Introduction and Background
As you probably know, Amex Offers are special offers attached to your American Express cards. They generally take the form of either (a) a certain amount of statement credit after a certain amount of spend (a statement-credit Offer); or (b) a certain number of Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points if you spend at least a certain amount (an MR-earning Offer).
Generally, corresponding statement-credit and MR-earning Offers work like this: The amount of spend will be the same for each offer. Then generally, the MR-earning Offer will earn 100x the amount of the statement credit. For example, for an Offer that has a statement-credit version of $50 in statement credit for $250 spend, the corresponding MR-earning Offer would give 5,000 MR points for $250 spend.
To learn more about Amex Offers in general, please see the article on our Resource page, Amex Offers Explained.
Do We Prefer Statement Credit or MR-Earning Offers?
Whether you prefer a statement-credit Offer or an MR-earning Offer depends on how you value MR points. If you value MR points at more than 1 cent per point, then you should prefer the MR-earning Offer.
At Middle Age Miles, we strongly prefer MR-earning Offers. We can easily redeem MR points for at least 1.54 cents per point for flights purchased through the Amex Travel Portal, given our 35% pay-with-points rebate from our Business Platinum cards. And we usually get an even higher return for our Travel Portal redemptions. When we use MR points in the Travel Portal, we generally purchase “Insider Fares” which result in discounts of 5-8% and push our return up, to more than 1.6 cents per point. If we also held a personal Platinum card (and hopefully we will again soon), we could also use it to “pay” for our Travel Portal redemptions, which results in an extra 4x MR points on the airfare amount and pushes the return on of our MR points up further to more than 1.7 cents per point.
In addition, we have the option of transferring MR points to Amex’s airline partner programs, where high-value redemptions of frequent flyer miles can result in a value of 2 cents per point or more.
In other words, we’re very happy to trade $1 of statement credit for 100 MR points – or put yet another way, we’re very happy to “buy” MR points at 1 cent per point. We know we’ll easily get far more than 1 cent per point of return!
What Happened to the MR-Earning Offers?
History of MR-Earning Amex Offers
When we started paying serious attention to credit card programs about 3 years ago, and continuing for a couple of years thereafter, we got plenty of MR-earning Amex Offers. This was especially true for our personal and Business Platinum cards. I don’t have hard numbers on this, but my best estimate is that about 25-35% of the available Amex Offers on our Platinum cards were MR-earning Offers. Most times, those Offers would have corresponding statement credit Offers on other cards, such as our Amex EveryDay cards.
In addition to the MR-earning Offers on Platinum cards, we would get a decent number of MR-earning Offers on our Business Rewards Gold (BRG) card, and we would also get some MR-earning Offers on no-fee MR-earning cards such as our EveryDay and Blue for Business cards. Again, working from memory and without hard data, I’d estimate that maybe 15-20% of the Offers on the BRG card were MR-earning, and 5-10% of the Offers on the EveryDay and Blue for Business cards.
It always made us very happy to receive the MR-earning Offers. Sometimes I even went out of my way to redeem the really good ones, like the time I ordered shoes and belts from John Varvatos (the belts were great; the shoes didn’t work so well for me). [My recollection is that this Offer was 7,500 MR points for $250 spend. At the time, the Biz Platinum pay-with-points rebate was 50% rather than the current 35%, so I knew I could easily redeem those MR points for at least $150 in airfare. I thought this was a great Offer and a fabulous return!]
Recent Changes and Current Status – Hardly Any MR-Earning Amex Offers at All!
Within the past few months, however, something has changed. Out of 13 MR-earning Amex cards, we have exactly one – Philly’s Business Platinum card – that still receives MR-earning Offers.
I did a complete inventory of our Amex MR-earning cards this morning, and here are the results:
- 1 card has 32 MR-earning Offers
- This is Philly’s Business Platinum card
- 2 cards have 2 MR-earning Offers
- These are 2 EveryDay AU cards
- The Offers are 500 MR points for $35 spend on fuel, and 6,000 MR points for $350 spend on a prepaid hotel through AmexTravel.com
- The MR-earning Offers on these cards are less than 2% of all Offers; the other 98+% are statement-credit Offers
- 10 cards have zero MR-earning Offers
The cards with zero MR-earning Offers include my Business Platinum card and my BRG card, both of which used to regularly receive numerous MR-earning Offers. In addition, my new personal Gold card has zero MR-earning Offers. In fact, all 7 cards in my name have zero MR-earning Offers. Ouch.
It’s also hard to determine the difference between my Biz Platinum and Philly’s, in regard to hers continuing to receive MR-earning Offers while mine does not. With respect to Amex Offers, the spend patterns on each card should have been similar. Perhaps it’s a factor of more MR redemptions having been made out of my account, as we’ve generated and redeemed substantially more MR points under my name than hers.
I don’t believe our experience is unusual. My discussions with other points-and-miles hobbyists show a consistent pattern – everyone is getting dramatically fewer MR-earning Offers – or none at all.
What’s Happening and How Does It Impact Us?
So … where, oh where, have all the MR-earning Amex Offers gone?
It seems clear to us that Amex has reduced the number of MR-earning Offers it’s sending out in general.
It also seems to us that Amex is using an algorithm to target who does and does not receive MR-earning Offers. At this time, we don’t even have good clues about the factors and parameters, so we’re not entirely sure how we might position ourselves to make it more likely to receive MR-earning Offers. Our best speculation at this point, based on our anecdotal experience with Philly’s Business Platinum and mine, would be that people who have generated and redeemed a higher number of MR points are less likely to receive MR-earning Offers. So, that’s on potential factor.
In any event, all of this is disappointing. To us this even further reduces the value we’re getting out of our Amex cards. It’s not nearly as bad as the change to “one Offer per person” that Amex instituted a few months ago. But it definitely hurts us.
And in addition, the combination of “one Offer per person” and the severe reduction in MR-earning Offers hurts us even further. For now, even with corresponding statement-credit/MR-earning Offers, Amex is considering the statement-credit version and the MR-earning version as different “Offers.” Thus, if you have one card with a statement-credit Offer and another card with an MR-earning Offer, you can load and redeem both Offers. This allows us to use good Offers twice. But if we’re not getting any MR-earning Offers, we can only load and redeem one statement-credit Offer, and we can only benefit once.
In sum, we’re not sure of the causes of this reduction in MR-earning Offers or how we might best position ourselves. But this is hurting us and reducing the value proposition on our Amex MR-cards. In the “Keep or Cancel” equation, this change (and even more so, the “one Offer per person” rule) is going to tip us further toward “Cancel” and Amex will receive less in annual fees from us and many other good customers.
We hope things will get better soon. In the meantime, we’ll be on the lookout for data points and strategies that we can report back to you.
Do you have any data points or insights on Amex’s severe reduction in MR-earning Offers? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments! (And thank you for sharing!)
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