TPG reader question: When can a bank change my credit card benefits?
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Over the past year, there have been many new credit card benefits (both permanent and temporary, due to the pandemic). While new benefits are typically introduced with much fanfare, be mindful that issuers can quietly eliminate some perks.
In this week’s reader question, Jordan asks whether the numerous benefits on their recently acquired The Business Platinum Card® from American Express could disappear at any time.
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I just applied and got approved for the Business Platinum card. Do the benefits disappear at some point or are they grandfathered in for the life of the card?TPG READER JORDAN
The answer is both and complicated, so let’s take the easy road first and then come back around to navigate the more choppy waters.
First, there may be some benefits that are clearly stated when applying for the card. In addition to the standard welcome bonus, the Business Platinum card is currently offering 5x points on eligible U.S. purchases on shipping, wireless telephone services, advertising in select media, office supplies and gas stations in the first three months of account opening. You can earn up to 80,000 bonus points per category.
There are no other benefits currently scheduled to end or expire, but that only tells part of the story. In their terms and conditions, credit card issuers reserve the right to change any rules or product benefits at any time. While the national CARD Act of 2009 requires customers to be notified of “significant changes” 45 days in advance, that legal phrase does not include changes to a reward program. So if a bank decides to remove a perk or change a bonus category, you don’t have much recourse other than closing the card.
There’s one major exception to this rule — the CARD Act and its associated regulations provide consumer protections that restrict banks from altering certain aspects of a credit card during the first year the card is open, such as raising interest rates or fees. But again, this mostly does not apply to points or miles earned with the card.
So the short answer is, in life, there are no guarantees. If American Express suddenly decides to eliminate all the perks of its Platinum card and replace the Membership Rewards program with an alternate point currency that can only be redeemed for different types of cheese, it can do it.
But that’s theoretical.
The fact is, banks use their credit card benefits to lure and keep customers. While some perks don’t last forever, card issuers don’t want to make changes so enormous that they would destroy any value in their product. And when a major change is, in fact, being contemplated, banks will routinely either give significant advance notice of the changes or grandfather in existing cardholders to the old terms so they aren’t outraged by a sudden change.
However, that isn’t always the case. Take, for instance, Citi’s elimination of most of its travel and shopping protections in 2019.
With that said, in Jordan’s case, they most likely have nothing to worry about anytime soon. But if you keep any card long enough, you’ll probably see some changes at some point.
Additional reporting by Julian Kheel.
Featured photo of Amex Centurion Lounge JFK by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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Aside from the 85,000-point welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to a cap amount), earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive an up to $200 annual airline fee credit each calendar year.
- Earn 85,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card plus earn 5x points on eligible purchases in 5 select business categories, up to 80,000 bonus points per category, all within the first 3 months of Card Membership.† Terms Apply.
- Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's an extra half point per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.
- Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
- Pay Over Time Option: A flexible payment option to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees