry T suggested turning me to drink as a means to an end (the lengths some go to for points.. !). At least I got a laugh out of it from @AJA with the very clever M&S retort 🙂

    • CarpalTravel says:


      Seriously though, if you have a Virgin card and Council tax / HMRC type bills to pay, curve still possibly has a purpose. At least for me it does. I’ll keep the metal for another year.

  • JohnT says:

    Just checking that once replacement flights are allocated after a cancellation, etc you are back to standard FTV or £35 cancellation fees if don’t want to travel (USA avios 241 flight in 2 weeks! ) and no new “adjustments” from BA.

  • Bagoly says:

    Article does not contain solution re spending bonuses – perhaps hoping it would appear in comments?
    Book a refundable flight some way into the future, and cancel it after the initial spending period is completed.
    Or, being less aggressive and assuming one is happy to make a prepayment to BA, book any BA flight, and cancel it for an FTV.

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