Double Blow to Amex Membership Rewards Program

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Today there have been two blows dealt to the Amex Membership Rewards program that are worth highlighting, though I don’t think either will likely have a tangible impact my family, or many of yours.

American Express is dropping the annual 15,000 Membership Rewards point bonus on the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card that is triggered after $30,000 in annual spending and it will be completely unavailable for 2015.  That is on the surface obviously bad news for those who were putting $30,000 a year on that card, but the reason cited for dropping the perk is that the majority of cardholders didn’t put that much spending on the card, and thus weren’t benefiting.  I believe that 100% to be the case, even in the miles and points world, since that is a whole lot of spending on one card.  Of course some people did spend that much on the card and for them the loss of that benefit is a blow to a card that comes with a $175 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee the first year).

The Premier Rewards Gold Card does award 3x on airfare and 2x on gas and groceries in the US.  The 3x on airfare is a high compared to other similar products, but the 2x on gas and groceries can be beat for many by the lower annual fee Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card from American Express, especially if you have 30 transactions a month on the card to trigger the 50% points bonus.

Losing the 15k annual point bonus makes me hopeful that the Premier Rewards Gold card will undergo a benefits revamp that might end up being even better for those of us who aren’t going to be able to spend $30,000 each year on that one card.  I’ll keep you posted as soon as I learn more.

Delta Limiting Amex Membership Rewards and Other Program Transfers Into SkyMiles effective January 1st to 250,000 miles per calendar year out of each Membership Rewards account.  There are presently no limits on transfers from Membership Rewards other than the max daily transfer of 999,000 per day to a single SkyMiles account…and call me if you have so many points to transfer that the 999k per day max is an issue!

Beginning January 1, 2015, the maximum number of Membership Rewards® points you will be able to transfer out of a single Membership Rewards account to one or more SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, the maximum number of Membership Rewards points you will be able to transfer into a single SkyMiles account will also be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

You are able to transfer Membership Rewards points to a SkyMiles account without any annual limitations through December 31, 2014.

Delta Membership Rewards Change

Just like with the Premier Rewards Gold annual points bonus issue, this is bad, but honestly isn’t likely to impact many of us who just focus on earning points via everyday activities.  It takes quite a bit to rack up 250k Membership Reward points each year, much less that many each year just to transfer to Delta.  I would assume the biggest losers would here to be those with businesses that rack up points at a much quicker pace than most families.

The only caveat to that would be those who have been savings up Membership Reward points for years with a goal in mind such as redeeming Delta SkyMiles via partner Virgin Australia for business class tickets to Australia (as that availability is very decent compared to other alternatives).  Each business class round trip ticket would go for 160,000 miles, so the 250k cap annual cap doesn’t even allow you to transfer enough points for two business class tickets, much less a whole family’s worth.

Delta Miles to Australia

Of course, that’s only an issue if you have more than 250,000 points to transfer out of one Membership Rewards account in the first place, which most of us do not.  I certainly do not.   If you earn tons and tons of points and want to be able to use them via SkyMiles, then I would advise looking into a Delta co-branded card before January 1st since there are no limits on those, and then transfer from the Membership Rewards program into SkyMiles to your heart’s content until 2015.  Thanks to View From the Wing for highlighting this change.

Will either of these changes impact the way your family earns and uses Membership Reward points?



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  1. Well AMEX is making it easy for me to decide which cards should stay and which should go. With the withdrawal of the 15k bonus points our AMEX Gold will be cancelled. What tosh to use the BS excuse that not many spend the $30k. In other words it’s a cost saving measure. We always hit the 30k and the bonus was what kept the card attractive to us. However, this combined with the lacklustre customer service I have experienced recently and I am contemplating cancelling all AMEX cards. Can’t see the point in paying the fees involved when I can probably do better with Citi Thank You and Chase cards.

    • I totally agree with you, both me and my husband have the card and both spent over $30000 , time to say good bye to Amex, I am cancelling the Gold PRG, Gold business, and platinum personal and business, the only cards ill keep from Amex are the SPG personal and business and the Hilton Surpass, I am sure my husband will cancel most of his cards too. Chase, Citi and BOA are what ill concentrate on. Barclays I have no interest in. Amex is charging crazy fees for cards that are not worth carrying,and their customer service is not like it used to be, compared to Chase fees and card benefits it is a joke.

  2. Not sure I agree MP.
    For DAL flyers these are decent sized hits. Anyone paying $175/yr on a card and NOT spending a large amount is wasting money/ As such, the 15,000 bonus points is big. $30K spending in a year is relatively easy to reach and the bonus categories of gas and especially groceries easily generated north of 75,000 MR’s.
    These MR’s are easy to move to Delta.
    If someone were to want two BE tix to Europe that would max out the new 250,000 MR to Delta transfer.
    Not this would not affect scads of people but taken together it seems that AMEX is trying to piss off Delta pax one step at a time, not unlike Delta.

  3. I agree with Vicky – I hit the bonus each year, and will probably cancel the card after the small business promotion. I might get the Every Day Preferred card instead, and move more of my bigger spend to Chase and/or Barclay’s Arrival Card.

  4. Yet another reason why I think both Delta and Amex MRs are worth less and less compared to other award currencies like UA, AA, Chase URs, and SPG. Delta awards are already noticeably more expensive and harder to get compared to those for UA and AA, and Amex MRs now transfer to many of the same airlines as Chase URs and especially SPG.

    I’m so glad I gave up on Delta eons ago. Whatever DL points I’ve had, I’ve used on Air France for the most part. I suspect more will try for Virgin but this new limit makes premium travel awards almost impossible for couples and families on DL/Virgin.

  5. If it was your primary card and/or you were hitting 30k then I agree it is a big blow and I’d start looking at alternatives if there isn’t something really juicy to take the place of the 15k bonus.

    I think the EveryDay Preferred is a great alternative for ordinary gas/grocery purchases, though if you are running big numbers of grocery purchases through it will be of limited use in that regard.

  6. AMEX has suffered a severe decline in Customer Service (e.g. ability to move negative statement balances, ability to close cards, move credit limit, deal with billing issues) totally outside of the mile/point world and it has seriously made me reconsider putting any spending beyond Minimum Spend on AMEX cards. AMEX SPG still gets some unbonused spend but a lot more of that will now go to Barclay Arrival+.

  7. What I can’t figure out is how AMEX is making such boneheaded moves. The transfer limits to Delta may or may not be due to one of Delta’s lovely new rules, but other things just don’t figure. Why remove private messaging while keeping phone and chat options, for instance? As far as removing a benefit that most customers aren’t using, so what? It just costs AMEX less money, while being able to offer the benefit anyway. What I don’t understand is how they could think that many people will retain the card, unless they make some drastic value improvements in a hurry.

    • It’s pretty common for programs to drop benefits that only a small percentage of people were using. It costs money to keep something rolling for a small few at the expense of potentially doing something to lure and keep a larger percentage. You will see that across pretty much all loyalty programs when a benefit isn’t being utilized enough.

      • Sorry, but this is pure nonsense, I know you make your living from the banks affiliate links, but please do not insult my intelligence by saying the 15k miles if not being utilized by many will cause a loss to Amex, please explain how is this possible?

        • Pilot, I don’t know their exact costs, but in general it does cost to keep something going even if a lot of people aren’t using it. For example, you saw Hyatt get rid of Passport Escapes for the same stated reason. There are IT costs, training costs, customer service costs, etc. That doesn’t have anything to do with affiliate links, that’s just how businesses run. I hope they have something really good up their sleeves or the card just won’t be very competitive even with their own EveryDay Preferred Card unless you have very large amounts of airfare and groceries to run through the card.

  8. If not many are hitting the $30K then they aren’t having to give the bonus out much. So why drop it? I’m not sure I get the logic. Just irritates your biggest spenders.

  9. One thing that is missed by most people is that CC companies pay to purchase miles from the airlines.

    The airlines make out very well indeed; so much so that the FF programs are becoming profit centers rather than simply a way to reward people who actually use the services.
    I would think that this move by AMEX is purely rational in that what they are paying to DL does not clear their MR balance sheet in (at a minimum) a neutral basis.
    I would suspect that the 250,000 MR transfer represents a break point; transfers over that amount actually cost AMEX real cash in excess of what they value MR points.

  10. getting rid of the 15k bonus will cause me to cancel the PRG.
    unless they decide to give 1.5x MR on the first 30k spending…

  11. Dropping the 15K bonus really stinks. That is my Mom’s primary rewards card and she does hit the bonus. We make pretty good use of her MR points, recently transferring a chunk to Choice for nights in Copenhagen that would have been very pricey out of pocket. Ugh!

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