Last week, it was reported that American Express is doing away with the spending threshold bonus on the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card in 2015. The spending threshold has been the best way to make back the annual fee in the value of points. For spending $30,000 in a year, American Express offered a bonus of 15,000 Membership Reward points. It was (is, for now) a great bonus.
The disturbing part is the reason American Express is making this change (HT: Points Guy)
We are eliminating this because the majority of Premier Rewards Gold Card Members did not meet the annual spending threshold of $30,000 and did not get the point bonus. Instead, we are evaluating other benefits and services that we believe may provide value to more of our Premier Rewards Gold Card Members.
This sounds very similar to this other statement that American Express had made last year about their earnings mall (similar to the Ultimate Rewards mall):
The Earn Points website (also known as membershiprewards.com/earn) will be discontinued as usage was less than expected. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
So, American Express is eliminating programs because they were not used by the majority of cardholders. The mall elimination might make a little sense if usage was low (even though it surely was higher than just a few people) since it takes real resources to keep the mall and fulfillment open. But, for the threshold bonus, it really does not make sense. That is simply software.
The bad part is that American Express is hacking programs and bonuses that might have made sense for the high fees charged – in this case, $175 annual fee. The only real bonus that this card has over cards offered by Chase is the 3x bonus for airline travel. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2x bonus on those bookings, so is the 1 point per dollar that big of a deal? To make up the difference in fees ($175 for the Amex vs $95 for the CSP), one would need to spend at least $8,000 on airfare per year. Most people are simply not doing that.
American Express really needs to add some new programs or bonuses into their programs. Certainly, they have offered new cards like their Everyday cards, and that is great. But, being capped on points transferred to Delta and not offering as many point transfer bonuses certainly hurts. Also, holding cardholders to one bonus per lifetime hurts as well. Hopefully, they step up their game soon with some features that will really allow them to compete with Chase and the Ultimate Rewards.
Will the removal of the spending threshold bonus make you cancel your American Express Premier Rewards Gold card?