The AmEx “devaluation” of rule enforcement


Gotta love the outrage when rules are simply enforced as written. For the longest time (as far back as I can remember) one could transfer points from an American Express Membership Rewards account to any recipient so long as the transaction was performed online. You couldn’t do it on the phone because it was actually against the rules even back then and the agents knew that. But the website never enforced the rule. Until now.

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Seems that, at least for some partners, the ability to link an account online which does not have your name on it is now not working. I set up dummy accounts with Emirates, Frontier and SPG. SPG failed as shown above while Emirates failed with a different technical error and Frontier showed as pending but later also came up as failed.

So, is this a huge deal? And if so, why?

Yes, it makes the points slightly less fungible. I’ll grant that. But why would people do it? It was for “topping off” the account of a friend or for pushing multiple sign-up bonuses into a single airline or hotel account. In other words, it was a tactic generally used by people breaking the rules, avoiding fees or otherwise trying to get more than they were supposed to have access to. And that includes me from time to time, though it has been a few years since I had a useful reason to bother.

So, sure, it sucks if you were one of those schemers using the loose enforcement to break the rules, but it is hard to call this a major devaluation when the usage has generally not been legitimate anyways. It isn’t like they actually changed the published rules. And if AmEx blocking those folks out means they can better preserve the value of the points for me going forward I’ve got no problems with that at all.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

11 Comments

  1. It’s unfortunate because you can’t trade(top off) friends accounts.
    It was an open secret. Kind of remind me of the classic “Office Space” just fix the glitch scene.

  2. Less about preserving value of points than avoiding fraud. Too easy for someone to get access to your account and empty it.

  3. Have you personally ever transferred amex to someone else who is not your spouse?
    Please tell me you have followed the rules completely 100%

    1. I wrote in the post that I’ve not followed the rules 100%, though it has been a few years since this was an issue for me. Glad to see you actually read what I wrote. Also, just being a spouse doesn’t make the transfer permissible.

      But I also knew at the time that I was breaking the rules. They wrote the rules and haven’t changed what is published. They’re simply better enforcing them now. I can live with that.

  4. I agree their outrage is unwarranted, but it’s a little refreshing to see some criticism of Amex from the usual suspects. gee, I wonder if losing their Amex links gave them license to express themselves a little more freely…

  5. Next time I need 10K points and I have to buy them at some outrageous rate, I’ll try and be so zen.

  6. Please enlighten: If it’s not enough just being a spouse for the transfer of points to be permissible, would a spouse as an authorized user on the account be enough? Thanks!

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