Help solve the case of Amex gift card portal failures

In recent weeks, I’ve been hearing more and more complaints about cash back portals.  In particular, people have been reporting that they have not received cash back for purchases of Amex gift cards made through portals.  Some have reported seeing cash back tracking on their portal account at first, but then later it was subtracted out.  What’s going on?


First, a wee bit of background.  It has long been possible to earn cash back or airline miles by going through an online portal to the Amex Gift Card store to buy Amex gift cards.  And, in most cases, these purchases earn rewards from the credit cards used.  There are exceptions, though.  For example, never use Citibank cards since Citi treats the purchase as a cash advance (see more details here).  It has also long been possible to earn portal rewards even when using a promo code for fee-free cards or free shipping.  This has worked even when the portal explicitly listed that the use of codes not found on their site would void the rewards.  Then things changed…

BigCrumbs emails customers about Amex gift cards

On June 24th, 2014, the cash back portal, BigCrumbs, sent out emails to many customers who had bought Amex gift cards through their site.  The email said that Amex would no longer pay out rewards through portals if any promo codes were used.  Specifically, they wrote (bolding is mine):

We wanted our members to be aware of some recent changes within the American Express Gift Card program. As some of you may have noticed, whenever a coupon was used to waive the service fee, American Express deducted the amount from your cash back total. In order to stay within their budget, American Express informed us that promotional codes and coupons will no longer be accepted and will void any cash back if used. Please be aware that this change will go into effect immediately.

I published a Quick Deal to report this development: “Promo codes to void cash back for Amex gift cards?”.  In the Quick Deal, I wrote:

I don’t know if Amex will really enforce these new rules, but I think that the safe thing to do is to avoid using promo codes until we learn more.  If you buy Amex gift cards often, I recommend subscribing to the premium shipping plan and buying cards with high denominations so that the card fees are small as a percentage of total value.

Other portals continue to publish promo codes

I think it was great that BigCrumbs proactively alerted their customers to these new developments.  Many other portals, though, stayed silent.  Worse, many continued to show promo codes on their site.  This clearly implied that one would receive cash back (or miles) if that promo code were used.

Portal customers get burned

I’ve heard from many people who have used cash back portals in the past month and a half who didn’t earn cash back when buying Amex gift cards.  In many cases, I believe that people used promo codes that were shown on those sites.  When these customers contacted the portal for support, they were told, essentially, tough luck.  Blogger, Giddy for Points, reported her experience with this issue here.  Her experience was with TopCashBack, but I’ve heard similar stories from customers of BeFrugal and other portals.

To be fair, from the portal’s point of view, they can’t verify an order unless the merchant (in this case Amex Gift Cards) reports the successful order.  I believe that, since June 24th, Amex has stopped verifying sales to portals that involve promo codes.  That said, I believe that any portal that showed a promo code on their site should honor the cash back terms even if Amex refuses to pay them

How you can help

If you placed an order for Amex gift cards through a portal anytime since June 24th 2014, please comment below.  Let us know the following:

  • Date you placed the order (pick one where tracking failed if you placed many orders)
  • Portal used
  • Promo code used (if any)
  • Whether or not promo code used was displayed on the portal’s site
  • Do you have a screen capture showing the date and the promo code? (if so, I might email you separately to ask for a copy of the image)
  • Result (i.e. did you receive portal cash back or miles)
  • If you didn’t receive cash back or miles, did you contact support?  If so, what was the result?

I’m hoping to see whether or not there have been systematic and identifiable portal failures as I surmised above.  If we can get enough evidence of this it may be possible to convince some of the portals to retroactively grant rewards.  We can hope, anyway.

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  1. 6/30
    FSGRAD (x 3 to get the free shipping for a year 😉 )
    I can take one from Amex & one from BeFrugal to show
    Cash back is pending to payout, just like BeFrugal usually does

  2. 7/1/14 TopCashBack, no coupon codes used (via 3 month free trial on free shipping) — still pending, still showing that normal time to payout is 5 weeks. No screenshots (will I never learn?)

      • My 7/1 purchase via TopCashBack (and a later one) moved today to Confirmed. Hoping that all is indeed well with the world.

      • Once my 2 orders moved out of TopCashBack’s pending status, where they languished beyond the estimated 5 week timeframe, they moved to Payable very quickly. $300 on its way to me now. #happy #relieved

  3. BeFrugal ENCOURAGED the use of ‘fsgrad’ in June. This was not an AMEX code.
    June 24th purchase showing pending, payable Aug 24th. Will report back.
    Since then have used NO codes to avoid exact situation you discuss.

  4. TopCashBack 7/29/14, 8/5/14, 8/9/14 orders show pending cash back per usual. Used code provided by AmEx phone support when I was having trouble getting a larger order placed.

    • I just noticed that TCB changed my pending cash back from my two AmEx orders around 8/10 using code PHONE202 (provided by AmEx phone support) to $0. Bummer…

  5. Order(s) Placed: July 2, July 30

    Portal: TopCashBack

    Promo code(s): syncgift (not from TopCashBack)

    Screen capture: no

    Payout: showed pending for both, then both were zeroed out.

    Since then I have an order with cashback pending that I did NOT use a promo code, will keep you posted on that one.

  6. 7/2/14
    6 orders of $200 to take advantage of the Amex Sync offers.
    FSDAD (I believe, might have been FSDAD or similar as I already had free shipping and just wanted to eliminate fees. Either way it was a code the BeFrugal posted on their site)
    All cashback originally posted but was then reversed. I filed claims for the orders but BeFrugal denied them due to Amex’s no promo code policy. I don’t think that’s right since they were promoting the codes and made no mention of them not paying cashback for using them. Very deceptive.

  7. How about missing Southwest portal points from the 9x and 10x promos a month or two ago? Any updates there? I received about a quarter of the points I’m owed and the rest are MIA

  8. I know you said only post if my order was after June 24, but I ordered on June 12th with fsgrad and still got denied Alaska mileage plan shopping miles. When I contacted support, they told me that the merchant informed them the transaction was not eligible for miles. Do I have any recourse?

  9. A couple of orders on Be Frugal pending using FSGRAD and the Be Frugal site clearly had the 2.7% posted with no mention of zeroing out using the code they were suggesting…..since then they have updated their notes on each transaction and it shows the progression of how they have changed payouts AFTER THE FACT………….

  10. Placed order 8/6 via TopCashBack.

    I did not use any coupon codes.

    Received Barclay Arrival points, and my 3% is showing as pending in TopCashBack.

  11. So far, it sounds like several people here are reporting getting stuck with no payouts (as I described), but no one has screenshots of BeFrugal or TCB showing promo codes after June 24?

  12. I made 3 barclay purchases in June. 6/5, 7,22. Received my 4x points for the 6/5 but not the other two. Sent secure message and they told me to wait. The first purchase is listed on my statement as Amex gift cards. The other 2 I wasn’t credited for are listed ast Amex Gifting Products. I used the FSGRAD promo code for all 3.

  13. I made several purchases using TopCashBack, BeFrugal, and Barclays. I was in the middle of the three month free shipping trial. I didn’t use any additional promo code. You had warned us, and I didn’t feel it was worth the risk. Right now, everything is pending, but the first payout should be 8/31.

  14. 6/12
    FSGrad (Displayed on Portal Site)
    Did not receive Cash Back
    Saw $200 pending in the account a few days after ordering. Two weeks later it dissappeared. Contacted customer support and spoke with multiple representives. Ebates claimed no order was reported to them and that there was nothing they could do.

  15. Also got burned by BeFrugal

    Last order that successfully went through was 6/16. Orders from 7/2 and 7/21 originally posted (used SYNCGIFT CODE) then were reversed. Response from Customer Service was basically tough luck.

    There’s some new language regarding the use of coupon code that wasn’t there at the time when I placed my orders! Total crap IMHO.

  16. I have placed about 10 large orders from 2 separate accounts. 8 with befrugal and 2 with bigcrumbs. I never used a code because of the warning. Not a single one of these orders tracked on their own, but I was able to enter a ticket for all of them and they adjusted each sale “pending investigation”. 2 have since become payable. I’m really surprised at how many actually have their orders tracked in the first place given my experience. I have had to enter tickets for most of the year although last year I had much better luck with tracking. I know I don’t have a browser or cookies problem because my clicks to GCM have worked just fine over the last couple months.

  17. I purchased a Amex Gift Card using the USAA cash back portal on July 3rd. I used the Free Shipping Code and have gotten no cash back. Live and learn.

  18. Two orders on Be Frugal on 8/3 got reversed today and I lose $137.50 as a result. Positive is the AMEX cards cost nothing to buy or ship and I got 1.25 miles for the purchase and I used them at CVS to buy Paypal and Vanilla Visa cards so although it was extra work that is ultimately a risk in this endeavor……..Next month I’ll just pay the fee and repeat the same process…….it can still be a great and slightly profitable way to accumulate miles and penny points……..

  19. So cartera got back with me saying that Amex told them that my order is invalid for commission, therefore, I would not receive any miles for a purchase on Jun 12. I took your advice and obtained a screenshot. Do you know who I can contact now to try and sort this out? Thanks

    • I don’t have any specific contact info. I’d recommend contacting them the same way you did before, reference the existing issue, and let them know that you have screenshots showing that the offer was in place at the time of your order.

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