SRQ: Does A Credit Card Annual Fee Count Toward The Minimum Spending Requirement For A Bonus?

Apr 28, 2013

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A TPG reader approached me at the Freddies the other day to share a tragic story of major points bonus gone awry. Here’s what she told me:

“Back in January, I applied for and got the Platinum Card from American Express during the limited-time offer of a 100,000-point sign-up bonus. You got 100,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

I kept careful track of my spending and as the 3-month mark approached I was closing in on the $3,000 spending requirement and passed it when the card’s annual fee of $450 was billed on my statement.

I figured I was set and just called Amex to make sure my points were pending and an agent there said they were, though my online account didn’t have that information.

Cut to a month later, still no points. I call Amex back and ask what happened to my bonus and I was told that the $450 annual fee doesn’t count towards the minimum spending requirement, so no bonus…and I’m out $450!”

This 100K offer from January was an amazing deal - if you could hit the minimum spend.
This 100K offer from January was an amazing deal – if you could hit the minimum spend.

Now a lot of you might be saying, this person should have read the terms more carefully because the annual fee never applies towards your minimum spending requirement, and you’d be right, but this is a situation that a lot of folks find confusing.

To be clear: the minimum spending requirement is based on purchases only, not on the annual fee, balance transfers or any other fees (like balance transfer fees).

For example, in this case, the Amex Platinum’s terms stated that to receive the 100,000 Membership Rewards points, “You must charge $3,000 of eligible purchases on the Platinum Card within the first three months of Card membership to earn the 100,000 points.”

So the annual fee is not an eligible purchase, it’s exactly what it says, a fee.

I can’t blame this person for wanting to get in on a 100,000-point bonanza since the spending requirement was really low for an offer this large, and that’s the highest bonus we’ve seen from Amex in quite some time, though the Business Gold Rewards card currently offers a bonus of 50,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months (there were 75K offers on the card in January and March) and 50K on the Premier Rewards Gold back in February.

However, this is a good reminder to us all that the terms and conditions of credit cards are extremely important and specific, and it bears reading them carefully in order to ensure that you get the bonus you want and deserve. This learned that lesson rather expensively!

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