Thanks to American Express, I am always worried about RAT. Otherwise known as the Rewards Abuse Team. Although I am never trying to knowingly take advantage of their program, RAT is so aggressive that I often find myself second guessing my actions and how they might be misconstrued by them.
Here are a couple of recent situations where I needed to really think through my actions to make sure that they wouldn’t set the pack out to get me.
Referral Bonus for Spouse
I was recently interested in taking advantage of an American Express Credit Card Referral offer for 12,500 Bonus Points. The person I would be referring was my husband. As many of you may know, American Express is very strict with rules about bonuses. I read several articles and all the FAQ on the Amex site trying to determine if this was ok to refer my spouse or if it would send some red flag to the Rewards Abuse Team. I still couldn’t find a definitive answer. My next move was to reach out to a fellow blogger who has a bigger knowledge base than I do. After doing his own research on the matter, he wasn’t 100% sure if I would get the Bonus Points, but at least felt confident that since it wasn’t a self referral, it shouldn’t set the RAT team after me.
So I referred my spouse for a new American Express card and he signed up. About 2 weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 12,500 Bonus Points had been deposited into my account. Woo Hoo!
A victory for me, but also a new and definitive knowledge nugget to share with anyone else who has the same question.
A Spend Requirement Work Around
When my spouse signed up for the new American Express card, we wanted to hit the $2,000 spend requirement for the sign up bonus very quickly so we could use his points. Before we even applied for it, I had a solid plan in place for purchases and bills I would use to do so. But it all went wrong when I went to pay our 6 months Progressive Insurance premium. I was all set to add the new card and pay the bill when I discovered they do not take American Express. Whaaaaaat! A big company like Progressive doesn’t take Amex? WOW!!!
Since this payment was over half of the amount we needed to complete the spend requirement, I was very frustrated. I made contact with 2 separate areas at Progressive before finding a possible work around. The 2nd CSR said I could use PayPal and connect it to my American Express card. This seemed like a plausible enough idea, but it still made me worry about RAT. I also wonder if it would even end up counting toward the spend requirement if I could pay the bill this way.
As an Analyst and Auditor by trade, I stand by the rule Trust & Verify! Therefore, before I went any further with the process, I opened up an online chat with American Express. During the chat, I spelled it all out for them about how Progressive wouldn’t take their card and that per their suggestion I was considering using PayPal. I specifically asked would this apply to the spend bonus. Instead of giving me a direct answer, the CSR sent me a long list of items that would not count. The gist is that it comes down to how it gets coded when it comes across from PayPal to American Express. I couldn’t think of any reason that it would be coded as any of the ineligible items on the list, so I decided to take my chances and try it. Before ending the chat, the CSR also told me that they would document our intentions in the file. Great.
Good news! I waited a few days for the transactions to post and we did get credit for the PayPal payment of our insurance premium. But know that it didn’t work correctly at first, I actually had to reach back out to American Express and have them review the notes from my first contact. They were able to take another look at it and then allowed it to count toward our spend requirement for a sign up bonus.
What I Learned
I tested and validated that you can refer your spouse for an American Express card and earn the Referral Bonus.
I also learned that in a pinch you can make a payment on an account that doesn’t take American Express via PayPal.
And although the charge I made through PayPal did count toward our spend requirement, it needed some finessing with the Customer Service team at American Express to make it happen. If you are going to use this method, I suggest you inquire with them first and then follow the payment all the way through the process to make sure that it posts correctly. Just be aware that since this is American Express, your results could differ from transaction to transaction.