I’ve been spilling a lot of electronic ink writing about Amex gift cards in the past year or so. Amex gift cards have been special because they’ve been available for purchase through online portals that offer cash back or points for purchases. The basics are/were simple: go through a portal to buy Amex gift cards, earn a reward, and then use the gift cards as regular credit cards. It has been a great way to increase rewards for the same amount of spend you would do anyway. In the past few days, though, Amex gift cards have mostly disappeared from portals, there was a massive price mistake, readers have lost their free premium shipping plans, and I received a tip that suggests that Amex gift cards might just return to portals when they’re ready. Read on…
A portal price mistake
I reported a couple of days ago (here) that all portals had pulled Amex gift cards from their sites. That wasn’t exactly true. Some portals were slow to adjust. And one goofed big time when they reported cash back at an astounding 40% rate. Given that the largest rate we had seen previously was 4% in one portal and 4 points per dollar in another, this was clearly an error. Here were the portal rates yesterday morning as reported by CashBackMonitor:
I had never heard of Hoopla Doopla, but I reported this strange rate in a Frequent Miler Quick Deal: “An obvious portal price mistake: 40% cash back for Amex gift cards. Who’s in?”
My guess is that someone at Hoopla Doopla had tried to remove Amex gift cards from their database, but had messed up and linked them to a different merchant. By the afternoon, Amex gift cards were no longer on their site.
The timing of this mistake was an interesting coincidence. In the same post where I announced that Amex gift cards had abandoned portals, I also wrote about success in earning miles from a price mistake in the Singapore Airlines shopping portal. For details, please see: “The door slams shut on Amex gift card cash back, 17K Singapore miles posted, office supply 5X, and AA back with FlexPerks.”
How will Hoopla Doopla respond? I expect that those of us who purchased Amex gift cards will not automatically receive any payment from the portal. We’ll have to wait about 10 days to be sure, though. Their FAQ says the following:
Has it been more than 7-10 days since the purchase?
In most cases, you will see your cash back posted within 10 days of your purchase. Some purchases may take longer to post depending on the merchant. For instance, travel arrangements get credited when the stay is complete, not when booked. When the merchant credits us for the transaction, we credit you.
After 10 days, when we don’t see our order post, it will be necessary to fill out their Missing Transaction Form (found here). Then, we’ll wait and see how they respond. I bought a single $1K card mostly so that I can report on the results first hand. I doubt they can afford to honor the full 40% but maybe they would be willing to offer us a high, but reasonable rate such as 4%. We’ll see.
Free premium shipping plans
In June, I published a trick (no longer available, I believe) for getting the Amex gift card Premium Shipping Plan for free (instead of its usual $99). See “The ultimate free shipping code.” Since then, several readers have reported that they actually received only the 90 day free trial rather than the full year of free shipping. If that happened to you, you might want to cancel the plan before they charge your credit card. Here’s how:
2. Log in with your Amex credentials
3. Click “View Your Order History”
4. Scroll down to the “Shipping Addresses” box and look at the top right of the header bar. You should see information about your Premium Shipping Plan. In my case it says that my plan will end in 285 days:
5. Click “View”. If your plan is a free trial, I believe you’ll see a link somewhere in this box that lets you cancel.
If you want to cancel, but don’t have a cancel link, you can call:
A hopeful hint
When Amex suddenly withdrew from portals, I reached out to my contact Natasha, who heads up TopCashBack in the United States. It’s not much to go on, but her on-the-record reply was:
Amex has temporarily paused commission/cashback but we’re hopeful it’ll be available again in the near future.
What I gather from this is that Amex’s communication to portals such as TopCashBack was that they were temporarily pausing commissions. There are many possible reasons why they would do so. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is as simple as a technology upgrade that they want to get in place before continuing. The important take away is that the door has not necessarily slammed shut forever. Of course, I’ll let you know when they’re back.