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American Express Updates Signup Bonus Terms and Conditions to Discourage People from Gaming the System
American Express

American Express is updating their signup bonus terms and conditions to stop people from gaming the system. The updated terms allow Amex to freeze accounts and claw back bonuses if you break any rules. h/t Flyer Talk

You can find the updated terms and conditions on most of the cards:

"... points will be credited to your Membership Rewards account 8-12 weeks after you have met the purChase requirement. If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome bonus offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome bonus offer (s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit Membership Rewards to, we may freeze Membership Rewards credited to, or we may take away Membership Rewards from your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.

American Express reserves the right to modify or revoke offer at any time.

Your account must be in good standing and not in default at the time of fulfillment of any offers.

*Qualifying purchases are purchases for goods and services. Qualifying purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, purchases of
travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply."

There are three main changes:

  1. Applications: Using signup bonus links that are not targeted to you
  2. Methods used to hit minimum spend
  3. Product changing or closing the card within 12 months

For all three of these topics, they can either freeze your points, cancel your cards, or claw back the signup bonus. We've seen this in the past with leaked Amex Platinum cards. People who manufactured spend for the leaked link had their signup bonus clawed back and account closed.

Applications: Using signup bonus links that are not targeted to you

The first major change to the terms is that if you apply for a credit card, you have to be targeted for it. If you want to apply for a particular offer, be sure it's not a leaked link.

Don't use links that are not publicly available or not targeted towards you. Most leaked links are only available for a few hours before they're shut down. Last year, there was a leaked link with a 100,000 signup bonus.

All of the offers we talk about on AskSebby are publicly available. Increased offers are okay to use. For example, if we talk about how the Amex SPG card normally has a signup bonus of 25,000 points, and there's an increased offer of 35,000, then this is okay because it's publicly available.

Methods used to hit minimum spend

The second change in terms is related to hitting minimum spend. Amex wants you to make real transactions. Some people buy $3,000 in items and refund the items once the bonus posts. Be sure if you do purChase an item and return it, there is enough remaining balance to cover the minimum spend requirement.

The other change in regards to hitting minimum spend is related to gift cards. Amex can see third level data, meaning they can see exactly what you purChased. The main issue is buying Visa gift cards because they are cash equivalents.

Product changing or closing the card within 12 months

If you do a product change or cancel the card before 12 months, they can claw back the bonus. Amex refunds the annual fee if you product change or cancel the card within 30 day of the fee posting.

Don't cancel or downgrade the card until after the second the annual fee hits. For example, if you apply for the Amex Platinum card on July 31, 2017, wait until after July 31, 2018, to cancel or product change the card. In this situation, you can downgrade or product change starting on August 1, 2018.

If you are considering canceling a card, be sure to call the retention line first to see if they can offer points to make the annual fee more reasonable.

Again, you're free to downgrade or cancel after the one year mark. As long as you call within 30 days of the second annual fee posting, they will refund the fee.

Bottomline

These changes seem reasonable and fair because the people who are taking advantage of these loopholes are the ones that are doing it to an extreme. Amex is cracking down on individuals who abuse their programs and benefits.

Each card issuer is different, but I do foresee other banks taking a similar stance to combat people gaming the system. For me, I think it's fine to pay the annual fee during the first year because I only apply for cards that have a generous signup bonus that outweighs the fee.

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Amex Centurion Lounge ATL Planned for 2023
American Express

A recent American Express survey found that 60% of respondents arrive at the airport early to enjoy airport lounges. 

In 2023, American Express plans to open a Centurion Lounge on Concourse E at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The new lounge will be the largest in the Centurion Lounge network– measuring approximately 26,000 square meters with distinctive amenities that passengers will enjoy.

Let's go over the details we've got so far!

What to Know About Amex Centurion Lounges

The Centurion Network is composed of over 40 locations worldwide. Around 13 of those locations are found across the U.S., including:

  • JFK and LaGuardia (LGA) in New York
  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)

The Centurion network also includes International Lounges and Escape Lounges (the Centurion Studio partner).

Amex Centurion Lounges are one of my favorite lounge networks when traveling domestically. They offer amenities like fast Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, an open bar with complimentary wine and drinks, and meals that outperform what you’ll find in most other airport lounges. 

The newest lounges, such as the JFK Centurion Lounge in New York City (JFK) and the Centurion Lounge in Denver (DEN), have taken what makes Centurion Lounges unique and elevated it with some local style, signature touches, and plenty of additional space.

The new Centurion lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta, will surpass both the Denver (DEN) Centurion lounge and New York’s Centurion lounge in terms of size and special amenities. Currently, Hartsfield-Jackson features nine Delta Sky Clubs, one United club, one American Admirals Club, and one common-use lounge called The Club ATL on international Concourse F.

What Can We Expect at the Atlanta Amex Centurion Lounge?

The new Atlanta Centurion lounge will be the largest in the world, measuring 26,000 square feet, and will be constructed on top of the existing roof, next to gate E11.

Located in Concourse E between the domestic and international terminals, this new lounge will be accessible from all terminals by The Plane Train or by walking along the Transportation Mall. The lounge will also provide Card Members with travel needs like high-speed Wi-Fi, shower suites, private telephone rooms, private noise-canceling workspaces, and more.

Furthermore, according to American Express, qualified Card Members will receive an authentic taste of Atlanta thanks to unique features such as:

  • Multiple outdoor spaces, including a garden terrace inspired by the city's dense tree canopy and open tarmac landscapes–which are a first for a Centurion Lounge.
  • Modern architecture inspired by Atlanta's local scenery and culture
  • Locally inspired beverage and dining options, including a contemporary bourbon bar, selected by a local chef and Centurion Lounge mixologist, Jim Meehan.
  • Additional local and distinctive features exclusive to Atlanta's Centurion Lounge will be disclosed closer to the opening date.

Why Did Amex Choose Atlanta?

Atlanta is the biggest and busiest airport with approximately 300,000 passengers passing through every day. 

The airport is about seven miles south of Downtown Atlanta. From Atlanta International Airport, over 1,000 aircraft services run to numerous international and local destinations. It is also considered Delta Airlines' primary hub. The airport features two terminals and seven concourses, totaling around 195 gates.

Despite the fact that the Delta mega-hub is filled with Sky Clubs, there are few lounge options for passengers traveling with other carriers. The Club at Concourse F is the only Priority Pass Lounge, in addition to lounges for American and United frequent travelers.

As stated by the Atlanta City Council in public records about the lounge, this will leave passengers flying on the remaining 15 airlines at ATL with just one substantially undersized option, even if they are flying in a premium class.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta Council approved a contract for the lounge in June, but American Express stated that construction, permitting, design, and staffing will take until next year to complete. The council also mentioned that American Express will foot the bill for the lounge's $40 million shell construction.

Who Can Access Centurion Lounges?

Centurion lounges are complimentary to all American Express card members with The Platinum Card® or The Business Platinum Card® on the day of their flight. 

Alternatively, if you have the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and are flying on a Delta flight the same day, you can also access a Centurion Lounge at no cost.

Upcoming Centurion Network Expansion

In the past 18 months, American Express has opened new additional sites including JFK in New York, Centurion Lounges in Denver (DEN), and London’s Heathrow (LHR) airport. The former lounge at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York was also replaced with a new location in the airport's reconstructed Terminal B.

Apart from the Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, another new lounge is being built at Reagan National (DCA) in Washington, D. C. airport and is set to open later this year. Meanwhile, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's board has approved the construction of a Centurion Lounge in Newark (EWR) airport's new Terminal A, which is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2023.

Conclusion

We don’t have the exact date yet but it was reported that the new Centurion Lounge at Atlanta Airport Concourse E is expected to open in 2023. While this is a pretty broad time frame, I don’t think it'll open until the third or fourth quarter of next year.

Amex seems to be spending more on its lounges as the network expands. Especially now that the annual premium for the Personal Platinum card in the United States has been raised to $695, they would be wise to broaden their lounge portfolio.

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Capital One Adds New Transfer Partner (Virgin Red)
Capital One

Capital One is kicking off March with a bang with three announcements. While the generous welcome bonus on the new Capital One® Venture X Rewards Credit Card will officially end this 14th of March, the bank will also create two big moves in the coming weeks: 

  1. It will add Virgin Red as its newest transfer partner
  2. It will feature “cancel-for-any-reason” coverage within the Capital One Travel portal

The bank will offer a 20% transfer bonus to three airline partners to get even more out of Capital One card.

Here's everything you need to know about the Capital One program's upcoming changes.

Capital One Adds Virgin Red as a Transfer Partner

When Virgin Red officially becomes Capital One's 16th transfer partner, you'll be able to transfer Capital One miles to Virgin Red at a 1-to-1 ratio, which means that one Capital One mile equals one point or mile in the respective partner program. With a few exceptions, most of Capital One's other airline and hotel partners will transfer on a 1-to-1 basis as well.

This also means that you can leverage them to get great partner redemptions, like ANA’s first and business class to Japan and Delta One to Europe and at reasonable prices.

The ANA Sweet Spot

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points can be used to buy First and Business Class flights to Japan on the renowned airline ANA (All Nippon Airways).

Let's take a look at this award table:


Source: Virgin Atlantic

As you can see, a round trip in Business Class only requires just 90,000 – 95,000 miles, while a round trip in First Class will need 110,000 – 120,000 miles.

That equates to as little as 55,000 miles one way to Japan in world-class First Class and as few as 45,000 miles one way in world-class Business Class. In addition, they are offering two new hard products: The Suite (First Class) and The Room (Business Class). This unique cabin is now available on select flights from New York to Tokyo, but it will be expanded in the future.

Source: ana.co.jp

To make reservations with Virgin, you can contact and request that the ticket be held for a day while you transfer points from any US transferable credit card point program, including Capital One.

One-way redemptions are now possible too.

The Delta Sweet Spot

For 50,000 Virgin points, you can book any Delta Business Class ticket (Delta One) that Delta makes accessible to partners.

This no longer applies to flights to the United Kingdom, although it does for Delta flights from the United States to the European continent.

Therefore, a flight from DTW to AMS or JFK to AMS would only cost 50,000 Virgin points, a figure that you will never see on Delta's SkyMiles program, even at the lowest level.

Unfortunately, all other Delta flights booked via Virgin now make use of a distance-based award chart.

New Transfer Bonuses

Capital One will also provide a 20% transfer bonuses to the following partners, which will expire on March 31, 2022:

  • Aeromexico
  • Avianca
  • Wyndham

This means that for every 1,000 miles transferred, you'll receive 1,200 points in your loyalty account.

Wyndham Rewards is one of the better ones. The typical 1:1 transfer ratio can be handy at times, especially when renting Vacasa properties, which only cost 15,000 points per bedroom. With this transfer bonus, you'd only need to transfer 12,500 Capital One miles per bedroom per night. However, you'd have to do so in 1,000-mile increments. If you have a personal or company Wyndham Rewards Earner card, you can additionally enjoy a 10% discount on award rates. This decreases 15,000 point payouts to 13,500 points, needing just 11,250 Capital One miles per bedroom/night.

Avianca's LifeMiles is the other great transfer bonus here since they have a couple of sweet spots that get even better when you just need to transfer 1,000 miles for every 1,200 LifeMiles.

While the 1:1 ratio is the norm for most transferable currency travel partners, Aeromexico is an exception to some extent. Brex and Citi also transfer to Aeromexico on a 1:1 basis. However, the normal transfer ratio from American Express Membership Rewards is 1:1.6.

Based on statistics from the miles and points community, here's how long Capital One miles normally take to transfer.

Capital One demands a minimum of 1,000 miles for the transfer. Keep in mind that transfer ratios differ from one loyalty program to the next. See the chart below:

UPDATE: Effective October 7, 2021, Capital One raised the transfer ratio for all airline partners, excluding EVA Airways, to 1:1.

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Delta and Amex Status Match Promotion (Targeted)
American Express

Delta and Amex Status Match (Targeted)

If you have an American Express® card and are currently a member of an airline elite status program, keep an eye out for a targeted offer for Delta status match.

Targeted American Express cardholders will be given an exclusive opportunity to upgrade to Delta Air Lines’ Medallion Status. The special offer was emailed to eligible members with at least The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express EveryDay Preferred Card.

The offer allows you to have your status matched for three months and then have it extended depending on your qualifying activity during that trial period. But what makes Delta and Amex status match offer unique is:

  • Your status will be valid until August 31 (approximately six months), which is a long period for temporary status before you complete the requirements to maintain it.
  • You’ll receive elite status with Delta at a level higher than your current airline elite status.
  • Plus, you’ll also stand a chance to extend this status until Jan 31, 2023, if you have successfully completed the extension offer.

What are Delta Medallion Status Perks Like?

  • Your miles have no expiration date and may be used to travel to over 1,000 destinations worldwide.
  • You can use your points on any Delta Air Lines flight, with no blackout periods.
  • Your miles will stack up faster when you shop, dine, book a stay, request rides, rent cars, and more with your Delta SkyMiles American Express Card.

As a Medallion Member, you’ll also enjoy the following perks:

  • Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades for you and your travel companion
  • Rollover Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) - a Delta exclusive
  • Priority Boarding
  • Waived Baggage Fees
  • Preferred Seats

See more status benefits here: https://www.delta.com/us/en/skymiles/medallion-program/medallion-benefits

NOTE: Diamond and Platinum Choice Benefits are only provided when the member has met the criteria to prolong their Delta elite membership.

How Does Status Match Work?

1. Find out if you are eligible to participate in the Status Match Offer if you fulfill all of the following requirements:

  • You received this offer via e-mail from American Express:

Alternatively, you can also go to this link to check if you are targeted.

Source: https://www.dlamexstatusmatch.com/

You currently hold elite status with a qualifying airline, which you obtained by meeting the airline's specified requirements (complimentary status or status earned through a promotion does not qualify).

The qualifying airlines are:

  • Alaska
  • American
  • JetBlue
  • SouthWest
  • United

You are able to present both 1) a valid, non-expired elite physical or digital membership card or credential with your name and expiration date on it and 2) a statement showing your earned elite status with an airline and the corresponding activity with that airline that enabled the status tier, with your name on it. 

NOTE: For both materials, you may upload an image, screenshot of your app or computer screen, or other file formats as long as it clearly shows the required information, valid expiration date, your elite status level, and your name.

2. Submit your request by filling out the form and including a screenshot of your current status.

Source: https://www.dlamexstatusmatch.com/Home/Index

3. Once your request is approved, you will be automatically enrolled in the offer and matched to Diamond, Platinum, or Gold Medallion Status based on your current elite status with another airline. Your complimentary Status Match will last until August 31, 2022. If your request is not approved, you’ll receive an email notifying you of Delta’s decision. Reviewing and approval of your status typically take 14 days after submission.

What Delta SkyMiles Status Will You Qualify for?

The Deal

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Chase Adds New Restrictions to Sapphire Credit Cards: The "One Sapphire" Rule
Chase

Starting on Aug 27, 2017, all of the Sapphire cards, the Chase Sapphire, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, are considered "one card." Obviously not literally one card, but if you look at the signup bonus and how it works, it's effective to one card similar to Citi's 24 month rule.

h/t to Doctor of Credit for posting a screenshot of the memo.

Let's dive into the memo:

"Going forward, a customer may no longer have more than one Sapphire-branded credit card. For example, if a customer has Sapphire Preferred card, they are no longer eligible for a Sapphire Reserve card."

Moving forward, you can only have one Sapphire branded credit card at a time.  

"While this change impacts all new and existing customers (including CPC clients), there is no impact to existing customers that have more than one Sapphire product. These customers may continue to retain their Sapphire products as usual."

Existing customers don't have to worry about changes to current Sapphire accounts; if you currently have more than one Sapphire, they won't get closed.

"If existing Sapphire customers wish to upgrade or downgrade their product, they may do so if eligible. However, no bonus points will be available with this upgrade or downgrade. The customer may call the number on the back of their card OR you may contact Banker Support with customers who are in the branch or already on the phone."

If you are an existing customer that has the Chase Sapphire Preferred and not the Reserve, you can upgrade to get the Preferred. Bonus points will not be given for product changes.

The final part of the memo states, "if an account is closed, a customer will not be eligible for any Sapphire-branded credit card if they have earned a card member bonus on a Sapphire-branded product within the last 24 months."

My interpretation is that if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve (signup Nov 2016)) and cancel it (Aug 2017), you'll have to wait 24 months before applying to another Sapphire card to receive a signup bonus (Nov 2018).

On the other hand, some people are interpreting the final part of the memo in a completely different way. If you get the bonus for a Sapphire card and close it in less than 24 months, you'll never receive another Sapphire bonus again. This interpretation seems extreme to me and would make sense to implement from a customer loyalty standpoint.

Optimal Strategy

If you currently have the Preferred or the Reserve and you previously received a signup bonus within the past 24 months, you'll have to wait.

However, if the card is older than 24 months, you can product change the Sapphire to a Chase Freedom and apply for another Sapphire with a signup bonus. The main reason for this is:

1. You won't have a Sapphire card
2. You don't have a Sapphire signup bonus within 24 months

If you don't have any Sapphire cards or you're in the position to get one, you have a decision to make on which card to get next. Watch the video below to see a Preferred vs. Reserve overview:

Consider getting the Preferred if you can't break even from the Reserve's $550 annual fee. Both the Preferred and the Reserve are eligible to use transfer partners.

If you're looking for a premium keeper card, the Reserve is a good option because you receive a $300 travel credit, Priority Pass, and $100 Global Entry credit. Redeem points for travel at 1.5x using the Chase Travel Portal, or up to 2x with transfer partners.

There are a ton of factors to consider because everyone's spending habit is different. For me, I would get the Preferred because:

  • It has a lower $95 annual fee
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a higher 60,000 intro bonus after spending $4,000 with the first 3 months of account opening
  • Access to transfer partners
  • I already have alternative premium cards that offer airport lounge access, Global Entry, trip delay insurance, and travel credits
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