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TPG reader question: When can a bank change my credit card benefits?

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 2/22/2021 Chris Dong
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Editor’s note: This article is part of our weekly column to answer your credit card questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at tips@thepointsguy.com. 

Over the past year, there have been many new credit card benefits (both permanent and temporary, due to the pandemic). While new benefits are typically introduced with much fanfare, be mindful that issuers can quietly eliminate some perks.

In this week’s reader question, Jordan asks whether the numerous benefits on their recently acquired The Business Platinum Card® from American Express could disappear at any time.

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I just applied and got approved for the Business Platinum card. Do the benefits disappear at some point or are they grandfathered in for the life of the card?

TPG READER JORDAN

The answer is both and complicated, so let’s take the easy road first and then come back around to navigate the more choppy waters.

First, there may be some benefits that are clearly stated when applying for the card. In addition to the standard welcome bonus, the Business Platinum card is currently offering 5x points on eligible U.S. purchases on shipping, wireless telephone services, advertising in select media, office supplies and gas stations in the first three months of account opening. You can earn up to 80,000 bonus points per category.

Related: A review of the Business Platinum Card from American Express

There are no other benefits currently scheduled to end or expire, but that only tells part of the story. In their terms and conditions, credit card issuers reserve the right to change any rules or product benefits at any time. While the national CARD Act of 2009 requires customers to be notified of “significant changes” 45 days in advance, that legal phrase does not include changes to a reward program. So if a bank decides to remove a perk or change a bonus category, you don’t have much recourse other than closing the card.

There’s one major exception to this rule — the CARD Act and its associated regulations provide consumer protections that restrict banks from altering certain aspects of a credit card during the first year the card is open, such as raising interest rates or fees. But again, this mostly does not apply to points or miles earned with the card.

So the short answer is, in life, there are no guarantees. If American Express suddenly decides to eliminate all the perks of its Platinum card and replace the Membership Rewards program with an alternate point currency that can only be redeemed for different types of cheese, it can do it.

But that’s theoretical.

(Photo by The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by The Points Guy)

Bottom line

The fact is, banks use their credit card benefits to lure and keep customers. While some perks don’t last forever, card issuers don’t want to make changes so enormous that they would destroy any value in their product. And when a major change is, in fact, being contemplated, banks will routinely either give significant advance notice of the changes or grandfather in existing cardholders to the old terms so they aren’t outraged by a sudden change.

However, that isn’t always the case. Take, for instance, Citi’s elimination of most of its travel and shopping protections in 2019.

With that said, in Jordan’s case, they most likely have nothing to worry about anytime soon. But if you keep any card long enough, you’ll probably see some changes at some point.

Additional reporting by Julian Kheel. 

Featured photo of Amex Centurion Lounge JFK by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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