Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. This blog series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
If you have not peeked at any of your Amex Membership Rewards (MR) statements recently you may have missed some rather explicit wording as you see above. To put it plainly, the banks have had enough of those who have been, for a long time now, enjoying unlimited opportunities to make very valuable points out of “thin air” if you will. Does this mean the fun is over? Not just yet, but that time is coming (maybe).
First off let’s touch on the trend of banks protecting their own points the most. Chase has their Ultimate Rewards. US Bank has their FlexPerks and specifically the Altitude card while Amex we are talking MRs. These in-house points they do not want “gamed” if you will – they only want organic spending like most folks do. Sure they are happy if business owners spend big but they only want “real” purchases.
This means, as you can see from the above, they are on the lookout for anyone they even THINK has been using their cards in a way they do not approve of. It is at their sole discretion as to if they close you down and kick you to the curb. Ouch!
So does this mean creative spending is dead for next year? Like “The Key Maker” from the Matrix said – “Always another way, there is always another way“. There are many choices that are simply AOK with the banks like paying taxes (with a fee), loans to Kiva.org (that take time to pay back and can result in a loss) as well as in Amex’s case, they WANT YOU to buy their gift cards (also with a fee clearly). What about everything else?
I think there will be many opportunities in 2018 but they will come with warnings. Clearly new card bonus spend and bank-specific point spend should be focused on normal spend or as shown above, approved spend. But beyond that how stores report purchases to the banks will matter i.e. what stores do or do not report level 3 data to the banks (see this Reddit thread for more). There will be locations that code as something generic or an approved category and all is well. Plus, and we will see after the 1st of the year, I think many lesser points (think SkyMiles etc.) will not be as minutely scrutinized as bank proprietary points – again time will tell.
Bottom line is there will be risks for those who engage in ANY mega spending for even 100% approved and blessed spend. 2018 will be a marathon not a sprint for those seeking to reach some spend goals for points to enjoy whatever perk, vacation or flight you are seeking to enjoy! – René
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