AMEX RAT tries to claw back Delta Skymiles bonus

Introduction

A friend signed up for the Delta Skymiles card not too long ago.  She had to spend $3,000 and out of that, she spent $2,000 of it at a grocery store (you already know for what.)  She got the bonus and spent the miles already on a redemption.  Then the other day, she got this email:

We are writing to let you know that, unfortunately, you are not eligible to receive the Welcome Bonus for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

Activity on your account indicates an effort to reach the Welcome Bonus spend requirement in a manner that is not consistent with the terms of your Cardmember Agreement.

Please recall that the “How Your Reward Program Works” section of the Cardmember Agreement states:

No word on what’s going to happen here since the Skymiles have been redeemed already and she has a ticket.  Maybe AMEX is able to take the Skymiles and leave her with a negative balance?  I don’t know.

Lessons Learned

I had known that the RAT team was looking at MS for the signup bonuses (like from giftcards.com,) but never thought they were even looking into grocery spend.  I guess the lesson learned is similar to the USB Altitude signup bonus – don’t even get close to anything that looks like MS.

  • mec

    What really matters is the L3 data. and whether the store in question shares L3 with Amex. I have looked, but can’t find good info on how extensive L3 data is.

    Which “grocery” store was this?

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  • MAG

    Was that $2k one transaction or multiple?

    • Mark Ostermann

      Good point….Vinh do you know. 2k would be easier to catch vs 4 $500 purchases.

      • Miles per Day

        Friend bought 3 x $500 and then $500.

        • Mark Ostermann

          I doubt it would have mattered much if it was 4 separate $500 transactions but interesting non the less.

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  • Paul LoBo

    Have there been any DP’s about cracking down on non- signup bonus GC purchase? I’m paranoid about any GC spend on any of my Amex’s now.

    • Miles per Day

      Not that I’ve heard

  • disqus_l7GXsYbTLi

    Now this is an unpleasant surprise… What’s left for amex minimum spend bonuses?

    • Ken

      Regular spend, reselling spend, etc. Nothing that looks like gift card MS. I wouldn’t even buy 3rd party GCs to resell unless it’s a small amount.

      • So if I’m paying tuition and buying $10k worth of Gift of College cards at Toy’s R US in order to pay tuition, would that make you worried? It’s completely legitimate spend – not even MS, but AmEx will just see it as $10,000 worth of purchases from Toys R. Us

        • Ken

          If Amex thinks it’s MS they may act on that. Nothing else matters. It’s why I don’t do any MS on my Amex cards.

          • So basically, I should have paid my tuition straight up on the school website and paid the fee, rather than working the tuition through the gift cards?

            Just a quick thought exercise – if I bought $10,000 worth of Target Gift cards, that would be a no go. But if I went to Target and literally just bought $10,000 worth of stuff, that’d be fine, right?

          • Ken

            Or not used an Amex card since their T&Cs are written to prevent gaming. If Amex merely suspects MS they can shut you down. Use a non-Amex card that’s more MS friendly.

            Yes, if you make purchases at Target that they don’t suspect is MS you’ll likely be fine. If they get Level 3 data from Target though they can spot GCs, so it only matters if they care to do anything about it.

          • Just an interesting thing that’s annoying me simply because my thought was that non-manufactured spending was fine and its such a small distinction in this case – paying tuition directly on the website is fine, but buying gift of college cards to then pay tuition is (maybe) not fine.

            Makes it even funnier to me simply because of how much flack I got when I brought up Gift of College cards as a form of manufactured spending in the Reddit MS thread. The Reddit users were up in arms about that not being manufactured spending!

          • Miles per Day

            We’re all speculating here, but I think it depends on if AMEX gets L3 data from the vendor.

          • And buying gift cards in any form for any place is considered invalid? Isn’t there a huge difference between a Visa Gift Card versus a store gift card?

            Edit: I see that terms say purchases of any Gift Cards are considered invalid. Guess I’ll be paying for the remainder of the tuition using a credit card and eating the fees.

          • Carl Pietrantonio

            Just do not use AMEX is what I think. Plus definitely not for meeting minimum spend on *any* card, at least in my opinion.

            I decided a year ago to only do absolutely justifiable organic spend as far as meeting minimum spend on any CC. It hasn’t been that hard if one plans ahead of each card. Pay all bills with the CC, even ahead of time, house repairs, car repairs, etc.

            Don’t forget also, if you have friends that spend cash on stuff like that, ask them to let you pay for it with your card and have them give you the $$$.

            Gift cards, especially VGC MCGC, etc, used to be easy-peasy spend, but now…. no thanks. Not for this guy, anyhow! There are other ways to skin cats if you put a little skull sweat into it.

          • John Gibson

            Have you tried paying tuition in person at the cashier? University I went to had a fee on website but if you go in and pay in person there is no fee.

          • Ken

            Doesn’t matter what Reddit users think, it matters what Amex thinks, and I agree with you.

            L3 or not, Amex can make the decision in their sole discretion as it states in the terms. They are judge, jury, and executioner.

          • Yep, looks like I’ll be just paying tuition straight up on the website now and eating the fee. Sucks, but not really any other option for me.

          • Ken

            You can always use a non-Amex card if you’re Ok paying the fees.

          • Yes, that would be fine if you purchased $10,000 of merchandise. AmEx is able to see a code (think it is L3) that tells them that it is a gift card. After I had 100,000 points clawed back, I have not done any MS’ing on AmEx. It is difficult getting those MR points now for me.

  • Joshua Flores

    Sub for outcome