Skip to content

American Express clawing back points from grocery store bonus on Hilton, Marriott and Delta cards

July 05, 2020
5 min read
American Express clawing back points from grocery store bonus on Hilton, Marriott and Delta cards
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for many people to use the travel-related benefits on their credit cards this year. Issuers have quickly responded to this unprecedented change in consumer behavior by adding limited-time statement credits and bonus categories in the areas where people are currently spending the most, including at grocery stores.

American Express issues a diverse portfolio of co-branded credit cards, partnering with Hilton, Marriott and Delta to name a few. Nearly all of these cards are offering limited-time elevated grocery bonuses through the end of July, letting cardholders earn up to 6x Marriott points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets, 4x Delta SkyMiles per dollar, or 12x Hilton Honors points per dollar.

In a move that can hardly be described as surprising, Amex has begun clawing back millions of points from people who it believes abused or misused these bonus categories.

Interested in more credit card news and advice from The Points Guy? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

One person we spoke with had points clawed back from her Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. There are two things that are especially interesting about the case. First of all, even though most of the transactions she made were similar in nature, not all of her points were clawed back. Second, based on the amount she charged to her card last month, she expected to earn significantly more points than the 241,000 that posted to her Hilton account. This suggests that Amex is not awarding points on certain charges, in addition to retroactive clawback once they post to the account.

Others shared examples of their clawbacks from both Marriott and Hilton, and I've seen data points indicating that these clawbacks stretch into the millions of points, and likely higher.

So what exactly caused these clawbacks? While it's hard to say for sure, it likely had to do with people making purchases that fell outside the terms of the promotion, which state the following:

"Eligible purchases are purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Hilton Honors Bonus Points you earn with your Card will be posted to your Hilton Honors account up to 12 weeks after the end of your billing period."

The most likely culprit would be buying gift cards of some sort. At many U.S. supermarkets, Amex has the ability to see what specific items you're purchasing, not just the amount of your charge, making it easy to weed out behavior like this.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

While Amex offers some of the most rewarding bonus categories on the market, it's also by far the strictest issuer when it comes to taking action against customers it believes are trying to game the system. Nearly every American Express credit card application, including co-branded cards and core Membership Rewards earning products, feature the following disclaimer (emphasis mine):

"If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome offer(s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit the Membership Rewards® points to, we may freeze the Membership Rewards® points credited to, or we may take away the Membership Rewards® points from your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us."

This language gives Amex broad powers to crack down on any behavior it doesn't like, and it's been quick to use those powers before. In the past we've seen Amex take action against people who self-referred to new Amex cards, closed or downgraded their cards within the first 12 months, bought gift cards to meet their minimum spending requirement and more.

Bottom line

Amex can be one of the most valuable issuers on the market, but only if you play by the rules. A vast majority of people reading this post likely took full advantage of these limited-time promotions to stock up on groceries and had their points post without issue. What we're seeing more and more though, is that Amex is willing to use its broad authority to claw back points or close the accounts of people who try to game promotions or do things that are explicitly forbidden by the terms and conditions. Amex has made it clear that it doesn’t intend to sit back and allow people to game the system. With yet another clawback on the books, you’d have to be an imbecile to try and break the rules again.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023