Amex Freezing Some Membership Rewards Accounts Following 100K Offer
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Update 2 (5/21/16): TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt is once again able to transfer points, so it seems likely that American Express has unfrozen these accounts.
Update (5/21/16): According to reader reports (and this Reddit thread), it appears that Amex has already begun unfreezing member accounts.
For a short time last week, American Express was offering 100,000 Membership Rewards points with the Amex Platinum card. While we've seen targeted offers pop up before via the CardMatch Tool, this particular deal was available to the general public, and with a relatively low minimum-spend requirement of $3,000 in the first three months. If that sounds a bit too good to be true, that's because it was — Amex quickly locked down the application page and clarified that it had intended for this particular 100k offer to be targeted.
With any phenomenal bonus offer, some customers simply sign up for a credit card to take advantage of the bonus. That in and of itself is permitted, but a handful of individuals tend to "game" the system by purchasing products that they intend to return. This activity is considered fraud, and it's grounds for having all of your points confiscated — in some cases, a card issuer may permanently prevent these customers from opening accounts.
It's likely that that's happened here, which may have prompted Amex to take action against many users' accounts — even those of long-standing customers who have never been flagged for fraud in the past. We've heard from many readers who signed up for last week's 100k offer and are now unable to redeem their Membership Rewards points — points earned through another card are affected as well, if that card is linked to the same rewards account. According to this Reddit thread, the issue is widespread.
TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt, who signed up for the Amex Platinum card under last week's offer, is affected as well. When she attempted to transfer points from Membership Rewards to Starwood Preferred Guest, she received the error message above. Based on what we've heard from TPG readers, the message above indicates that an account is "frozen." We reached out to Amex, and a representative explained that some accounts have been frozen pending a review, but that the team is working to unfreeze legitimate accounts as quickly as possible.
If your account is frozen, you'll still be able to use all of your other account benefits, such as the $200 airline fee credit, Centurion Lounge access and more. You can also continue to pay for transactions with the card, and you'll earn points for any spend. It's unclear whether or not your sign-up bonus will post while an account is frozen, but any amount you spend during that period will count toward the requirement. Unfortunately, you won't be able to redeem your points at all, or transfer them out of the program.
Of course, this is likely enormously disappointing to anyone who was planning to redeem their points for travel, as you won't be able to do that while your account is frozen. One reader reported hearing a quote of 6 to 8 weeks for Amex to unfreeze his account, so if you need access to your points right away, you might want to call the number on the back of your card and ask to speak to a supervisor to see if there's anything that can be done.
Has Amex frozen your Membership Rewards account?