Whine Wednesdays: Beware Of American Express Card Upgrades, You Might Have To Chase Your Bonus

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In today’s edition of Whine Wednesdays I’d like to remind our readers to consider if upgrading your existing American Express card to a higher card product is really worth the hassle.

From time to time Amex sends out targeted promotions to existing card members, offering to upgrade to a higher card tier for a certain amount of bonus points after meeting a spending threshold.

More frequently these offers are also displayed in the online account under “Card Portfolio” and when you check for pre-qualified card offers.

Last year when the pandemic started I downgraded my U.S. based Platinum card to green and really haven’t used it except for renewing my CLEAR via the credit attached to the card.

In mid March I checked my card offers and found the following promotion to upgrade to the Platinum card again:

I’m no longer eligible for any direct sign up bonuses with Amex since I had the Platinum Card before so upgrade offers are as good as it gets for me. If you never had the card product you want to upgrade to before you might get a better offer by just applying for a new account rather than upgrading.

This offer coincided with a purchase of air tickets I had to make for family members and those were to the tune of ~ US$2000 which means the spend threshold would be met immediately and i’d also earn another 10,0000 membership rewards points in the process. In addition to that there were 4 months of the PayPal credit promotion left so that was another $120 windfall.

I decided to go ahead with the card upgrade request and it was approved immediately. After this I made my purchases, paid the pro-rated annual fee for the remainder of the membership year and periodically looked out for my points. Nothing ever credited over two months so starting in early June I decided to chase Amex and ask for my 25,000 points.

All I can say is thankfully I did a lot of that over chat so that there is complete proof in the form of documentation what was communicated.

I first asked Amex before even making the charge if the amount would count towards the threshold before receiving the actual card which was confirmed by the representative.

I quoted this to another agent:

He then mentioned that charge wasn’t in fact eligible because it didn’t post in USD which is complete nonsense and was nowhere in any of the terms&conditions. I escalated it to a supervisor who came on and digged deeper:

I asked when the points would finally post and was told 8-12 weeks. The 12 weeks ending on June 22 (yesterday).

I agreed to wait and then my patience would be up. I again asked for a confirmation that the bonus has been reached and that Amex would credit the points.

Needless to say yesterday the 22 June was on the calendar and still – no points. This appears to be an endemic problem with American Express based on social media and bulletin board posts. People are complaining about this everywhere and many say they have given up on ever getting the points because they got nowhere with Amex who claimed there was “no record of the offer”.

I called Amex customer service and told them I’d like to escalate this into a mediation case with an outside entity that Amex (similar to other banks) has in order to resolve customer complaints. External mediation carries fees to the tune of several hundred dollars that are born by the institution, not the customer.

The agent then put me on hold for a good 30 minutes to research the case. By not it was a lot of documentation to go through. When she came back she genuinely apologized several times and said that not only did the system fail to properly post the points but that there was severe miscommunication by other customer care representatives. She pushed the points through manually (something previous agents insisted couldn’t be done).

I immediately transferred these points to ANA Mileage Club as I want to redeem a ticket there pretty soon and don’t want any further problems with this redemption.

Conclusion

This was pretty annoying and cost considerable time and energy to finally get my points after fulfilling all the requirements set out in the conditions of this promotion. If this was an isolated event that is one thing but there are tons of reports with Amex conveniently losing track of these offers and then sticking the customer. The entire service experience was appalling.

The only reason why I ended up upgrading the card is because for the coming year it essentially pays for itself with the $120 PayPal credit I received, the 2x $200 airline credit and the 25,000 points. I disregard the other extras extras as they’re pretty useless to me except maybe the Amex Lounge Collection for Plaza Premium.

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