Missing Amex Referral Points: Grandma Points’ Outcome

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In case you missed the beginning of this story, my mom referred several Mommy Points’ readers for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card offer back when the public offer was only 15,000 points, and the only way you could get 25,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up and meeting the spending requirement was via a referral from a current card member.  (Though you can now get that bonus on the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card card without a referral) I don’t have the exact number of persons she referred handy right now, but it was a few dozen.  It was a win-win situation since she was able to refer people for a higher bonus than was publicly available, and in return she was to receive some bonus points herself.  She was supposed to receive 10,000 Membership Reward points per approved referral when someone used her link – up to 50,000 points.  She was more than happy to provide referrals far after she had maxed out the number of points she could receive, but figured she would probably come out of the deal with the maximum of 50,000 points since there were several readers who did follow up and say that they were approved using her links.

The requisite 6-8 weeks passed and no bonus points posted, so she sent a secure message to inquire.  She was told they would open an “investigation”.  We have never had luck with a Membership Rewards investigation, so we weren’t holding our breath for the outcome.  About two weeks later she got a letter saying that there was no record of her being solicited for that offer.  Not only had the offer been advertized to her when she logged onto her account, she had received a post card in the mail telling her of the offer (which we still had), and she provided the bonus code attached to the offer.  Didn’t matter.  They said they had no record of her account being eligible.

After hitting that dead-end, she then wrote a letter to the Executive Offices of American Express.  In that letter she included a list of all the referrals she made, the dates, the names, email addresses, etc.  A couple weeks went by and she got a phone call from a man who worked in the Executive Offices that she describes as “very nice and professional”.  They looked into the matter and came to the conclusion that only one person had actually been approved using her links, so they awarded her the 10,000 points they said she was owed, plus 7,500 Goodwill points for her trouble.  She was happy to be treated nicely on the phone by someone who seemed to listen, and to at least walk away with something.  In her shoes I would probably have felt the same way at this point (in fact I know that is how I would feel since I am still awaiting a response for a similar letter on regarding my own account that I sent about 10 days ago).  However, there are several problems that I see with this outcome.

First, if they determined she was in fact responsible for one referral that happened three or four months ago, then why didn’t she automatically receive credit for that referral?  I’m not an IT expert, but I would assume there is a fix for that problem if the referrals are not being appropriately tracked by some software.  Second, I find it extremely unlikely that only one person eventually was approved using her links.  Due to confidentiality issues, there is no way to know how many were approved for sure, but I find one pretty unlikely.  These points are not “make or break” one way or another for my mom.  Like I said, she is happy to have received something.  However, what is concerning is that she is by no means an isolated case with referral bonus points not posting correctly.  In today’s miles and points world where we are seeing some sign-up bonuses decline, and cards being harder to “churn”, getting points by referring others is a viable option for adding to your yearly points totals…if they pay out as intended.  I have seen recent comments on Flyertalk, Milepoint, and this blog, all reporting similar problems.  Of course, some people get lucky and do have their points post without incident, but many seem to have trouble.

Having been through this with both my mom, and my own account, my best advice is to keep good records of who you refer and when.  Obviously, if you have a relationship with the person in the “real world”, it will be easier to truly know whether they were approved using your link.  It will also be easier to provide identifying info such as addresses.  I recommend that you keep the emails that (usually) automatically come back to you from Amex when you refer someone.  Then, cross your fingers that the bonuses will post as intended, but be ready to follow-up in writing if they don’t.  You can try secure messages and phone calls to Membership Rewards first, but I have found that letters may work better in this case, especially if you referred more than one or two people.

I love the concept of getting points for referring people to the Amex products that you have, but I sure do wish the execution was better.  What has your experience been with referring others to various Amex cards?


Disclosure:  I do receive a commission if you are approved for the Amex PRG card using my link…..well, at least in theory.  😉  Kidding, kidding.  Seriously though, your support is always appreciated. 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I believe (part) of the problem is that she really didn’t (personally) know most of the people who were referred. AFAIK, the Amex referral program is for family and friends, and realistically not meant to be advertised on a public website to random people (they have an affiliate program for that, which I’m positive you already know 😉 ). I believe had she known each referral Personally, she could’ve provided much more detailed and compelling evidence for a better outcome. She had to “settle” for a very low-ball offer due to limited references for the accounts referred. But I’m also glad she got something out of it (at least a trip to visit you guys with the MR/Avios transfer bonus)!

  2. Four of my relatives were approved for the PRG through my referrals, and in every case, 10k points were credited to my account within a day of the approval. From end-Jan through yesterday.

    Are you sure your mom’s referrals actually clicked the link on the referring email?

  3. I referred my parents. They both applied through my link and I saved all the documentation. That was 4 months ago and Amex still hasn’t awarded me the referral bonuses. I’ve already cancelled one Amex card due to their refusal to honor promotions. I’m canceling my PRG as well. I’m exhausted by the bait-and-deny routine!

  4. My experience with referral someone via Amx is horrible. In November 2011, I referred 2 family members. I got the email confirmed that the referral links was there for them to apply. They both got approved for the card (AMX SPG). In Feb 2012 I sent secure mails to Amx SPG and got a runaround such as no bonus code, can’t find the referral history, etc.. I sent several email screen shot with the bonus code. The “investigation resulted in no proof that they got approved due to confidentiality of the application. I called and got another case opened. Through more investigations, I got another denial. I called them and got the 2 actual persons that I referred on the phone with me to give the agent their actual credit card number. More investigation promised. And still haven’t seen the points posted on my SPG account. How hard is it to verify that this person has actually applied and got approved (the credit card number is the proof). AMX referral system really disappointed me for their lack of support.

  5. @CodeAdam10, it can’t be as simple as, “This program was designed for friends and family,” because we have examples like riverchica. And honestly, I’m more comfortable asking a complete stranger if they were approved for a credit card using my referral link than I would be a coworker who I might have referred. But surely Amex wants me to refer their cards to coworkers and neighbors under these promos, don’t they?

  6. @CodeAdam10, I think that it could have hurt her, but in her case they never asked for any additional info on the persons……however, I know they have in other cases. I’m also glad she at least got something!

    @Raj, that is great! There is no way to be sure, but they only way anyone got that offer back then was to click on a referral email, so while I am sure not everyone did, one sounds awful low.

    @riverchica, it is exhausting. That stinks! I’m assuming you already wrote the Exec Offices, but if not, i would do that next.

    @Wanda L, yuck. That sounds familiar. I would go to the Exec Offices next. Good luck and sorry that is happening to you!

  7. @Autolycus, in the days of social media and internet message boards, I can’t imagine that they would want to discourage referring “online friends”, and as you point out, this happens to people who refer those they know in the real world as well.

  8. Same story, four AX SPG referrals in last 6 months to family, received NO referral bonus for any one. I have detailed records (since I helped them apply via the referral link). However agent opening the investigation refuses to take any details, the “system” is only asking for name and city of the referred individuals, no application date, no email address, phone number or any unique id. I wonder how they will investigate anything?

    The referral banner ad flashes on SPG home page (sometime after login, but often without) for as long as I can remember in last year. And occasionally it shows up when I login to my AmEx online account. Its bait-and-deny for sure as explicit as one can be.

  9. Oh, I agree that online friends are just as valid as local friends or family. This is clearly a major, widespread problem. Perhaps a twitter campaign is in order.

  10. we fought hard for two referal bonuses and eventually got them manually posted but it was ridiculous. A real turn off that moved amex from being a preferred provider to just another credit card company in our book. We aren’t do PO’ed that we’re quitting amex but were close.

    Sorry it was such a poor outcome for you and shame on amex for the poor follow through.

  11. It’s a shame that AmEx is so disorganized. They have such a reputation for “good customer service” but part of that is one hand knowing what the other hand is doing. How could your mom even get a postcard, then them tell you she’s not eligible? Crazy, regardless of whether or not the referee were approved or clicked through or whatever.

  12. @ mommypoints

    Per your 1st paragragh, you said, ” …..since there were several readers who did follow up and say that they were approved using her links.”

    If these “approved” people take the time to tell you they were approved, why didnt you ask them to send a message from their account and vouch on your mother’s behalf ?????

    Had you asked these people to do so, the outcome might have been better.

  13. If you are being audited by the IRS, and if you cannot support your deductions with receipts, cancelled checks or invoices, no matter how much you argue, it’s up to the agent to allow or disallow your deductions.

    That’s life.

  14. I cannot speak to the referrals, but on a related IT note, I have had to call every time I charged an eligible charge to Delta towards my $200 annual Amex Plat. benefit. Every time they said it depends on how it is coded, etc. It would seem that since the charges are on Amex and from Delta, it would be pretty easy. I finally got the credit after waiting 8-10 weeks and calling three or four times. I had a similar experience with a small business that was on the Facebook Amex page, but I did not get credit until numerous calls and emails.

  15. Ive never referred anyone to a credit card, except a friend to a bank of america card. They never credited my account until I asked about it. It seems like this is general practice. They say one thing or offer one thing and never follow up. American express has been good to me though.. they have credited me 10k rewards points for issues they have caused, so they are good about giving you free points.

  16. @JO “If you are being audited by the IRS”

    Yes, that’s the govenment way, and we all hate them for it ! Does AMEX want it’s customers to feel the same way about AMEX that they feel about the IRS and the DMV? If so, this is the way to go about it….

    No one I know has ever, or would ever, recommend friends and relatives to the IRS. But AMEX seems to want us to like them enough to do them that favor, then gives nothing back in return. I know that I will now never recommend, or even mention, their cards to anyone I know that doesn’t already have them. Except, of course, to warn people who do already have them not to bother trying to get points for referrals.

    It seems that AMEX has yet to understand the power of the internet. But if they keep up this type of behavior, they sure will….

  17. It has been a real struggle lately to get AMEX to honour promotions.

    Last year I made 2 referrals for the SPG card, my husband was one and a close friend the other. Both were approved. I had to request the points as they did not post automatically.

    After my husband met the spend requirements I had to make a couple of online requests for the points and it took 4 months for them to finally agree to honour the deal. The response from AMEX was they had to get their marketing people to look into it. Not sure what they had to look into as the deal was widely advertised on their website.

    I recently got approved for the AMEX Plat 50k deal, and I am hoping that I do not have a fight on my hands. I have kept the original email from AMEX offering me the deal.

  18. Does anyone know if there have been any lawsuits against companies who promise rewards and fail to deliver? It really cannot be that difficult to track referrals. There must be intent to deceive and take advantage. AmEx should be held accountable. Also, very few other companies are offering referral points to individual customers. It must not be lucrative?

  19. I recently referred 2 people I know for the amex hilton card. I received 20,000 hilton points for each within days of their approval. I wonder if there’s a bigger problem with MR points?

  20. And this is without mentioning the unanticipated revoking of all AMEX cards, requiring an intrusive Financial Review for people who have been paying their cards off without a problem. Without a hint of why it happened. Who is in charge over there anyway?

  21. A similar incident happened to me. No referrals for Amex cards, but there was a direct link in my email for a 30% mileage bonus to transfer point to Delta. Of course I went through the link; took a screen shot of it, etc.

    I did not receive the 30% extra points. Despite calls and letters and copies of the email (with link) and screen shots, I got zilch. Amex says it is Delta’s fault, Delta says it is Amex’s IT department; they put the link in the email but did not communicate the right code to Delta.

    Still don’t have the issue resolved and it’s been over a year now.

  22. Referred two people to Amex Hilton Surpass card for 15k referral bonus offer each. Helped them fill out the applications in person using the email link that I sent from my own account. No bonus points posted. Opened investigation which after two months came back saying the applicants mentioned did not use the links to apply, but rather applied through the website on their own. This is impossible…because I filled out the applications with them and made sure to use the referral links. Very dishonest practice…but it seems to be very common. Don’t count on Amex honoring their referral bonus offers.

  23. Amex Florida office has terrible customer service when I called them. I chatted online with someone with an Indian name and I threatened to cancel my account and she immediately processed bonus points to my account.

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