I get it – companies always try to present their best view on things even when what we are looking at is negative. We are certainly used to getting things like that from airlines! Now, American Express is trying the same tact with their upcoming changes to the Amex Business Platinum card which were revealed last month.
American Express Negative Changes – An Attempt to Spin Them
So, as was talked about a lot in the blogosphere, the most valuable perk of the American Express Business Platinum card (in my opinion) will be changing in a week. This change is the devaluation of the 50% rebate on Membership Reward points that are used for booking airfare (either your Choice Airline or business/first class seats). Instead of receiving a 50% rebate on such airline travel booked through Amex, you will only receive a 35% rebate. This takes the value of Membership Reward points used in this fashion from 2 cents per point to 1.54 cents per point. This change goes into affect June 1 (unless you applied for the card between October 6 – May 31, 2017 – then you have until the end of your first year of card membership).
Not only that, but instead of refunding that rebate within a couple of days like it had been happening, Amex has been taking much longer and telling customers it can take 8 – 10 weeks to see the rebate post! That is a huge pain for many, especially those with smaller Membership Reward balances. Instead of booking a ticket for one person and then using some of the rebated points for the next person on the same trip (as many people had done), you will need to wait a loooong time.
To be clear, if you receive this card before May 31, 2017, you will have the 50% rebate benefit until the end of your first year
The Amex Spin on these Negative Changes
Here is what American Express told their customers:
“We’re writing to update you about the suite of benefits that come with your Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN. We’ve added and updated a number of benefits over the last several months and want to make sure that you’re aware of them.”
Commentary: Sounds positive enough, right? Who wouldn’t want to be updated about a “suite of benefits” on their card! Sure, make me aware of these great benefits!
Beginning June 1, 2017, we’re changing the terms of the Airline Bonus benefit.
- When you use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of an eligible fare through American Express Travel, you will get 35% of those points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year
- Eligible fares include any flight with your selected qualifying airline and First and Business Class tickets with all airlines.
- You may see the 35% Airline Bonus benefit advertised, but for you, this change does not go into effect until one year from the date your Business Platinum Card was issued. Until that time, when you use Pay with Points for all or part of an eligible fare on American Express Travel you will get 50% of those points back.”
Commentary: Here is what they are kind of saying “don’t worry when you see the advertisement for the new 35% rebate and point cap! You still get to have the 50% for a while yet! That just glazes a bit over the fact that, yes, eventually, everyone will be limited to only a 35% rebate and a cap of 500,000 points (as opposed to the unlimited amount now).
“What’s new and enhanced?
We’re always looking for ways to provide value to Card Members. That’s why over the past few months we’ve also introduced and enhanced the following benefits:
- 5X Membership Rewards points on eligible travel on amextravel.com
- 1.5X points on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more, up to 1 million additional points per year.
- Serving you at more airport destinations than any other U.S. Credit Card, the American Express Global Lounge CollectionSM provides access to more than 1,000 airport lounges across 120 countries and counting.
These changes will allow us to continue to deliver added value for your business. We believe this is an exciting evolution of the Business Platinum Card, one of our most iconic offerings.
Commentary: Ok, this is the part that is just.too.much. First of all, the 1.5 points was a feature added at the same time the 50% rebate was – over 8 months ago! This is really stretching into the past to try and make customers feel good about “new and enhanced” benefits. Not only that, but if American Express was really “looking for ways to provide value to Card Members,” they would have left the 50% rebate alone. Obviously, this benefit was being hit hard which meant it was providing value to customers. So, no, they are not “always looking” for the customer but rather trying to find benefits that can bring customers to them and then devaluing those same benefits that provide great value.
The 5X on travel is nice but also available on the personal Platinum card so not a huge selling point (except that the business Platinum is $100 cheaper).
Finally, we get to the last part of the letter! The statement that they believe “this is an exciting evolution” of the business Platinum card. Sad that American Express actually feels they can get away with saying something like that in their benefit letter to customers where they are talking about the gutting of a valuable feature. Do they really think their customers are feeling excited about this?
Of course, there are a ton of small businesses who will retain this card, regardless of this benefit cut. They had the card before and nothing has really changed on it for them over what the card presented at this time last year. But, the way that Amex tries to spin this as some “exciting evolution” is just pretty lame.
There will be those people that blame bloggers for this feature getting cut. Guess what? The banks do reply on bloggers to get out the benefits and features of their products and, yes, even to educate them on how these benefits can help them. In this case, Amex introduced what turned out to be an unsustainable benefit and is cutting it. This is not on the bloggers but on Amex. I bet there would have been many people that would have ponied up the extra $100 (which would equal the personal Plat’s annual fee) to keep this feature but I am guessing that Amex saw more of an upside for them to allow small businesses to continue with the card at the same annual fee amount than to add it to everyone to save this one benefit (they would probably have lost more customers from a fee hike than they will from this rebate cut).
Hey, in the end, I’m glad that they didn’t talk about the metal version as being one of their “exciting” evolutions to the Business Platinum card! 🙂