Friday, December 19, 2014

American Express Blue Cash Reward Card- Not So Rewarding

I got an American Express Blue Cash reward card a few years ago because my Discover card (at that time) had a limit on how much cash back I could earn.  Subsequently, I got an American Express Cost membership card that also offers cash back. Then, Discover removed the cap on their rewards and I shop a LOT at Costco, so the Blue Card kind of fell off my radar until one day I was on their site and noticed I had accumulated a bunch of "reward dollars" that I had never used. Jackpot I thought. I'll just take it in cash.

Not so fast. Unlike Discover which offers you options of cash, using it to shop at Amazon, a credit towards your statement or shopping on their site (with small discounts), American Express Blue "reward dollars" can't be redeemed for cash.  Since I hardly ever use the card anymore I didn't want to apply it to my statement. So, I decided to shop on their site using my reward dollars to buy things I would buy anyway.  Well, the gift cards for restaurants, etc., etc. are full price. So, there's no real benefit to using them for gift cards.  But, here is the real kicker. The merchandise you can buy in their shop on-line store is not only not discounted, it's marked up. In some cases way up.

For example, the Jawbone UP24 which I recently bought for $90 is $173 reward dollars on their site. Jawbone is selling it for $100 on their site.  That's a 73% markup over and above the retail price.  The Fitbit Flex which is selling for $100 at Costco (with two bonus bands) is $119 at the AmEx store.  That's a 20% markup.

I'm insulted. I'm taking my dollars in Amazon gift cards and shopping there where I can get the full value for them.  And, the AmEx Blue Card goes back to the back of the wallet.