I have been a fan of American Express for a while now. They have top notch customer service and their rewards are pretty valuable too. There are number of things they do that seem to be different or falling behind other banks. These are the changes American Express needs to make in 2017 to become more competitive.
Changes American Express Needs to Make in 2017
All banks seem to be cracking down on people churning credit cards. To be perfectly honest I think American Express is less restrictive than Citi or Chase. Bank of America is friendlier, but I don’t believe they have the rewards to compare with American Express.
The once in a life time bonus policy is a tough one. I really think they need to consider the people who had an American Express card, like the Platinum card 15 years ago, closed it, and now would like to get it again. That’s a long time and the life changes that could happen really shouldn’t disqualify you from the bonus again.
Overall though, I’m not overly concerned about the policy, just be patient and make sure you find the best offer. In many cases you’ll find great offers going incognito.
Now let’s start on the pieces they really need to work on.
Foreign Transaction Fees:
Now, I am perfectly fine if a bank wants to charge foreign transaction fees on a no fee credit/charge card. Although there are options to have both a no fee card and no foreign transaction fees. My issue mainly comes with card like the Everyday Preferred and the Blue Cash Preferred.
If you look at other cards with similar annual fees, such as the Barclay Arrival Plus, any Chase card, Citi and many other banks. When they charge you $95 for an annual fee, it comes with no foreign transaction fees. If American Express really want these to be used anywhere, these fees need to go.
Seems pretty straight forward, right? These are cards I leave at home anytime I travel internationally.
American Express has the best grocery bonus category available and even gas is a top earner, well if you are in the US.
Cards like the Premier Reward Gold, Everyday Preferred, Blue Cash Preferred, all have great categories, but only in the US.
Why would you not extend that to other places in this world? With names like “Everyday” or “Preferred,” you would think they would want that to be used as your preferred card everyday, anywhere. Unfortunately, they do limit their “top” categories to the US.
This makes them pretty useless with you leave the country, not to mention you could be paying a foreign transaction fee on top of it.
This is probably my largest issue with American Express.
I can not understand for the life of me why it there is such a lag on points posting. I’m not talking about bonuses, those seem to post a few days after hitting the spending requirement. I am talking about the points you earn on your daily spend.
American Express essentially jumps a full month between postings. For points you earned for the month of December 2016 will not post once that statement ends, but at the end of your January statement.
This really infuriates me since this can have a huge impact on travel bookings. Sure there is plenty of data saying that American Express can expedite your points. I have been lucky enough for this, but also have been denied this and made to wait.
When banks like Capital One and Barclay can post rewards when a transaction post. Or, when Chase, Citi, Bank of America, etc post a few days after the statement closes, then there is no excuse for American Express to be so lazy when it comes to posting points a little quicker.
I’d be perfectly happy with points posting at the end of the statement period, like most banks do. There is absolutely no reason to wait an extra month to deposit points for use.
This is probably my second largest issue when it comes to Membership Rewards.
Most people don’t look at travel with point options, since you can redeem for more value transferring. With cheaper fares becoming more frequent (currently), I think this option is quite attractive. But American Express is pretty useless when it comes to this.
When I am talking point values, I am not talking about their value through transfer partners. That is very subjective and depends on your travel goals.
The value I am speaking of when you book directly through American Express through Amex Travel. From the big banks, this is probably the worst of all the redemption’s when booking through their respective travel portal.
When comparing booking with point options, American Express points can be redeemed for 1 cent per point when booking airfare (I’m not talking about the American Express Platinum here). They can also be redeemed for an embarrassing 0.7 cents per point for hotel redemption’s, or Airbnb.
Compare this to Chase, where you can redeem for 1.5 cents per point with the Reserve, 1.25 cents per point with the Ink Plus and Sapphire Reserved, and still the better option of cashing out with the Chase Freedom/ Freedom Unlimited for 1 cent per point.
Looking at the 2 hotel options above, they were the same dates and same hotel. Chase would cost you almost 20,000 points less per night, using the Sapphire Preferred!
Even Citi who redeems at 1.25 cents per point for hotels and airfare is a better option.
To make this more appealing, American Express really needs to increase their booking with point values. They need to increase it to at least 1.25 cents per point for both hotel and airfare. I hope that is something they look to do sooner rather than later.
Overall, I really do like Membership Rewards. They are easy to earn and can be used on plenty of airlines. Being able to open both a charge card and credit card on the same day is a great way to combine hard pulls and earn more points. That doesn’t mean they can’t improve.
I think the most frustrating things for more are the point values and bonus categories. Anytime you pay close to $100 for a credit card, it should come with no foreign transaction fees.
These are just a few things I think they can improve on and make their points worth more than they already are.