Why I’m Paranoid About Meeting An American Express Spending Requirement

by joeheg

When I’m looking at signing up for a new card, there are several things I think about. How big is the signup bonus? Will I keep this card for the long term? How can I meet the minimum spending requirement?  If I’m considering an AMEX card, I also have to worry about the Rewards Abuse Team (affectionately called RAT). Please stop saying it’s the RAT Team because that would be the Rewards Abuse Team Team. But if you say that, you probably still type in your PIN number at the ATM machine. If you don’t get that joke, maybe someone will explain it to you.

The RAT’s job is to find any reason to deny a signup bonus to any cardholder they feel is trying to game the system and sign up for cards just for the bonuses. Why AMEX thinks this practice is a bad idea would make you question why they offer huge bonuses in the first place if it’s bad for business but better to put the blame on the customers, right?

A big no-no for AMEX is buying gift cards to meet minimum spending requirements. The presence of a single gift card purchase has been the reason for the RAT to deny a bonus, even if you’d otherwise meet the requirement without it.

So when I’m trying to meet the minimum spend on an AMEX card, I watch every purchase, making sure there’s nothing to put up a warning flag. I’m not buying any gift cards, not even a $50 Starbucks card at a drugstore to give as a farewell gift to a co-worker.


I guess this is just an extension of my overly cautious approach to earning miles and points. While I want to earn enough points to allow us to travel in comfort and style, I’d prefer to just coast along under the radar and not make any waves.

Am I being overly cautious or just careful?? What’s your experience? How much has the AMEX RAT let you get away with before they slam the door in your face?

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Sparkle Pony March 14, 2019 - 9:59 am

I’m trying to dip my toe back into the Am Ex pool after being completely fed up with their inconsistent customer service. I was shocked to see a bonus post before I thought it should. Maybe we technically met the minimum spend, but it was considering credits part of the total. The net wasn’t the minimum spend, but it posted anyway. I’m torn between letting it sit there and see what happens, or cashing out the points before they’re clawed back. I’d keep putting more spend on the card to be on the safe side, but I’m working on another minimum spend. And god knows I’m not going to buy some gift cards for future use!

Toys Samurai September 19, 2020 - 10:58 pm

Never had any problem with buying giftcards while I am earning for the bonus. Maybe that’s because I had spent so much more on other purchases that the giftcards seem just like normal transactions.

AlohaDaveKennedy September 20, 2020 - 7:55 am

“Affectionately called RAT?” Really? Even Willard eventually learned that RATs are not your friends and deserve no affection. RATs bite!

DavidB September 20, 2020 - 10:45 am

Hope the RAT catches you. It’s hacking the rules that raises costs and screws things for those who play by the spirit of the rules, not encourage ethically suspect activity!

JJ Wonka September 20, 2020 - 11:06 am

Dude, you are way too conservative and too cautious in regards to not buying gift cards to help meet minimum spend requirements.

There’s no way Amex would know if you bought a $50 gift card at a drugstore, if they don’t have level three data, and you combined that purchase with something else to make it look like a $51.12 purchase. Those are reasonable spends at that type of store.

if you’re going to avoid even buying a $50 gift card, then I’d have to question if it’s even worth the effort to meet the minimum spend requirement through completely organic spend and why even bother going for a new credit card at all?

With $3,000 worth of home improvement items for home upgrade at home Depot trigger the rat? they also sell gift cards there and you could certainly buy that many dollars worth of gift cards at home Depot. How would they know? Are there any valid reports to show that I spend at places that also sell gift cards, without level 3 data have caused bonus denials?

TS September 20, 2020 - 11:39 am

I don’t understand the anger towards them. Amex (like all CC companies) offer large bonuses to attract new customers, and their spending. They clearly state what isn’t allowed. People who sign up and find loopholes to get the points without any real spend, or just minimal spend, are knowingly gaming the system, and breaking the rules. If you buy a $50 gift card at CVS out of $5k in normal spend, I don’t think they’ll bat an eye. But if you’re buying 100 $50 gift cards, and nothing else, then they should review the account, and pull back the points.

If people keep abusing the system, it could devalue the points, and/or cause the CC companies to start giving smaller bonuses…

Frequent Traveler February 7, 2022 - 8:05 am

Amen to Amex customer service sucking, not sure where they ever achieved an overall positive reputation. Without any notification they managed to not pay out a second component of my welcome bonus on a new card and when I contested this they simply repeated (about 8 consecutive times) that “this offer is not linked to your card.”. Yes, I clearly know there is a problem, maybe you should, I don’t know, FIX the issue? Will definitely be my last Amex… Also it makes ZERO sense how Scrooge-like they are with welcome bonuses since they have that “once per lifetime” policy. Chase has had no issues letting me earn a welcome bonus again if I closed the account more than 2 years ago… As far as I know Chase isn’t on the verge of bankruptcy because I’m able to re-earn bonuses from them, but it seems Amex is based on their behavior at least.

James March 26, 2023 - 9:16 pm

Ok, what’s the pin ATM joke?

joeheg March 29, 2023 - 10:59 am

It’s when you use an initialism and repeat one of the words. ATM = Automated Teller Machine, PIN = Personal Identification Number. There’s no need to say ATM machine or PIN number as those words are in the abbreviation.

Shanna March 26, 2023 - 9:47 pm

I have 3 Amex cards (the Platinum, Hilton, and Delta) and haven’t had issues with getting the bonus, and their customer service has been terrific. The only issue I do have is with the crazy high annual fee on the Platinum card.

Safety dance March 26, 2023 - 11:03 pm

I’ve never gotten a new card that I would have difficulty hitting a welcome offer spend organically.

If you’re getting an amex plat with a 6k in 6 Mos spend requirement… wait it’s a cc with a $695 annual fee? Oh man… 6k…? Might need to just buy gift cards.

Don’t be a douche. It’s not a card for poor/frugal people and if you try to take advantage then they should claw back those points 100%.


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