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Part of any good travel hacker is the concept of churning. The idea, if you’re not familiar, is to sign up for credit cards, meet the minimum spending requirement, and then receive a fairly lucrative signup bonus.
(SEE ALSO: New limited-time 75,000 point credit card offer)
Some people have even been known to apply for multiples of the same cards (this is technically what’s considered “churning”)
After you get the signup bonus, then generally you cancel the card, though there may be some cards where in addition to the signup bonus from meeting the minimum spending requirement, the ongoing card benefits justify keeping the card opening and paying the annual fee. For example, the Chase IHG credit card not only offers a large signup bonus, but each year when you pay the $49 annual fee, you get a free night at ANY IHG hotel, like the Intercontinental Bora Bora
(SEE ALSO: Why you should get 2 IHG cards at the same time)
My recent churn
My most recent credit card churn included the American Express Ameriprise Platinum card, which at the time was offering no annual fee the first year and a signup bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points, after meeting a minimum spending requirement of $3,000 in the first 3 months. My 3 months is coming up, so I was wanting to make sure to meet the spending requirement to not miss out on the 25,000 points! I already had this almost happen to me, twice!
When there was a 2.25% bonus on American Express gift cards a few days ago, I bought $2,000 in business gift cards, which should have covered most of my minimum spend requirement. The 2.25% bonus should net me $45 in cash back, which would offset the ~$24 in fees from using that Amex gift card to buy 4 $500 gift cards at my local grocery store.
Problems with the minimum spending requirement ensue!
It had been a few days, and I had logged in to see the charge listed as pending. I checked again this morning, and the charge wasn’t listed at all. So I logged on and (finally) found an Amex live chat representative
After a few pleasantries, the chat agent told me “Thank you, however it seems the Amex gift cards are one of ineligible purchases.”
This was the first I had heard about it, but he then told me there was a larger number of things that don’t count towards meeting the minimum spend requirement
- Interest charges / late payment fees / over-the-credit-limit fees / returned payment fees / foreign transaction fees
- Cash advances / Express Cash transactions
- Reloadable prepaid card purchases and loads
- Balance transfers / all purpose checks
- American Express annual membership fees / program fees
- American Express fee-based enrollment services
- Purchase of American Express Travelers Cheques and Gift Cheques
- PASS Card from American Express funds reload
- Savings deposits on Card
- Privileged Assets
- Transactions associated with Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) claims
- Federal Excise Tax Offset Fee
- Membership Rewards point redemptions
- Bulk Mail Charges with U.S. Postal Service
- American Express Gift Cards purchased online or at a TSO.
(emphasis mine, though I don’t know what a “TSO” is :-D). I also emphasized the about on reloadable cards, which I would assume that reloading with Serve would not count towards meeting a minimum spending requirement. I also checked through some of the current American Express offers, and found this in the terms and conditions
Thankfully, I still have a few days left to still get my bonus so I’m glad I figured it out now! In hindsight, it does seem to make sense, especially using an Amex to buy Amex gift cards. Have you ever been bitten by this? Did you already know the exceptions to meet American Express minimum spending requirement, or am I the only one?