Amex claws back old portal payout

A couple of days ago I logged into my TopCashback account and found something disturbing.  My pending cash back for Amex Gift Cards had dropped to negative $195.

Amex portal

I clicked the dollar amount to see the details.  There, I found that I had one pending payout of $30 (which will surely be reversed soon) and a negative payout of $225.  Yikes.

Amex portal

I hastily shot off a (nicely worded) “WTF” support ticket to TopCashback.

Then I realized what must have happened.  I searched my email archives to confirm it.  The February 3rd order had been declined:

Amex portal

One of the most frustrating things about buying Amex gift cards online is that they will often decline your order because “We could not verify your order information and cannot approve your order at this time.”  Of course, that makes no sense since I’ve often been declined after using the exact same order information that had previously been approved.  Calling to ask doesn’t help.  Phone agents seem to invent random reasons just to get you off the phone so that you can have a nice day.

Regardless of why orders are often declined, you’re not supposed to earn portal rewards when this happens.  Amex had a glitch a couple of years ago in which they routinely paid out to portals for declined orders, but that issue has long since been corrected.

It seems, though, that one of my declined orders from February of this year had slipped through the cracks, and I had earned portal rewards when I wasn’t supposed to.  Somehow, at the time, I didn’t even notice!

Since I had no right to this cash back in the first place, I cancelled my TopCashback support ticket.

Amex cleaning up?

Currently, buying Amex gift cards through portals is a useless activity.  The reason?  Amex has recently imposed a new rule: only gift card denominations of $200 or less can qualify for portal rebates.  When you factor in the usual $3.95 cost per card, its simply not worth buying $200 Amex gift cards to get 1.5% or even 2.25% cash back.  Even if there were no fee per card, I wouldn’t bother.  Small denomination cards like these are more trouble than they’re worth.

In the post “Amex gift cards: Is the deal done?” I conjectured that Amex’s new rules may be a new variation of a “quiet period” similar to what Amex has done each year in the past.  Does this new data point add weight to that conjecture?

It’s possible that Amex withdraws from portals each year in order to balance their books.  Perhaps they take this time to look over the past year’s costs and earnings.  And, perhaps in the course of all this they find and correct discrepancies like my declined order payout.

Reader reports?

I checked through my (admittedly poor) records and couldn’t find any other examples from this year where I had received portal rewards from a declined payout so its hard for me to check for trends.  How about you?  Have you recently had any Amex gift card order payouts reversed?

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Comments

    • I was happy to see that on my account yesterday. I’m still holding out hope that portal payouts will go back to normal, but either way having that AmEx offer makes it worth ordering a card. If you’ve got the free shipping.

  1. They once shipped me someone else’s gift cards! There’s some real winners working at Amex. So I got a refund done via customer support but still got my portal payment. So far it’s not clawed back.

  2. Hmm, I wonder if that will happen with me. I ordered from TC while there was an increased promo on SBC. After it tracked later that day, I submitted a cashback match request which came through successful later that day. Next day, Amex denied my order. I didn’t think much about it, but looking back through my records it appears this match paid out (mid summer). I have no current CB from TC as all is now paid out. Remains to be seen what will happen.

  3. Several years ago – 2013, I think – AMEX was only paying out on cards with $500 denomination or less. That only lasted a few months. They reverted back to $3K, then $2K later.

    Let’s hope this $200 denom CB limit is temporary like the event of a few years ago.

      • It was August and September 2013 when the $500 per card limit was added to the portal T&Cs. I’m not sure if Amex enforced it though, since back then you could use promo codes to save the purchase fees and still get cashback (ahh, the good old days!), so everybody switched to buying the $500s (still a workable amount for MS, unlike $200s). Then in October 2013, Amex pulled out of portals entirely for the first 2 weeks of the month. When they returned in mid-October, the $500 limit was gone.
        I think its dead for good now.

  4. Stop your whining you big baby. Target Redcard clawed back $3800 of Amex Gift Card on “my daughter’s account” after the money was spent out of the account. It showed a negative $3800 for months (“we’re checking into it”) until finally they just closed the account. Well, of course I wanted a clear record for my kid (which it is – the money in was legit as was the money out) but to date – after closing the account – they’re still “checking into it.”

  5. No. My account is good. I haven’t had any Amex GC orders declined. I have a real business with an EIN that I use to order them and actually use the GCs for my business. My employees love using the Amex GCs to buy inventory because they never get fraud alerts and waste time calling the bank.

  6. This is why people need to stop buying AGCs PERIOD via the portal so Amex feels the pain of their lost AGC sales. When people still make AGC orders thinking they can sneak past the goalie on one of their AGC orders one of these days and get the CB successfully. I don’t expect Amex to change their stance anytime in 2015. Perhaps in 2016, Amex may rethink their strategy on this.

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