Amex

Very interesting developments happening today. Without notice American Express seems to have started closing accounts of people who have the old Blue Cash 5% card. In an unprecedented manner they seem to  be emailing affected cardmemebers to tell them their cards have been cancelled. The text of the email is as follows:

We are contacting you to be sure you do not have any surprises when you try to use your card. We wanted to let you know we have had to make the decision to close your account listed above.

Please tell any Additional Card Members on this account of this change so they do not have an unexpected inconvenience when attempting to use the Card.
You should also destroy the card(s) and any convenience checks you may have for the account(s).
If you have any recurring charges on these accounts such as cell phone charges, please contact that company immediately to ensure your other bills do not go unpaid.
You will also receive this information by letter, but we wanted to be sure you were aware of this change as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

American Express Account Services

Reports of closures seem to be coming in steadily on this flyertalk thread. Users are either finding their card declined, logging in to find a message about their card being closed, or receiving the above email to let them know of the closure.

Questions Remain:

-Who’s being targeted and why?

-Is there any pattern besides heavy use at Gas/Grocery/Drugstores?

-Will current rewards be forfeited?

-Is this a one day thinning of the herd? or a longer term trend?

Update #1 12:00 PM: Marathon Man posted the following on FT:

“Reason for closure:

You repeatedly used the Blue rewards feature of the card for purchases which are not consistent with personal, family, household use. Such purchases are ineligible for rewards under the T&Cs of the card agreement

CS points and rewards:

“Once a card is closed, rewards are forfeited.”

Update #2 2:14 PM: Good comments attached to this post, thanks for all who stopped to leave some advice.  Be sure to read them.

Update #3 4:51 PM: I’m putting my BC to rest for a few days to give some time to assess the situation. Once I know more about how  this all shakes out I’ll put her back in play. You may want to consider doing so as well.

From FT reports it seems that if you can log into your account, and log into your rewards dollars account for the Blue Cash Card your card is still open.

In addition it seems like as of now only the Blue Cash Card is being closed–Amex is not severing all ties with cardmembers, à la Chase.

Blue Wednesday is upon us friends. I hope we all make it through the day.

-H/T to Flyertalk. And more as this develops.

– Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I’ll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.

48 thoughts on “American Express Dropping the Hammer–Blue Cash 5% Cards Closed Being Closed Today

  1. My husband applied for the card on Friday. Monday he got a message to call Amex. He returned the call on Tuesday (day before Sam wrote this post) and he was approved. Card is being expedited.

    So while I hate to see such closures, I am hoping they do not portend the card’s complete elimination.

    Maybe the right hand over at Amex is oblivious to the left, but I am more inclined to think that Amex is selectively closing down heavy hitters who buy GCs at specific locations.

    I guess we’ll all see soon enough.

    • I’m with you Elaine, I hope at least some people can keep their cards. I know some huge hitters who’s cards are still open…so crossing my fingers for us all to make it through today.

      P.S. Did remove the dupe comment.

  2. my wifes acct was shut down just after she had made a purchase. She was hitting the same numbers as always.

    She was waiting on $5k+ of CB which would have posted a couple days after the 27th, as per normal.

    Then, this month, to date she was just a hair under that today when it was shut.

    So we are lookin at $10k.

    We just spoke with Amex.

    Reason for closure:

    You repeatedly used the Blue rewards feature of the card for purchases which are not consistent with personal, family, household use. Such purchases are ineligible for rewards under the T&Cs of the card agreement

    CS points and rewards:

    “Once a card is closed, rewards are forfeited.”

    RAL (responsible Lending Action) dept (credit area):

    Cannot reinstate card due to above reason.

    My plan:

    1) Keep trying to argue w amex. Will likely give up soon with that though.
    2) File with Small Claims court. This is bait and switch. I will argue they closed it JUST BECA– USE I was so close to getting the first $5k and would again get that ammt.
    3) This activity IS very much consistent with this acct and our household since GCs were allowed with PINS and even before that! (I was using the other amex blue 6x before that April day) and we do not have a business, so this is for our household indeed.
    4) Amex closed peoples accts without warning or FR because they did not want to pay any rewards. Again, bait and switch.

    Other less popular option: I happen to owe that card like $12k. I will pay them $2k and they can stuff it.

    more later.

    Why did this happen?

    Well, maybe AMEX sees threads like these
    maybe too many blogs spelling out EXACTLY what to get and why and maybe too many people in the ms space. Either way, MS dies with this for many people.

    My own card has not yet been shut.

    • Thanks for putting this down here Marathon. I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost so much today and would appreciate updates from you, either here, via email or on your own blog as you continue to fight this.

  3. I like MarathonMan’s strategy. “I know someone” whose CB account was already cleared out, but “they” haven’t been shut down yet. But about $7K in CB is supposed to post this week unless “they” get shutdown. But to MarathonMan’s point, think of your action plan ahead of time. “Their” action plan will be something like:

    1) Download full account history and cardmember agreement now before getting shut down.
    2) Write down all the mailing address necessary for the card.
    3) Collect the names of their top execs in marketing/product management/external affairs/consumer lending/CEO w/mailing addresses.
    4) Scrap trying to talk with anyone on the phone. Instead write up a nice letter (w/your attached files) explaining the situation and what you will do without resolve. Send it to all those people registed/signature on receipt USPS mail.

    Some talking points are 1) you require complete documentation evidencing you as the purchaser of cash-like products, including details of the products purchased, 2) some references to Utah law as that is the state whose laws govern the cardholder agreement, and 3) the name of some people you’ve found in the banking commission, etc. that you will be forwarding your case to if you do not hear back in writing within 10 business days (but go ahead and forward it anyways).

    Trust me. You kick and scream enough… and someone will want to shut you up. Organizations are big (just like AMEX). You have to hit them at numerous points high enough up the food chain to be noticed and/or forwarded to the right person. If you are lucky, one person that already got your letter also gets forwarded the letter from his higher ups. Then hears that there is a state banking commission complaint filed on the same thing. That’ll get their attention.

      • Got shut down today too. Will be taking my own advice on this one and sending my letters to AMEX. Results will be posted on the FT forum for OBC.

    • Can we start a resource that begins to collect all of this. No reason for all of us to come at this in different ways. May be pre/post session discussion for those heading to PHX in Nov.

    • I think this is the best thing that could’ve happened. OD should’ve flagged some of these people for high spending and abuse and sent their info to Chase without killing the program for the rest moderate spenders, same with AMZN, etc….I hope all credit card companies start following suit for all you abusers out there.

      • Ya know I showed this to a few friends of mine and we decided if we ever saw a compliance employee of AMEX or YOU in a bar and we all got talkin’ about this and that, we would probably take you out back and rearrange yo face. Then again, from the sound of things you are spoutin, it seems to me something in you is already very deranged!

  4. if i can get over this deep depression to even be speaking at phx maybe I will make my speech on how to sue in MA and people can extrapolate

    • MLH: Click on your Blue Cash card, then under your reward dollars you should see “Explore rewards.” Clicking this should open up to the reward catalog, and may ask you to “log in” to your rewards if you have multiple cards. If you can log into your BC rewards there and see all the options for using your Cash Back you should be ok.

      • Guess I’m looking ok, but that’s surprising. Ive put close to $20k on it in the last month after minimal use on it before then. Although, I do use it for lots of other purchases, to try to mask the MS

  5. @MM, better to use your presentation time in PHX to look forward. It may be resolved by then, or working through the channels that are opened by following Khaigobed’s strategy. It is probably more effective and efficient to fight this as a community than individually, case by case, in court.

    • If it ever gets to court, “we” are going to lose big time. I think T&Cs specifically exclude rewards on gc’s, as well as the ability of amex to close the account. None of us can justify that the expenses in thousands of dollars made at those stores should have earned rewards. Remember that the court can subpoena (or whatever is the legal term) to get the receipts for those purchases from the store even if we claim to not have them.

      Not happy about the situation, but amex seems to be well covered in this case.

      • The TCs say PREPAID cards, not GCs specifically. One can never load a CC to a prepaid card anyway–not the ones we would all know about (like the bancorp and greendot ones that stink but that we all have seen). If they wanted to specificy GIFT CARD then why didnt they? Why are we supposed to know what they are thinking when they write these TCs? AND one other thing:

        A company can put ANYTHING it wants into TCs. It is going to be up to the laws of your state AND the interpretation of the magistrate or judge at hand to deem them admissible or not.

        i mean, what if it’s found –when you go to court and expose Amex to scrutiny–that they cannot even legally bar such purchases to be earning points to begin with? Then suddenly you would catch them with an error in their own document that they have been touting wrongly all along!

        this could lead to triple damages in some states!

        Also, they have told people who asked that our reasons for shut down had to do with us “repeatedly using the rewards feature of the cards for purchases which are not consistent with personal, family or household use…” Well, These are normal purchases in MY household and I can prove it! As well, I do not have a business for which I use this card for anything and can likely prove that too.

        Finally, if they did not intend for certain purchase types to earn rewards, then why did they? To me they baited us and led us on thinking the things we did were just fine. And only when we ramped up to doing more of the same and telling our friends to get this card did they finally switch on us and steal the CB money! They should have either had better IT to prevent things–after all, had they done this right, then one could buy something that does not earn rewards and be perfectly ok with knowing this. It just would not have earned rewards! instead, they did this wrong and they tricked us at the 11th hour.

        That is so bait and switch it’s not even funny. bring that up in SCC and you will likely slam dunk it. In my experience, that is.

        Just consider all this… whether writing those letters or suing.

        And if people do have the addresses of who to write to, please post them here. Let’s overwhelm them.

    • maybe I will bring forms for everyone to sign for class action lol.

      Actually I have no idea what the @!(#&@! I am going to talk about in this presentation now. MS? What MS? And if I do have any new tips, I aint sayin diddly in case some mole is there. Oh wait, there will be some…

  6. Faster than you could say “Blue Wednesday” I checked and luckily was still able to access over $600 in hard earned MS’d cash back. Close call!!

  7. I have an OBC, and have not been shut down. I do some of what I would consider MS on it, but it’s so far down in numbers compared to what the heavy hitters are doing that it almost doesn’t count. I’ve had it since march and probably MSed 15K total. my statement closes the 27th and I’ve only got about $15 in rewards sitting on it.

  8. THE BEATLES
    “Yesterday”

    Yesterday, all my cash back troubles seemed so far away
    Now it looks as though until I apply for TD again or WF, they’re here to stay
    Oh, I believe in yesterday

    Suddenly, I’m not half the marathon man I used to be
    There’s a shadow of a GC hanging over me.
    Oh, yesterday came at 12:24pm so suddenly

    Why AMEX had to blow I don’t know, the CSR wouldn’t say
    I charged up something wrong, now I long for yesterday

    Yesterday, MS was such an easy game to play
    Now I need a place to hide my remaining miles away
    Oh, I believe in yesterday

    Why AMEX had to blow I don’t know, Account Services wouldn’t say
    The circle/arrow blogs said something wrong too long, now I long for yesterday

    Yesterday, cashback was such an easy game to play
    Now I need a place to hide my other blue away
    Oh, I believe in yesterday
    Mm mm mm mm mm mm mm

  9. To several of the commenters: Don’t be stupid and be a pain in the a$$ about this. You’ll ruin it for the rest of us. It sucks that you are losing some cash back, but the cardmember agreement clearly states purchases of gift cards/cash products are not eligible for cash back.

    Don’t wager more than you can lose.

    Think of all the cash back you’ve gotten over the years. I’m sure this lost amount pales in comparison. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business (and getting paid tens of thousands of dollars just for making trips to the grocery and drug store).

    Sometimes when you go big, you end up having to go home while the smaller, and I would argue, more responsible players, get to keep playing. I would suggest you were too aggressive and therefore drew attention to yourself. Your account being shut down isn’t Amex’s fault – it’s yours. However, if you make a big ruckus, Amex might totally discontinue the Old Blue.

    If my card gets cancelled, I plan to go quietly into that good night and hope to preserve the game for others. It’s the neighborly thing to do. We’re a community and no one person’s situation trumps the good of the group.

    • I detest posts like this, reeks of ill informed smugness, and usually I’d just ignore… but…

      I really would like you (or anyone who makes posts of this sort) to define: *responsible* buyers.

      And by that I mean in specific numbers.

      You about manufacturing spending, and you somehow believe that you know where to fly under the radar? puh-lease.

      I mean, are memories so short that we forget the Citibank scorched earth policy from merely 17 months ago? Don’t you remember all those smug nimrods who posted on FT saying how that heavy hitters would be axed, but, ‘they’ would be safe because they never spent more than $x each month? And then literally a day later you see reports of even people spending less than $1K a month on MS got axed? And ironically many heavy hitters were actually spared. I believe Marathon Man being one of the lucky survivors.

      At any rate, I digress… back to the question at hand, please define *responsible* buyers. I’d ‘love’ to know how to be more *responsible* in this game.

      • @bojangles – I hope your rant made you feel better. I’m actually typically a very humble person and I’ve never claimed to be a heavy hitter exactly because I don’t want to kill the golden goose. I shoot for enough cash back to offset my out of pocket travel and miles/points costs each year. Nor did I claim that I was flying under the radar (feel free to read the last paragraph of my comment).

        However, to answer your question, in my opinion, “under the radar” means one’s cash back is not disproportionate to the transaction fees Amex collects from the account holder. How one can expect Amex to continue a relationship where they’re losing thousands of dollars (via cash back) a month is beyond me. I fail to see how my statement could be considered “ill-informed”.

        (And since you want specifics: for me, that means 3-figures of cash back a month. I told you I wasn’t a heavy hitter.) Never let oneself become a one-trick pony.

    • I don’t agree with you at all, SC Parenter. Elaine had the right idea, if one really wants to be successful then it would have to be done as a community. If a few just want to cut their losses and stay quiet then that’s their choice. MS is all about accomplishing things that most couldn’t, what rules don’t technically allow but get accomplished anyways. Just because we get an email are we to say that we should be content letting go of hard earned CB – legit or not?

      Just like many found exceptions to the written rules to accomplish things, so can things be accomplished now which aren’t exactly in the touted T&C of the Cardmember Agreement. I’m sure there have been short kids let onto a rollcoaster here and there, teenagers allowed to buy a 6 pack at the gas station, airlines that comped a fee that is normally against their policies, or even a police officer that decided to selectively not enforce the law when giving you a verbal warning. Anything is possible, we just have to assess whether we really want our CB or not.

      This whole issue is not just about one customer relationship with the bank. It is about a myriad of us who have a relationship with the bank and tend to be opinion leaders in circles amongst family and friends about which cards are best to use for certain spending. The bank is hoping that we cardholders stay quiet so they can zero-out the liability of CB payouts accrued. But what will certainly change their minds about this is if they think a ton of customers will “ice bucket challenge” the subject and damage their brand image. Any bank whose entire reputation is based on service would think twice on this.

      I’m sorry. But if you don’t like heavy hitters, don’t play in a varsity MS team. Others are clearly more ambitious and successful even when faced with adversity… that’s why they are called heavy hitters.

      Grrrrr 🙂

  10. CB was too much of a good thing to last. We got a good 12 months out of you my good friend, but now you got profiled by AMEX and cancelled. R.I.P. Blue Card

    Hopefully other avenues remain open and unpublished/unnoticed on forums and blogs.

  11. Posting under pseudonym for fear of AMEX scrapping blogs and websites for even my ‘typical’ alias…

    Been pushing well into the 6 figures each month, and just cashed out 5 figures a week ago. Account still appears to be open. For how long though remains to be seen.

    Considering there’s another large ‘payday’ in the queue, I’d probably fight a ‘forfeiture’, but, definitely not a closure.

    This was a fun ride, great secondary income for nearly a year, and surprised it lasted this long. Nonetheless, sad to see it go.

    I guess it’s time to apply for the WF card again…

    • Bojangles: I too fear Amex is targeting specific people by name, which has me concerned for my card as well. *IF* I were in charge of the witch hunt at AMEX I’d start by looking at FT screennames and see who has them matching their Amex login ID, then I’d move on to bloggers whos names are well known. Targeting them would mean they publicly document their pain and scare others off. That’s if I was in charge… Really hope no one at Amex reads the blog. :\

  12. People redeeming 5 figures of cashback a month and wondering why amex is closing the cards?

    I hope those profits were invested into something. I mean no way they could sustain paying out like that.

    I only do mid-4 figure!

  13. Just a comment to say that my new card arrived. By phone, I confirmed with the CSR that the offer is indeed the old Amex Blue terms of 5% CB once I spend $6500.01. So it does live on, at least for now.

    (Card applied for 10/19; approved 10/21; rec’d 10/23)

  14. SIMON & GARFUNKEL
    “The Sound Of Silence”

    Hello darkness, my old friend,
    I’ve come to type on my laptop with you again,
    Because a vision of the end of MS is creeping,
    Left its seeds while we were blind and sleeping,
    And the vision of no more cash back that was planted in my brain
    Still remains
    Within the sound of silence.

    In restless dreams of empty GC racks in stores where I walked alone
    No more Blue: I tossed my card on the cobblestone,
    ‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
    I turned my collar to the cold and damp
    When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a CVS store neon light
    That split the night
    And touched the sound of silence.

    And in the naked light I saw
    Ten thousand GCs, maybe more.
    Clerks were talking without speaking,
    Managers hearing without listening,
    MMS and FM were writing blogs that voices share
    And no one dared
    Disturb the sound of silence.

    “Fools,” said I, “You do not know –
    Silencing your MS like a cancer grows.
    Hear my words of warning about 5x that I might teach you.
    Take my arms in stewardship that I might reach you.”
    But my words like silent tear off tabs from GCs fell
    And echoed at the CS desks of silence

    And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon drugstore god they made.
    And the sign flashed out its warning
    In the words that it was forming.
    And the sign said, The words of the prophets are written on the Walmart bathroom walls
    And that big fat CSR-guy’s balls
    And whispered in the sound of silence.

  15. Forgive me people but these funny MS songs are a way of coping:

    AL GREEN
    “Ain’t No GCs When She’s Gone”

    Ain’t no GCs when she’s gone,
    The MO printer aint warm when she’s away.
    Ain’t no GCs when she’s gone,
    And she’s gone and this will be long
    Yah my blue she’s gone away.

    Wonder, next time what card will get gone,
    Wonder if my ST Delta’s gonna stay
    Ain’t no GCs when she’s gone,
    And this Walmart aint no longer my home,
    Yah my blue she’s gone away.

    And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
    I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
    I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
    I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
    I know, hey I ought to not rely on my version of the T&Cs alone,

    But ain’t no GCs when she’s gone,
    Ain’t no GCs when she’s gone
    Only darkness everyday.
    Ain’t no GCs when she’s gone,
    And this CVS aint no longer my home,
    Yah my blue she’s gone away.

    Yah my blue she’s gone away, yah my blue she’s gone away.
    Yah my blue she’s gone away…

  16. JIMMY BUFFETT
    “He Went To Paris”

    He went to Paris in C looking for answers
    To questions about award travel that bothered him so
    His CL was impressive, his accounts young and aggressive
    Traveling the world nearly free on his own.
    But the warm Summer breezes
    The French wines and cheeses
    Put his real job ambition at bay
    And MSing hard in Summers and Winters
    Scattered points and miles around like splinters
    And four or five years on FT slipped away.

    Then he went to England, played this game like a piano
    And married a FTer named Kim
    They had a good trip hacking life, she was a good authorized user wife
    He even taught MS to his young son named Jim.
    And all of the answers and all of the blog questions
    He locked in his GC bins in his attic one day
    ‘Cause he liked the quiet clean country Walmart MSin’
    And twenty more years online slipped away.

    Well that Wednesday took his Blue baby, the bombs dropped by posters pissed off his lady
    And left him with only on credit line
    His CB balance was battered, his MS world was shattered
    And all he could do was just cry.
    While the tears were falling, he was recalling
    The answers from old posts he never found
    So he hopped on an aging 747 in back in economy, skidded the ocean
    And left MMS’s subscribe list without a sound.

    Now he lives in the islands, fishes the pilin’s
    And drinks his green label each day
    He’s writing his MS memoirs and losing his hearing
    But he don’t care what most people on FT say.
    Through eighty-six years of perpetual cycling M/P/C motion
    If he likes you he’ll smile then he’ll say
    Some of it was magic, some of it was tragic
    But I had a good run traveling all the way.

    • I know: Forget giving a talk in PHX. Just do a concert, or better yet, a sing-a-long! A hootenanny! Keep those songs coming; they are wonderful.

      • Well thank ye… Now I cant sing for diddly squat but here’s another you can sing along to… This one’s about how after a few days of sulking you get up and go back out there to MS with what you got:

        STEVE WINWOOD
        “Back In The High Life Again”

        It used to seem to me
        That my activity in CVS and stores I swiped too fast
        And I had to take it slowly
        Just to make the good cards last
        But when you’re born to do mileage runs
        It’s so hard to just slow that 5x down
        So don’t be surprised to see the death of MS for me
        But I’ll be back in that bright part of the Walmarts in town

        I’ll be back in the mile high club again
        All the deals that closed one time will open up again
        I’ll be back in the mile high club again
        All the eyes that watched my accounts once will smile and give me new credit and take me in

        And I’ll get GCs and MOs with one hand free
        Let the MS world back into me
        And on I’ll be a sight for the clerks to see
        Back in the mile high club again

        You used to be the best at MS
        At making credit lines be my MS life to me
        And I hope that you’re still out there
        And you’re MSing hard like you used to be
        We’ll have ourselves a time
        And we’ll buy gift cards ’til the morning sun
        And we’ll let the ST miles come rollin’ in
        And we won’t stop printing ’til we’re done

        We’ll be back in the mile high club again
        All the deals that closed one time will open up again
        We’ll be back in the mile high club again
        All the eyes that watched our accounts once will smile and us me new credit and take us in
        And We’ll get GCs and MOs with one hand free
        Let the MS world back into me
        And on I’ll be a sight for the clerks to see
        Back in the mile high club again

        We’ll be back in the mile high club again
        All the deals that closed one time will open up again
        We’ll be back in the mile high club again
        All the eyes that watched our accounts once will smile and us me new credit and take us in
        And We’ll get GCs and MOs with one hand free
        Let the MS world back into me
        And on I’ll be a sight for the clerks to see
        Back in the mile high club again

        • Hey MM, just wanted to shout out and say how sorry I am you’ve gotten shut down on this. I don’t think it’s right for Amex to keep two months rewards. If they’re going to shut you down, then do it from the day they inform you of the situation.
          I don’t agree with all of your comments online (duh, what two people agree on everything), but feel like we are part of the same community and hope you can resolve this to your satisfaction. As to those who say you should get a “real job”, I don’t see how this is any lesser of a real job than anything else where a person isn’t curing cancer or inventing the internet or something along those lines. Seems like it’s just as good a job as selling shoes… or stocks. All the best to you and your family.

          • Thanks Jaime

            Well ya gotta just carry on and find new things which is what in doing. As for amex ill deal w them somehow and others should pursue as well.

            As for work, well people love to jab. I have said i was a consultant and then made a CHOICE to stop that as ms opps got better and way more lucrative for less time invested. Now ill just go back to that but thank you for your kind words.

            The thing that stung was how quickly amex fell not that it did. Ive been predicting ms death for a while now.

            mm

  17. Thanks for the heads up Sam. So far I am safe, and my account is still open. However, as my BC is newer I have a great deal of rewards $ outstanding. Think I’ll lay low for a bit and wait for my rewards to post.

  18. Well… and here I thought all the comments on FT about the 28th going to be another bloodbath because many folks statements closed on the 27th were somewhat unfounded, especially since it really would make it look like AMEX is trying to maximize the swipe fee earned by the customer without having to pay out rewards… then AMEX goes and does exactly that.

    Very classy AMEX.

    FWIW, my account is still intact, but, my statement does not close for another 3 weeks. If it hasn’t been made apparent by now, don’t use this card at all. You’re just accruing rewards you’ll never see.

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