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Have you been blocked from making American Express referrals?

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Since October, an increasing number of HfP readers have reported that they are being blocked from referring people under the American Express ‘refer a friend’ programme.

Take a look at our forum here.

In their American Express account, they see the message “Your Account is temporarily unable to access the referral programme”. Why is this happening?

American Express blocked from referrals

The bottom line is that no-one knows.

Amex’s T&C restrict the referral programme from anyone whose Amex account is in default but this does not cover the majority of people who are having issues. The only relevant clause in the referral programme terms and conditions is:

Your Card Account’s eligibility to participate in the Referral Programme is based on your overall credit rating and other factors including your Account history with American Express.

Based on this thread in our forum, it seems that – if you call Amex – the staff can see a message about you on their screen but no-one has yet been told exactly what it says. No-one appears to have had the referral ban lifted.

Looking at the reports in our forum (and with the best will in the world, some people are unlikely to publicly admit abuse of the referral programme), it does not seem to be directly linked to:

  • the number of people referred
  • the ‘type’ of people referred (eg whether they are or are not obviously ‘friends and family’, which is a condition of referring people, presumably roughly verified by surname and / or geographic location)

Readers have quoted the following feedback from American Express when questioned:

“We base the eligibility for our referral programme on various factors relating to individual Card Members and their account history. This includes numerous factors affecting the Card Member profile, but we continue to monitor this over time.We automatically check the eligibility of their account at the time of login, as and when their circumstances change. You can start using your card and once circumstances change, you will again get the option to refer”

Blocked from American Express referrals

and

“Your Card Account’s eligibility to participate in the Referral Programme is based on your overall credit rating and other factors including your Account history with American Express. You can start using your card, and once account will be in good standing, our team will automatically review, the option will be available to refer”

and

“I have done a deep check, and I am sorry to know that your refer eligibility is not available as of now. Eligibility is based on these and other factors: account history, bankruptcy, credit rating, lending behaviour, missed payments, participation in internal payment holiday programmes”

My best guess (and it’s only a guess, since Amex is not going to tell us if they are not willing to tell the people involved) is that it is based on the QUALITY of people you refer.

It is very likely that Amex tracks back the profitability of accounts to their original source. This allows them to focus their marketing efforts on places that bring them customers who are valuable over the long term, as opposed to those that deliver lots of sign-ups but who subsequently fail to renew.

It is possible – and this is only a guess – that if you have referred people who have subsequently closed their cards shortly after receiving a sign-up bonus, Amex may have decided that letting you continue to refer people is not a great idea.

I am only surmising, however. I would suspect that your own personal profitability to Amex is also a factor, since it would be sensible to give some leeway to their best customers.

The bottom line is that if you want to retain the ability to refer people to American Express cards, I would recommend that you are careful about who you refer and how they use the card once they have it.


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Comments (122)

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

  • Tom says:

    I’m unable to refer.

    This happened after I’ve referred my step sister’s husband. He is paying his AMEX in full & puts 70% of his expenses on his card. Prior to this, I’ve referred my parents and a couple of friends (in the past 5 years I’ve done around 7 referrals).

    It’s quite disappointing, especially because I’ve been a card member for 5 years and I’ve been spending £50-60k annually (purely personal spending) on my cards (including several hundreds in foreign exchange fees).

  • BuildBackBetter says:

    iOS app allows selecting default card.

  • Doogie says:

    I’m on Android running Amex app 6.60.2 released 17th November 2022, and on the Account tab my third item is Select Default Card, which has a wee New highlight against it

    • Harrier25 says:

      Well that’s a result then! When I had 3 Amex cards it was really frustrating that the cards I barely used appeared at the top. Great if that has recently changed. Thanks @Doogie.

  • Peter W-G says:

    I haven’t read all the comments so please forgive me if this has been suggested but Re: ” if you call Amex – the staff can see a message about you on their screen but no-one has yet been told exactly what it says.” People should be able to apply for a DPA FOI request under GDPR regulations to get all information regarding them held by Amex. If they refuse to give some information (like why referrals are blocked) then they have to justify that. IIRC requests have to be in writing but maybe mention on a call and it might change the agent’s mind. If you write and don’t get an answer you can complain to the Information Commissionaire (Ombudsman) as it is a legal requirement to respond to these requests quickly. Sorry for the long comment, I hope it helps.

    • Dave Johnson says:

      Amex isn’t subject to FOI requests as it’s not a public body.

      You can make a SAR under GDPR but all that is likely produced will be some print outs of your transactions, basic info about you and basic telephony notes.

      This type of stuff will be viewed as commercially sensitive and therefore unlikely that the Information Commissioner or Financial Ombudsman will entertain enforced disclosure.

  • Luca M says:

    Maxed out on my referral last year, including referring existing cardholders that signed up to an additional card, but still see the option to refer on both my Platinum and BAPP. Interestingly, the Platinum has a message that confuse me at first but then I understood that is about not being able to refer for the same product but the friend can still get the new Platinum Credit card (mine is the Charge Card version)

  • anom says:

    Ex American Express worker here…. My husband and I both hold American express cards, and I can refer people, but my husband can’t.
    My husband works for a huge company and earns double what I earn, and has an amazing credit history. I am now self employed, low salary, and yet it is me who can still refer, and my husband has been “blocked”.

    From working for American Express for many years previously, i believe that this will be an IT issue, and that you at HFP have exposed/brought it to light. When I worked there, there were no such “blocks”

  • Paul says:

    As a brand new Amex customer with a great credit rating and pretty decent earnings, I was never able to refer anyone. I was referred myself, and so I can only presume there might be a cap on the trickle down referrals

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

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