Last week I got several emails from readers who had read about a change in the terms of American Express Membership Rewards’ points advance option that said this feature would be ending on June 30, 2013. I wrote to my contacts at Amex immediately asking whether this was true and I just got confirmation that the points advance option would indeed be ending in June.
When I asked for a reason, my contacts said that Amex had decided to discontinue the feature due to low cardholder use (that seems to be common excuse from Amex these days). If that’s the case I hope they plan on enhancing the program instead of slowly dismantling Membership Rewards, as they seem to have done lately with other negative changes such as the disappearance of the Bonus Points Mall and decreasing the value of Pay With Points for personal Platinum cardholders.
To make up for yet another erosion of benefits, I’d love to see Amex offer some transfer bonuses in the near-term. These, too, have been drying up lately. Come on, Amex- step it up a notch!
While the recent spate of juicy signup bonuses are good, I think investing in long term program enhancements like new transfer partners – I’d love to see Alaska or even Emirates added.
For now, those of us who do take advantage of points advance from time to time have just 3 months left to use it before yet another Amex benefit is stripped away.
For those of you unfamiliar with points advance and how it works, you can log into your account and the points advance page here. You can find the points advance limits for each Amex card in this table:
Amex will advance you anywhere between 5,000-60,000 points depending on the type of card you have. It will give you 15,000 points beyond your current balance if you are a Green/ Gold/ Premier Rewards Gold cardholder, and 60,0000 for those with the Platinum and Centurion (invite only) cards.
Corporate cards are not eligible for point advances. You must be a cardmember for at least 6 months and have all accounts in good standing – so if you just got in on any of the amazing Amex deals like the 100k Platinum and the 75k Business Gold from January, or this past month’s 50k offer on the Premier Rewards Gold, you’re out of luck.
The advance is free, but as I mentioned, you must earn back the points within one year of the advance, or else Amex will charge you 2.5 cents per point on the remainder. All points earned count towards repaying the advance until you have satisfied the amount you advanced – so any future sign-up bonuses (like the current 50,000 for the Mercedes-Benz Platinum and 25,000 for Platinum, Business Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold) will all count towards it.
So if you need those points now and don’t have time to wait to hit the spend requirements and wait for the points to post, you can advance yourself points and then repay the advance once the sign-up bonus credits to your account. This also goes for any spend bonuses, like 4x points per dollar when you book airfare through Amex Travel.
Keep in mind, the points you advance yourself cannot be used for statement credits, Everyday Rewards, Pay With Points transactions or paying the fees for transferring MR points to domestic airlines.
Points advance was a versatile Membership Rewards benefit because if a redemption you wanted or lucrative transfer bonus became available, you could have enough points in your account for it, even if you hadn’t earned enough points yet, and you’d have 12 months to earn the points you’d advanced yourself through normal spending, and if you didn’t Amex would simply charge you 2.5 cents per point – not cheap, but it could still make sense depending on the redemption.
Although not one of the benefits of Membership Rewards I used on a regular basis, I did find it highly useful several times, especially when there were lucrative transfer bonuses to Delta and British Airways among other airline partners going on, which meant that the points I advanced were worth a lot more miles than I would have been able to get had I had to wait to earn the points I needed normally.
I’m still a big Amex customer with 5 of their credit and charge cards open including a new Mercedes-Benz Platinum on the way (with a 50,000-point bonus), but this along with the erosion of other Membership Rewards benefits is going to have me taking a long, hard look at the program going forward and evaluating my future travel credit cards options.