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Voiding Miles, Canceling Travel: AAdvantage Is Cracking Down

Voiding Miles, Canceling Travel: AAdvantage Is Cracking Down
Jeff Edwards

It looks an awful lot like Citigroup and American Airlines are cracking down on AAdvantage members’ “exploitative practices” of Citigroup American Airlines cardholders. Many longstanding members are finding that, where American Airlines was fairly lenient, it is suddenly cracking down on flyers who take advantage of multiple targeted mailers that promise big introductory rewards. And, in some cases, American Airlines has even canceled upcoming travel and voided AAdvantage miles.

The Crackdown That Isn’t?

According to a December report in Bloomberg, American Airlines and Citigroup are “cracking down” on churning. From the FlyerTalk forums to Twitter, cardholders have been reporting that, in the past few months, their miles have been seized and their trips canceled.

Who Are They Targeting?

Rule breakers who use fake names and e-mail addresses to create bogus accounts to get multiple sign-up bonuses (meant, strictly speaking, to be given out on a one-per-customer basis).

But also cardholders who are only bending the rules by using real accounts of other household members to sign up for multiple bonuses (still, technically, one per person) and then transferring those offers to one account. Which, technically (although it may not follow the spirit of the law) is allowed under the stated rules.

But, American denies that there’s been any “crackdown.” “We regularly monitor AAdvantage account activity and take appropriate action when we find cases where the member has violated our program policies or American’s conditions of carriage,” American Airlines spokesperson Susannah Wesley-Ahlschwede told Bloomberg in a statement. “There is no recent change to our approach.”

Let’s Be Honest

While American maintains that there’s been no change in policy, a number of reports on FlyerTalk beg to differ. Members are reporting that their AAdvantage accounts have been closed without notice. In some cases, the airline cited “exploitative practices” as the reason for abruptly severing the relationships and canceling planned rewards travel.

And, longstanding AAdvantage members have pointed out that, when American says that they’ve never supported churning–the practice of repeatedly signing up for credit cards in order to receive their bonus offers–that isn’t technically true.

While churning has always been frowned upon by credit card companies and airlines, both of those institutions benefit from churners: the airline sells the miles to the credit card company, and the credit card company uses the miles to attract new customers with lucrative sign-up bonuses. That some customers take extra advantage isn’t really a secret.

Related: FlyerTalk’s Credit Card Churning Guide

“This (mailer/emailer application) has been working for over 2 years now with no problem. Applying for card after card after card has been going on for longer than I can count and it’s never been a problem,” wrote one FlyerTalker in a December post.

“Not even when we were applying for two Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ credit cards with 100,000-point sign-up bonuses (using the two browser method, making the minimum spend, then canceling the card before the annual fee was due) over and over again.

“If Citi was going to crack down on anything, that would have been the one, but we never heard a word from Citi about it. When they got tired of that, they just changed the terms and conditions so it didn’t work anymore. But no one got their hands slapped … And why would it be a problem? American Airlines is happy since they are selling the miles to Citi, which is the ONLY way they make a profit.

“And Citi is happy, as they are meeting their marketing goals for new accounts. They do want to be sure of who is actually applying, as they don’t want people to use false ids to open accounts, do the max spend, then disappear without paying it back.”

A Changing Relationship

But, while churning is not likely to end in the immediate future, there are some indications that Citi is changing its attitude towards churners. There is, of course, the titular crackdown but also, cardholders have noticed that fewer Citi mailers have been going out.

“I used to get a Citi personal mailer every other month – It suddenly stopped in November,” one FlyerTalker lamented. “Has this happened to anyone else? What causes this?”

“Same here, my ‘relatives’ haven’t received a new mailer since November.”

 

Are you considering taking a chance using Citigroup/American Airlines introductory offers to gain the biggest travel advantages possible? The expert travel community in the FlyerTalk Citi AA cards: TARGETED offers forum has the very latest and most comprehensive information available to help keep you from running afoul of the rules.

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1 Comment

  1. jrpallante

    January 22, 2020 at 7:27 am

    As usual, lots of conflated issues and unanswered questions in this article:

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