Update: American Express has removed the ability to see what purchases were made through their mall. You can no longer easily track if your bonuses will post to your Membership Rewards account. Furthermore, they are now stating that bonus points will be credited to your about 10 to 12 weeks after you meet the qualifying critera for eligible bonus transactions.
In November, I signed up through a link that promised 25,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up for the Platinum Card. At the time I searched for a better deal, but ended up signing up for the 25,000 points offer.
When the statement closed two weeks later, I called to make sure the 1 month spending window was from the date I activated the card and not the date of the application. The customer service rep assured me that everything was ok, and the bonus would be applied within eight weeks.
Eight weeks passed, and I never got the points credited to my account.
I sent a message through the American Express website, only to receive a reply stating that the issue was being investigated and that someone would reply within ten days. No one ever did.
I sent another message, only to receive a terse reply the next day that I won’t be getting the bonus. I called American Express and was told by the representative that their computer system was down, so she couldn’t look up my account, but she could answer general questions about the Membership Rewards program.
I assumed it was a mistake. Perhaps a Firefox ad blocker ate a cookie. Maybe I clicked through a bad affiliate link. I foolishly didn’t print out the offer or call to verify that a specific bonus ID was attached to my account.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone. There is a long running post on FlyerTalk about American Express not honoring bonus IDs, and the absurd lengths people had to go to get their points by tracking down and calling special (unpublished) American Express phone numbers.
I simply don’t have the time or wherewithal to go the distance to get them to fulfill the deal. I now put American Express in the same category as sleazy rebate processing companies.
I’ve learned the hard way not to buy products with rebates attached to them; it simply isn’t worth the hassle. Likewise, I’ve also learned that purchasing through mileage/cash-back malls is a loosing proposition as well (FatWallet is a notable exception; they actually honor their cash back offers).
Are Miles Earning Portals Turning into an Outright Scam?
Has Cartera (who runs most airline shopping portals) turned to the rebate processing industry as a profit model? A model where you simply cheat unsuspecting customers?
Customers who actually verify the miles/points haven’t posted after multiple months, who complain after eight weeks are subjected to a long “investigation” period to “resolve the issue.” Rarely, some report that persistence pays off and they get their rebate, but most people simply give up.
There is tons of material posted on various credit card forums filled with the anguished cries of people who foolishly signed up for a credit card and started shopping at a mileage shopping portal, who never received their promised miles.
It appears as if companies like Cartera and FreeCause have discovered what rebate processing companies have known for years, you can just cheat people and satisfy those who complain loudly enough and get away with it.
Perhaps most shockingly, the volume of these complaints has increased in the last several years.
Here are just a sampling of some of the discussions revolving around scammed customers:
- SkyMiles not posting (Sears and Home Depot) from SkyMilesShopping.com.
- AAdvantage eShopping offer which stated members could earn 83,871 American AAdvantage miles for making a purchase from Verizon Wireless. However, in all fairness, mileage scammers quickly figured out that a desktop phone charger ($4.96) would apply per the terms. Cartera quickly withdrew the obviously mistaken offer.
- Hawaiian Airlines / US Airways mileage mall offers for EasyCGI hosting quickly turned into a he-said-she-said fiasco, and few people actually got the promised airline miles.
- AAdvantage eShopping ADT offer (8,000 miles for new ADT security monitoring) not honored .
- 2515 miles for registering at sittercity.com via AAdvantage eShopping not honored.
And the list goes on, and on.
I guess the age old advice is still very relevant today: buyer beware.