Those of us in the miles and points space that have been known to apply for a credit card from time to time are no doubt familiar with the latest change from American Express. Now, you can normally get a new account bonus for a product just once in a lifetime for Amex business cards. Amex personal cards went this route a while ago, but the biz cards were still churnable (as long as you were applying 12 months after account closure)……until this week. There are apparently some exceptions for particular targeted offers, but for the most part, churning is going to be less lucrative for now.

amex bonus changes

There has been a predictable amount of teeth-gnashing, and frankly, I understand why. Yet, I’m not bothered by Amex’s business decision, or for that matter Chase’s 5/24 rule, or Citi’s recent wave of account closures. Let’s face it, “the game” or “the hobby” or whatever you want to call it is not as much fun as it used to be. Frankly, I’d rather focus on other things. Last month I balanced my checkbook for the first time in years. No, I haven’t been ignoring my spending….I track it online, and one could reasonably question the value of an “old-timey” checkbook reconciliation in an era of instant online access to accounts. For me, it’s just one little thing in a focus on financial discipline and having the money in the bank to buy a ticket if I want to rather than one more spreadsheet and a wallet full of credit cards to manage.

Back to Basics

For sure, I’m not walking away from earning miles and points from credit cards, but my focus has evolved. Actually, “evolve” isn’t the right word. In reality, I’ve gone back to basics. Over the next year I expect to whittle my card inventory down to something like this.

  • Amex Platinum (A card I’ll likely always have)
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred (Primary card)
  • SkyMiles Amex (If I relocate away from Atlanta at some point, this will go away assuming I don’t move to another Delta hub)
  • Fidelity Amex (Soon to be Visa)
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red (Keeping it because you can’t apply for one, not to mention PIN backup for overseas travel)

I am by no means saying I’ll never apply for another card for an attractive points bonus. Certainly, something will come along and I’ll take advantage of it if it makes sense for me. There are plenty of innovative ways to come up with the miles and points you need, and maybe I’ll focus on some of those in the future as well.

What Happened?

A lot of people have wondered aloud about the meaning of the changes the banks have been making in the credit card space. In my opinion, the reasons behind it aren’t all that different than the reasons behind airline loyalty program changes. Primarily, the banks have figured out how much you (and I) are worth. And if you’re playing “the game” as well as you can, you really aren’t worth all that much to the bottom line.

Is it over? For now, mostly yes. Who knows what will happen down the road, but I’m not nearly as confident as some that anything resembling the glory days of credit card bonus “maximization” 🙂 will ever be back. Has your relationship with miles and points cards evolved in light of recent changes?

-MJ, February 26, 2016