Disclaimer: We’re dealing with a political situation that makes it borderline crass to talk about first world problems like which first class is best or how to avoid <GASP> flying in economy when there are people who would strap themselves to the wing of a plane just to find refuge in this country if they could. That being said, I also believe that people can think about more than one thing at once, and that me writing about luxury travel and capitalist trappings like credit card loyalty programs is not going to trade off with the volume of necessary journalism devoted to covering current events. However, I would encourage you to support organizations that help refugees, the ACLU, or independent journalism outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, or The Guardian, all of which need all the financial support they can get right now. Finally, if you didn’t come here to hear about my politics, then leave, because I’m not going to hold back just because “this is supposed to be a points and miles blog.”
This post is really timely, since by the time you read this, the increased bonus on the Amex Blue for Business card will have gone away. I guess I was absent the day they talked about not writing about things the day they expire in Blogging 101.
Anyway, a reader posted a comment on a post a few days ago questioning whether Amex is actually awarding double points on all purchases in the first year, which is one of the main benefits of the special offer (up to $50,000 or 100,000 points). Given how Amex is doling out the bonus points here, I figured it was worth a look. Specifically, because they award bonus points per transaction, you can compare your Membership Rewards activity statement with your actual statement and figure out if you’re actually earning everything you’re supposed to earn. Even better, Amex lets you download your rewards activity in a spreadsheet (woo!!!), which means you can set up filters to only see bonus points awarded by a particular mechanism.
In my case, I looked at my statement since I opened the card and then downloaded my Membership Rewards activity for the same date range. I filtered the data to only show “Blue 1X MR Pts on all spd” activity, and I totaled the bonus points awarded. Happily, the total was pretty close to the total amount I’ve spent on the card on everything except restaurants. (Restaurant spend wouldn’t be bonused this way, since restaurants have a separate “Blue 9X MR Pts on all spd” mechanism.) However, the picture wasn’t so rosy when I looked at restaurant spend specifically. I went into my Amex activity and isolated the restaurant category, and then I filtered the Membership Rewards activity sheet to show only the 9x bonus mechanism. Unfortunately, only around half of the transactions that are categorized as restaurants on my statement were actually bonused at 9x. I looked a little deeper, and it looks like there must be some additional layer of data transmitted by the actual restaurant, since all the transactions that didn’t get 9x were at restaurant-adjacent businesses, like cafes, bakeries, and so on. Everything that was an actual sit-down restaurant (or a branded restaurant like McDonald’s) received 9x. (By the way, remember that the Blue gives you one point on everything when your statement closes, which is why these individual points transactions are for 1 additional point or 9 additional points. Combined with the points I earn on my statement, I’m getting 2x and 10x.)
This is good to know if you’re trying to milk every last bonus point out of this card, since you may not want to use it at businesses that aren’t actual restaurants, even if Amex classifies them this way on your credit card statement. You’ll still get 2x for these charges, although you’re missing out on a extra bonus point if you have the Sapphire Reserve. The opportunity cost will be even higher if the Freedom card goes to 5x on restaurants starting in August. I don’t know if I can bother keeping track of which card to use, but ideally I will remember to use the Sapphire reserve if it’s not a “real” restaurant. It also means it’s going to take me longer to hit the $2000 limit and get the full 20,000 bonus points in the first six months.
There’s also a chance that this is a glitch that could be fixed with a call to Amex, but explaining something so in the weeds over the phone is not something I’m interested in doing right now. The good news is that the double points bonus seems to apply to all purchases, so the takeaway is just to pay a little bit of extra attention to what constitutes a restaurant when you use the card expecting 10x.
What about you, newly minted Amex Blue for Business cardholder? Have you run into any issues with bonus points earned with this special offer not posting as expected?