Can these miles be saved?

By | July 19th, 2002

Q: I saw your article in which you helped someone get their American Express points they had lost. I was hoping you could help me.

I had two American Express accounts, a personal and a corporate card. In January my company switched to MasterCard. Some of the charges on my corporate account were not paid on time.

In the meantime, I had some personal problems which caused me to travel quite a bit and my personal account fell behind. Also, National Airlines charged my account in excess of $1,500 in unexplained charges. It never disputed the charges once I was able to bring it to American Express’ attention, but it took several months. Anyway, they’ve now canceled the account and I have lost over 110,000 frequent flier points – I never used any.

Can you help?

— Harry Heck

A: No. But I’m going to answer your question anyway because I’ve experienced the same problem that you have, and I suspect others have too.

Let me explain. About ten years ago I also carried an American Express corporate card – and I also fell behind on payments. You would think that a charge card company would like customers who don’t pay off their entire bill but Amex seemed none too pleased.

Several years later, the company used my late payment patterns as an excuse to not issue me a personal American Express card. This struck me as odd. I had paid the entire card off, American Express had made its money off me, but now it didn’t want my business. Maybe that’s because I didn’t understand the difference between a charge card and a credit card. (American Express offers both, but it only wants you to pay the credit card off late – not the charge card.)

Related story:   Delayed on Alitalia, but where’s my check?

Now, to your question. I checked with the company and was told by a spokeswoman that your miles are lost. “You have to be a cardmember in good standing and have an active account to redeem earned Membership Rewards points. If an account is canceled for any derogatory reason, the points are immediately forfeited,” she told me.

It isn’t immediately clear if American Express won’t fork over your miles because you canceled your account or because you didn’t pay up on time. But either way, it won’t help you recover your points.

I wish there was more that I could do. But the Amex representative quoted me chapter and verse in the cardmember agreement that clearly states you could lose your points, and changing the contract is beyond the limited scope of my influence.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.