Will Amex Come to Regret Creating RAT (Rewards Abuse Team)?

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Amex created the Rewards Abuse Team (RAT) in late 2016.

The RAT has been on the hunt to close down deals and offers that have been been more generous than Amex may have intended.

The Prowl

First up were headline items like not granting card sign-up bonuses for people who applied using offers or invitation codes for which they were not explicitly targeted.

RAT then got busy with efforts around category bonuses, card statement credit benefits, and lately, Amex Offers applied to multiple card accounts per person.

RAT is tracking down gaps between the way Amex wrote terms and the way Amex systems processed terms.

Last night, Amex sent emails to certain business card users who registered multiple of their card accounts for a 10% off Staples offer in June. Amex is hitting these people with new charges to correct the ‘error’.

image courtesy of Doctor of Credit, used with permission

It’s Alive

The RAT actions I am aware of are generally heavy-handed efforts to enforce terms as written in fine print, even if Amex systems did not function that way.

Without weighing in on the right and wrong of it (and I am not qualified to comment on the legal aspects), RAT could use better bedside manner.

Those of us with corporate work experience see the inevitable progression:

  1. An opportunity or problem is identified
  2. Executives create a team to work on the new initiative
  3. The new team scores some early wins
  4. The new team uses the early wins to extract a bigger budget, more resources, more headcount
  5. The bulked up team moves through the initial scope
  6. Seeing diminishing returns ahead, the team expands its scope to perpetuate its existence
  7. The team now exists because it exists, even if the original need is long since gone
  8. Only when a new executive team comes in with an urge to restructure to show that they are doing managing are questions asked why the team exists at all
  9. The team is disbanded, team members re-purpose themselves as just the experts needed for the next hot button initiative (sometimes the team cannot be killed)
  10. Someone notices customers started defecting somewhere around Step 3.

The smart way to create the RAT team would have have been to give them a limited-time mandate with defined objectives and a clear termination to the effort.

By such and such date, transition to skeleton crew doing routine monitoring. Not send the message to the organization that ‘looking for trouble’ and is the customer management priority.

Instead, I think we’ll see RAT around for a long time. Eventually, they’ll be firing customers that Amex didn’t want to fire.

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Andy Shuman
Guest

Love your analysis and couldn’t agree more. Just surprised at the number of corporate fanboys in this thread. It’s NOT good business chasing your customers down with a hammer and a nail. If you want to enforce the rules, make gaming hard or impossible. Code your promotion so it can’t be replicated on another account. If you can’t foresee the results of your own action, don’t blame the customer for taking advantage — blame your own ineptitude. Amazing, simply amazing!

trackback

[…] from Rapid Travel Chai writes a thought provoking article about American Express and their Reward Abuse Team (RAT for short). This is the department created to crack down on abuse taking place within the AMEX rewards […]

Eric
Guest
Eric

Glad AMEX and other banks has this so called RAT teams to combating RATS/ABUSERS/CHEATERS/GAMERS. It’s your own faults. QUIT WHINNYING. Zip your mouth and quit trying to beat the system. Play fair.

Those RATS (system abusers/cheaters, etc) are not customers. They are just simply RATS. If I was to own a business I wouldn’t need & want those rats like you around. I would ban them too.

MSer
Guest
MSer

Yes. This. The way this has been handled is ham-handed.. Rather than fix their broken IT, they belatedly reverse already-issued credits? Should have simply fixed their systems and sent notice to their customers that they would hence-forth reverse credits – at least that’s what a company that’s being honest and upfront with.customers would do. For those who predictably crawl out of their caves and claim “that’s always what the terms said and they are just enforcing them”, such claims are silly nonsense. We all know T&Cs are routinely ignored, and in this case with credit reversals, has been ongoing for… Read more »

KPM
Guest
KPM

I am ecstatic…abusers are finally getting punished. We all are getting punished but these abusers getting hit for 10k, is amazing. Drinking to that…..it is these massive abusers who in their greed to eat more than their stomach can digest and then have diarrhea that stinks air all around them…..who have killed all sweet deals like this in the past………..as such i want more n more crackdowns and want all useless nondeserving folks who get Lounge benefits/business and 1st class seats to be wiped off, as just churning cards frequently n repeatedly gets them such benefits when these high school… Read more »

Lee @ BaldThoughts
Guest

I totally understand your point of view. The Amex RAT should have handled things better with customers if you value them long-term. But, people who intentionally did things like the multi-tab browser trick knew they were playing with fire and would eventually be caught. However, most didn’t expect they would receive a bill for it once they were found out.

Theo
Guest
Theo

How about Amex IT just fix the problem and not allow it to happen in the first place? Either they have sloppy IT or it’s a form of entrapment.

Danny
Guest
Danny

I think this RAT team shows how gamers are costing Amex a lot of money. It may reduce their membership numbers but if they get rid of the 5-10% of ppl who are costing them the most money, it’s probably going to help their profitability numbers a lot. Given Chase already stated that their Sapphire related rewards cards are costing them about $1.6 billion, I wouldnt be surprised if Amex is being gamed by the same type of people. With that said, for my own purposes, I’m going to start reducing my number of annual fee Amex cards since there’s… Read more »

M M
Guest
M M

The problem with the logic behind this assessment is that it assumes the RAT has identified and solved the problem(s), so that they should no longer be needed (while instead they will go on, growing in size and resources, etc., etc.) The reality, though, is that the churning community is still growing and AMEX’s universe is still ripe with opportunities for “gaming” (i.e., using travel credits for airline GCs) AND the current loopholes RAT has already identified will still need to be policed. RAT ain’t going anywhere, and I doubt AMEX will regret them, just like all the shaking of… Read more »

Credit
Guest
Credit

Amex customer service was awesome. They generously gave you benefit of the doubt. Then assholes showed up breaking that trust and they called it gaming. The cost was disproportionate to the projection. Customer service became worse. They stopped giving you benefit of the doubt. This happened to the lifetime return policy of the REI. It may happen to Amazon and Costco. Stop calling assholes as gamers. They are greedy bastards who want to corner all the benefit for themselves and in the process kill it for everyone. If the churner community had any sense of self preservation they would strike… Read more »

trackback

[…] Will Amex Come to Regret Creating RAT (Rewards Abuse Team)? by Rapid Travel Chai. Interesting article, I think with the recent Staples deal American Express is footing the deal so that was always going to be ‘fixed’ regardless of whether there was a RAT or not. […]

Philip
Guest
Philip

Abolish RAT!

colleen
Guest
colleen

“Amex is hitting these people with new charges to correct the ‘error’.” It’s all about framing, isn’t it? Another may have written, “Amex is reversing the credits it mistakenly granted.” They certainly aren’t hitting people with NEW charges and they were firmly grounded in the T&C. We all know the rules going in; we roll the dice based on free choice. This one didn’t win for us. Move on. It’s tough to seriously suggest, “How dare they enforce their T&Cs that were clearly communicated but thanks to IT we were able to skirt.” As with so many of these games,… Read more »

AMEX Rewards Team
Guest
AMEX Rewards Team

Thank you. It’s about da money dear Stefan 🙂

Yasmay Notlob
Guest
Yasmay Notlob

You lost me with the 10 point whatever.

Rewards Abuse is more relevant than ever in this age of blogger websites focusing on nothing else but gaming offers using technical bugs or oversights.

They should go one step ahead and ban accounts for repeated misuse of terms and conditions. Gamers steal loyalty points away from the truly loyal and it’s in the company’s benefit to weed them out asap.

NinjaX
Guest
NinjaX

ur an idiot. Notlob = Nutjob.

its clear u have no executive background. if you were in management consulting, you would understand what the 10 phase project life-cycle means.

DaninMCI
Guest
DaninMCI

AMEX has always been heavy handed. Just ask any Corporate Green Card person that earns MR points with that card. Or how about how long it takes them to post the points to your account.

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy

Will the bloggers come to regret promoting behavior that was against the rules?

james
Guest
james

No more than companies who hire accountants as CEO’s…

David
Guest
David

Stephan. You almost had me standing up and clapping with your 10 point list. Having had significant corporate experience and now international organization experience too I can corroborate that the main goal of any department, team, bureaucracy, etc. etc. is to perpetuate itself, by growing in budget, staff, influence, at the expense of the mission, wasted resources, and duplication of efforts!
P.S. Are they seriously called Rewards Abuse Team, or just a nice way to call them rats?

Larry D
Guest
Larry D

When they start charging us for the airline gift cards we bought with the Amex platinum $200 expense reimbursements, that’s when customers will head for the exits.

Yasmar Notlob
Guest
Yasmar Notlob

Correction – gamers will head for the exits. And the loyal base will get a better spoil of the rewards to come in future.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Crawl back into your hole. You apparently work for amex.

bob
Guest
bob

Not likely. Amex won’t start providing more benefits with it’s savings, it will simply increase it’s profits.

Danny
Guest
Danny

I really wouldnt be surprised if that’s the next target for the RAT team.

eric
Guest
eric

I hope other banks will do the same like Amex. There are way too many ABUSERS.

DaveS
Guest
DaveS

Rules, and not only here, are often written ambiguously. If something isn’t clear in the rules, people have every right to test it and share data points. If an interpretation that favors the customer works, then one of the following is true: 1) The favorable interpretation is correct; 2) The IT team should have set up the process so that the test would fail. I don’t like true abuse either, so I like clearly written terms and conditions. I do think when you say $100 per cardmember, it can easily be interpreted by the reader that you mean holder of… Read more »

bob
Guest
bob

If Amex meant card holder, it would have said so. Card member implies a single entity, no matter what cards they have.