Looming Shutdowns?
18 Jun. 2020
Looming Shutdowns?

No Soup For You

With the covid situation looming, the promotions that big banks have offered to try and increase spend from their consumers have been very generous and also tempting.  I only have limited access to all of the deals offered because I don’t have relationships with Citi anymore, and also don’t have some Chase cards (Sapphire Reserve, for example) that could ring the rewards bell pretty loudly.  When I saw the promotions from Amex for some annual fee based Delta and Hilton cards, I immediately had to reread the offer and fine print, as it seemed a little too good to be true.  Now with everything that has transpired, that may very well be the case.

My latest statement for my Hilton personal card closed a few weeks ago.  There are over 1 million Hilton points earned from spend during the last statement cycle.  Shortly after the statement close I logged into Hilton and the points had not posted.  A little odd I thought, but didn’t think that much of it.  Since then I’ve periodically checked my Hilton points total, and each time the final number has been the same.  I then went through past statements and looked at points totals.  Points were posting right after statements closed like clockwork.    This past one was on a rain delay, and decided to call and see what I could find out.

Bad News Bears

So earlier this week I called Hilton first to see if anything was pending.  No positive news there, and was transferred to Amex.  I asked the frontline Amex phone rep if there was any information on why points might not be being sent to Hilton.  Was there a system error?  Perhaps a possible issue with the bonus points connecting from the promotion?  “Let’s see if we can get those points expedited,” the representative said, and transferred me to another agent.  This wasn’t the path that I had in mind, as I didn’t need anything expedited, just an explanation about what was going on.  But I held the line and remained patient.

Then some bad news.  “It appears the account has been flagged and the points are being reviewed,” the next agent said.  Excessive spend and points accumulation over this past statement was the gist of the reason given.  My statement before this was also pretty substantial, with many purchases at the same stores, and for similar amounts.  That didn’t seem to raise eyebrows and points posted to Hilton immediately after that statement close date.  Anyway, there’s an investigation into the points accumulated during the last statement.  A result could be one of many possibilities.  The points earned on the last statement could mostly, or all, be forfeited.  The specific credit card could be closed or downgraded.  Then the death blow; the entire account/Amex portfolio could be closed.

There’s a post from Miles to Memories that has some data points about Hilton points being held back by Amex.  It seems to be pretty widespread.  Although this post is Hilton related, I know of several people that have had this same issue with Delta points being delayed too.  If people are buying Visa or Mastercard gift cards at supermarkets to earn higher rewards for any of the bank promotions tied to “grocery spend”, people are paying for points.  The fees from the gift cards at supermarkets aren’t cheap, and liquidation costs usually increase the out of pocket expense too.  Whether it makes sense to go that route is up to the individual and the cost per point they are comfortable with, but those fees can add up.  Also, that’s not even factoring in a person’s time, which can be substantial for many taking that path.

With that said, I’m not going to share the specifics yet about my account and spend with any of my American Express cards yet, as the “review” is still pending.  At this stage though, this isn’t a financial review.  I can login to my Amex accounts, and I haven’t been asked to furnish any documents, nor have I been notified of the review until I called in about the issue.  I have stopped spending on the cards that I was using for promotions, as it doesn’t seem to make sense when rewards may not be earned for spend.  You may want to reconsider the approach you use to earn points on these limited time promotions.

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