Amex Is Slowing Down How Quickly The 50% Points Rebate Posts

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Update: The Pay With Points benefit on The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express has been reduced from 50% to 35%. The examples in this post have been updated to reflect the new values.


One of my favorite new uses of transferrable points is Amex’s 35% refund on “Pay With Points” bookings. Last October we learned about some major changes being made to both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express. Specifically:

Historically I’ve considered the best use of Amex points to be for airline mileage transfers, though with this change, I think redeeming them for two cents each towards the cost of an airline ticket can represent a great deal. You’d still earn miles for the tickets as you usually would, so it’s especially good for those looking to requalify for status.

How the 35% points rebate benefit works

Getting the 35% refund when using the Pay With Points feature is pretty straightforward.

The benefit applies on your designated airline, which you can choose once per year. On top of that, it applies for first & business class tickets on all airlines. So first you’ll want to select your airline, assuming you’re redeeming for economy. Personally I see there being a lot of value in this benefit for the purpose of booking discounted premium cabin tickets.

Then you’ll pay the full points price for the redemption — typically you’re charged one Amex point per cent of airfare.

jetblue-mint-award-10

So you need all the Amex points required for the redemption at the time you ticket, and then after the fact you’ll get a refund of 35% of the points.

I recently used this benefit to book Hawaiian first class tickets to Hawaii. Premium cabin saver level award space to Hawaii is virtually non-existent, and given that premium fares to Hawaii are typically pretty reasonable, I consider this to be a great option to have.

New-Hawaiian-First-02

Amex has slowed down how quickly the 35% rebate posts

This benefit is a 35% refund, meaning that you have to pay the full points needed for a ticket upfront (at the rate of one point per cent of airfare), and then the 35% refund is posted after the fact. In other words, you need a big balance of Amex points to really maximize this. The terms of the Amex Business Platinum Card state that the 35% points refund should post within 6-10 weeks of when you make your booking:

Extra points will be credited to your Membership Rewards account approximately 6-10 weeks after charges appear on your billing statement.

However, as I’ve reported in the past, typically the 35% refund (formerly 50%, as in the example below) has actually posted within a day or so, which is fantastic. For example, I booked my ticket on April 9, and the refund posted on April 10, just a day later. Others have had similar experiences.

Amex-1

However, for a bit over a week now, it looks like Amex has slowed down how quickly these Pay With Points refunds post. More specifically, those who have taken advantage of this feature in the past week or so report not receiving their refund yet, so we don’t really know how long it will take. Clearly it’s taking more than a few days, though we’ll have to wait a while to see if it actually takes the promised 6-10 weeks, or what.

Why would Amex slow down the speed at which the 35% refund posts?

We don’t officially know why this is happening, though I think the reasoning is obvious enough — this is a really lucrative benefit, and presumably Amex wants to limit the number of people using it, as it’s probably the most costly way that people can redeem points. For example, if you make at least 30 transactions per billing cycle on The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, you earn 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent. Then if you have the Amex Business Platinum Card you’re getting a 35% refund on those redemptions. Essentially that means you’re getting over two cents of value per dollar spent on “base” purchases, which is incredible. Of course the two catches here are that:

  • You need to have the Amex Business Platinum Card, which has a $450 annual fee (though also has lots of benefits that help offset it)
  • You need to have all the points needed for a one cent per point redemption upfront, and the 35% refund only posts after the fact, so you can’t get two cents per point of value for all your points

Along those lines, I suspect Amex wants to limit their exposure with this benefit, and one way to do that is to limit the speed at which people can maximize redemptions with this benefit. I know a lot of people would making bookings for two people by making one booking, waiting for the 35% points to be refunded within a day, and then making the booking for the second passenger. That’s not as easy if points only post weeks later.

Bottom line

The 35% Pay With Points perk on the Amex Business Platinum Card is fantastic, as it essentially means I get over two cents of value per dollar spent on the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card. Unfortunately I’m not surprised to see them slow down the pace at which points are refunded, as they’re doing so fully within the terms. However, this is certainly something to be aware of if you have points and plan on using this feature, especially given what I’ve reported in the past.

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Comments

  1. I redeemed points for five flights on February 23 and another 5 on March 10 Have not see either yet, giving them the 10 weeks before contact.

  2. I called AMEX roughly 2 weeks after two bookings(and one quick cancellation), They did manual credits/reverse for all three. Agent seemed surprised that none had been done systematically.
    I get a sinking feeling that this bene might be cut or eliminated in the not too distant future.

  3. It seems a little counterintuitive for Amex to do this. They’re fighting to regain market share, so they implement customer unfriendly moves? Seems silly.

  4. I believe this may be temporary. AMEX delayed posting points for an AirFrance offer I redeemed for almost a week – as opposed to a day turnaround for previous offers.

    Their system seems to do this from time to time. If you need the points expedited, a quick call/chat to customer service should resolve the issue.

  5. @Christian

    “It seems a little counterintuitive for Amex to do this. They’re fighting to regain market share, so they implement customer unfriendly moves? Seems silly.”

    EXACTLY. Let’s make it as difficult as possible to utilize any of our already-Byzantine redemption methods and watch the cash roll in !!!! WHAT ?!?!

  6. The old loophole was to book and cancel within 24 hours. This resulted in a statement credit of $0.02 per MR point directly into cash. Maybe they are trying to close that down.

  7. I have had the same experience. Even my manual application of points has not been credited against the actual charge on my statement. I wonder if this is just a systems issue or a planned one.

  8. I’ve used it tho had to go thru hoops. I too was pleasantly surprised when the rebate posted two days later. And disgusted with AMEX ( once again!) when told it could take TEN weeks to get my points back. Like many of you, I scoffed at using points for cash, preferring to trade and be able to fly in the front of the plane. But really, how is this now different from Capitol One? Two points for all spend and then use the p buy tickets. Yet we see this as an amazing benefit! What am I missing?

  9. @lucky: you don’t need all the points upfront in the sense that you can partially pay with points if you don’t have enough to cover the cost of the ticket and paid the different with your card. You’ll still get the 50% back on whatever points you use 🙂

  10. I will tell you the real reason. Because if you use the feature, and the 50% back points post and then cancel the ticket, and have the original points reposted, they don’t take back the 50% bonus. It’s like earning points with a phone call. Delaying posting the points will potentially stop this practice.

  11. This is what scares me about AMEX. They’ve gotten rid of this perk on the personal platinum, and temporarily on the business variation, before bumping it to 20%, and then 50%. I want this card solely because of the refund, but am not in a job that would utilize it excessively.

    If I were to get this card, and then get rid of the refund, I’d be pretty unhappy as the bulk of my spending goes on my AMEX EDP.

  12. Meh. I suspect it’s just another Amex IT issue. They ALWAYS say 6-8 weeks for all points, but we know in practice it’s usally a few busness days. But since this could be fodder for a blog, why not make it into something much more sinister?

  13. I’ve used the 50% back 3x. The first two times I received the points back in 2 days or less. I just did it a third time 10 days ago and the points have yet to post. Making me nervous because they owe me like 80k points.

  14. Used the benefit a few weeks ago expecting rebate to a post in a few days, but no rebate. Called/chatted with AMEX about it and had to argue with poorly trained associates who tried to tell me my transaction wasn’t eligible because I used my Personal Platinum to pay, instead of business Platinum. After wasting 4 hours of my life, I was finally told by someone in the cancellations department that they changed the time to post and no one is capable of a manual override. So now 200K points that I needed for another flight are locked up for 2 months..

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