Update: Chris has made an interesting point in the comments below that American Express could use the tracking capabilities from the ‘link provided’ Amex Offers to claw back any statement credits earned where their specific link wasn’t used.
I’m not convinced that they’d do this, but it might be that Amex’s Rewards Abuse Team is looking to justify their existence further by seeking to catch out cardholders in a brand new way. If so, it would make many Amex Offers worthless seeing as you could get a better return by clicking through from a shopping portal rather than using the link provided by Amex and getting a lesser return as a statement credit.
It might therefore be worth using more caution than I’d indicated in the original post below, although it might also be that you can continue stacking these particular new types of Amex Offers with shopping portals.
All of these new types of Amex Offers are for a percentage back of the amount you spend, rather than being a ‘Spend x & get x back’ type of offer which is how Amex Offers are normally created. That percentage back feature might have something to do with why Amex is using Drop for tracking, but I’m not sure exactly why that would be.
A few interesting Amex Offers have cropped up in the last week or so. They’re not particularly interesting because of them representing a screaming deal, but because of some interesting wording in the offer’s description and terms.
It started off with Clarins and GNC Amex Offers last Friday giving 6% and 7% back respectively. That was followed up today with Amex Offers for Kiwi Co, Lumens and Murad.
What was notable about these offers is that they all included wording in the description that suggested that taking advantage of the offer involved ‘using the link provided’.
When looking at the terms of each offer, there was a similar requirement listed for each one. For example, here are the expanded terms for the Clarins Amex Offer:
As you can see, one of the terms says ‘Offer valid only for purchases made directly at joindrop.com/amex/clarins.’ That seems pretty clear – to take advantage of the Amex Offer, you need to use that specific link.
Except you don’t.
When clicking on that link, it redirects to the Clarins website.
Using that specific link simply adds tracking code to the URL which is presumably there to help track which customers purchased products specifically as a result of the Amex Offer and perhaps also tracks affiliate commission.
That latter point is important because if you use the link provided by American Express, you’d be forgoing shopping portal earnings yourself. That could be to your significant detriment depending on which Amex Offer you’d be taking advantage of. For example, the RebatesMe shopping portal is offering 18% cashback for Clarins at the time of writing this post. You’d therefore be missing out on that cashback if you used Amex’s link.
Using a shopping portal to click through to Clarins takes you to the exact same website. The only difference is the tracking code attached to the URL. With the Amex link, it’s their own code; with the shopping portal, it’s their affiliate tracking code to ensure your account gets credited with the cashback.
Whichever link you use, payment will be processed by Clarins and so will trigger the statement credit from the Amex Offer. The only difference is whether or not you earn cashback/rewards through a shopping portal.
To the best of my knowledge, there’s only been one exception to this rule with Amex Offers. A couple of years ago there was a Nike gift card Amex Offer which gave $10 back when buying a $50 gift card. For some reason a special website had been set up for that Nike Amex Offer which was separate to the gift card page on the main Nike website. With that offer, you had to use the specific link mentioned in the Amex Offer because the payment was processed by a different company rather than Nike directly.
How To Check
In case you want to check for yourself, open the link provided by American Express in incognito mode. In a regular window, click through to the retailer from a shopping portal, checking Cashback Monitor first to ensure you’re getting the best rate.
Ignore the parts of the website URL that come after .com/ – if the main domain name when Amex redirects you is the same as the one you land on when clicking through from a shopping portal, the shopping process will be identical and payment will be processed the same regardless, thereby triggering the statement credit from the Amex Offer.
What’s also interesting about these Amex Offers (well, interesting to me anyway), is that the redirection process involves going via joindrop.com. That’s the website for the Drop app, but using their link for the Amex Offer doesn’t require that you actually join Drop or have their app on your phone – it simply redirects you.
Amex therefore seems to be using Drop as a tracking service for some Amex Offers which is a new development. For example, with Dell Amex Offers in the past, the terms have mentioned going to Dell.com/amex, although that requirement wasn’t enforced either. Amex therefore appears to have outsourced to Drop the tracking of some offers, so it’ll be interesting to see if this is simply another revenue stream for Drop or if they’re pivoting away from having a consumer-facing app to providing tracking and data analysis of consumer spending behavior for companies like American Express.