How I let American Express rip me off

by Linus

I know the title sounds bad, but I actually don’t harbor any ill will towards AMEX, I have been a loyal user of their card for years and I will continue to be in the future…especially since (and in spite of the fact that) my Visa card was cancelled (through no fault of my own except lack of use).

Throughout my tenure of being an AMEX card member, I have amassed approximately 150,000 rewards points.  For those of you unfamiliar with how these work, you more or less are awarded a point per dollar spent…so yes I use my card a lot.  During lunch the other day with a friend, he convinced me to put those points to good use.  I was simply going to allow them to add up until I amassed more points than any other person (I don’t think there are official rankings for things like that) or until AMEX decided to do away with them, thus leaving me with a pile of unused points and increased blood pressure.

Yesterday I decided to hit up the membership rewards website to see exactly what I could get with my points and much to my surprise, I can actually get a 50 inch, 3D ready, 1080p Plasma TV with HDMI cable.  I’m not going to get that, but I was very surprised that I could.  What I did decide to get for 63,400 points is Rosetta Stone Spanish, level 1-3.  I actually took Spanish in high school, but in classic form I didn’t think I would need it in life, so I forgot most of it.  I have been wanting to re-learn for quite some time because there are instances in my life where it would come in handy, so I figured this would be a great opportunity.

While looking at their site, it did get me thinking.  If I am awarded approximately 1 point per dollar spent, is American Express saying that Rosetta Stone Spanish, level 1-3 is really worth $63,400?  I went to the Rosetta Stone website and the same product sells for $399…although now it is marked down to $369.  I know you are waiting to hear that I called AMEX up and got into a heated discussion with them about how they are ripping me off…but it didn’t happen.  I have had prior conversations with them about how unbalanced their rewards system is, but I haven’t gotten them to budge at all…so I didn’t feel like going through the aggravation again.  That was partly the reason why I had planned to simply allow my points to accumulate until I was the unofficial official king of AMEX rewards points…but that would sort of being like biting my nose off to spite my face (thanks to my Mom for that killer analogy).  That along with my friend convinced me to bite the bullet and succumb to the fact that AMEX is simply going to rip me off…and I had to let them.