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American Express Cardmember Gift Offers

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2009 Food & Wine Annual CookbookIf you’re an American Express cardmember, you probably recognize the annual mailings from American Express about their cardmember gifts. They usually send out a couple of these types of offers each year and if you’re like, many of them go into the recycling bin. The one I always remember is the offer of an appointment book and day planner, but they do a lot more.

This year, the offer is for a 2009 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook that has a retail value of $29.95 (you can buy it from Amazon for $19.77 plus shipping). For the cost of shipping and handling, $2.99, we can get this book for free just because we’re a specially selected Cardmember. There is a money back guarantee on the shipping and handling costs too. If I don’t like the book, I can return it within 90 days of the billing date and get a full refund.

If you’re wondering how a Food & Wine cookbook fits with American Express, it turns out that Food & Wine is owned by American Express Publishing. American Express Publishing is a subsidiary of American Express, as you probably would’ve guessed by the name. :)

What’s the catch? The “catch” is that you are enrolled in their “Cookbook Series” where you will be given advance notice of future cookbooks that you can buy. If you want to buy them, you do nothing and the books are sent to you and your American Express card is billed. If you don’t want the book, you return the advance notice card within 14 days.

This is known as negative option billing. If you’ve ever had a Columbia House membership, then you’re familiar with how this works. The negative in negative option billing doesn’t mean it’s a bad program or that it is dishonest. Negative simply means you must decline an offer or it is automatically sent to you.

Is this a good offer? If you want the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook and don’t mind the added effort of declining offers or canceling the series, then it is a good offer. If you never cook or feel like online recipe websites are good enough, then it’s not a good offer.

As for us, I’ll take the Food & Wine cookbook for $2.99 please. :)

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17 Responses to “American Express Cardmember Gift Offers”

  1. lsward says:

    The negative option billing scheme is one of the worst financial traps you can fall into while your eyes are still open. You sign up to get the one great item they are pitching and it comes and you forget about anything else, but next month there is a message you have to reply to or they will send you merchandise whether you want it or not and bill you for it. And the next month and the next month and the next month as long as they can. They can be very difficult to cancel and even after canceling they will continue to send you things and billing you for them. Ask anyone from the 60′s or 70′s who signed up for a “Book of the Month Club”. They sounded great but they were like a sticky spider web.

    What happens if you change your address or stop using the email account they access. Those messages just keep coming every month and you keep getting billed. Don’t ever sign up for “Negative Option Billing”.

    If American Express wants to do it right have them send you a message once a month asking you to reply only if you want the merchandise.

  2. eric says:

    didn’t know about this gift thing…is it the same for personal and business cardholders?

  3. NateUVM says:

    Just not sure it’s worth having to send back everything else that comes along. Seems like one of those systemic traps that syphons away money. Personal choice, sure, but I would rather be out a cooking book and keep my life more simple.

  4. Daniel says:

    I try to stick to the web for my recipes. While I love cook books, I find sites like http://www.recipezaar.com to be excellent and I get to save some of my book shelf real estate.

    I have always found the negative billing option to feel like a shady business practice.

  5. I really don’t like the negative option billing (didn’t know it was called that) because I would definitely forget to decline the offers.

  6. BrianC says:

    I used to go for these offers all the time. These days I find some of these microdeals with multiple steps to be more trouble than they’re worth.

  7. Chris says:

    I wonder how American Express got into the publishing industry and how many other non-financial sectors they are in.

  8. Jill says:

    I think it would depend on the length of the program for me – are you forced watching your mail indefinitely? or is it a year-long thing? If it was fixed duration I’d do it.

  9. viv says:

    I don’t want the gift so what should i do to cancel it. in the letter they told me to return the advance notice card in order to cancle the gift. i want to know what is advance notice card? what is it look like?

  10. Tiff says:

    When you order the book it clearly states that if you dont want the books send back the card within 20 days and you will not recieve the book. If you wish to recieve the books do nothing and the next avlible book will be sent to you at the prevailing price of 29.95. so you are fully aware of what you are doing when sign into the continuity program. Dont blame american express because you cant read anything before you sign up.

  11. Cherie Fensten says:

    I am not interested in cookbooks or cooking or your address book or appointment book. Could I have a gift card to a department store or indivicual store or movie ticker. etc? I have many points but have never received any kind of gift. thanks, cherie Fensten

  12. keely says:

    Does anyone know what number to call to CANCEL the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook Series?! I regret falling for the negative option billing program and keep receiving invoices for something I’ve already paid and want to discontinue… PLEASE HELP!

  13. Stan says:

    1-800-284-4145
    Wow. I just called Food and Wine to return a book and cancel my membership. It was the easiest thing ever. They said to just put the book back in the package they sent it to me in and mark it “Refuse” “Return to sender” and drop it in a USPS mail box.
    They also cancelled my account right away, no questions, no sales job.

    Well done AMEX.

    • Jim says:

      Ha, I just did the same thing… annoying part was they never sent the first postcard where they’re supposed to ask if you want it in the first place. I was surprised at the lack of sales pitch.

    • Abbey says:

      Yeah, I did the same thing. They were nice as can be, “cancelled” my account, told me to send back anything that arrived, etc.

      Guess what: IT DID NOTHING. I still get the cards in the mail saying I’ll get the book if I don’t return the card. When I return the card I GET THE BOOK ANYWAY so the cards mean nothing, just like my cancellation. I returned the book by writing “return to sender” on the outside, and the charge still didn’t disappear from my statement until I filed a dispute claim (which settled in my favor). Meanwhile, I just heard from an old roommate that they just received ANOTHER one of the books for me at that address, which is insane because it means they’re sending books to current and former addresses simultaneously. I feel like I’m going to be disputing charges forever because all of this happened after I called their kind customer service and “cancelled” my account.

  14. Ouida says:

    I’ve been sending them back every year for my mom. I’ve called, filled out the card and nothing stops them from coming. They simply change the product and I have to do it all over again. She is elderly and they are taking advantage banking on her not going through the motions. I’m seriously considering contacting my consumer protection office at the Atty. Generals.


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