An Airline Transfer Partner Threatens to Shut Down Accounts for Transferring In Points!

Last week I wrote about a frequent flyer program’s fraud department gone off the rails.

Air France KLM’s Flying Blue — an American Express and Citibank transfer partner — informed an award booking client that their award booking to Europe had been cancelled, their account suspended, and miles confiscated. They were accused of purchasing miles from a broker which is false. They transferred their American Express points into their newly-opened frequent flyer account. American Express no longer even permits transfers into accounts with names that don’t match the credit card holder’s..

This person is hardly alone. It seems that Flying Blue’s fraud prevention folks have really ramped up, and are taking harsh action against perfectly legitimate users of points transfers.

Reader Mike wrote,

My [Air France KLM Flying Blue] account was shut down two weeks ago and I never did anything wrong! I transferred my [American Express Membership Rewards points] to MY [Flying Blue] account and booked a ticket for a close friend of mine (I have proof that he is very close with me) and one morning I woke up to an email that the miles come from a mileage broker and that the tickets were cancelled and the account suspended

In back and forth, the Flying Blue fraud staffer stated:

[T]he use of our frequent flyer accounts as boxes opened to transfer miles with our non air partners won’t be allowed anymore .

He claims they will not permit transferring points into Flying Blue from a bank partner for the sole purpose of booking an award.

Except this is the exact thing that American Express and Citibank tell their cardmembers to do!

I’m reaching out to Citi and American Express for comment. Developing…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a big devaluation for Amex but an EVEN BIGGER devaluation for Citi as their only other meaningful partner is Singapore.

  2. My guess here is the key phrase is ‘recently opened account'(not that it should matter) but that in addition to a large transfer is probably what triggered the audit.

    If you have a long standing AF account I wouldn’t be as concerned, but we should certainly get comment from Amex and others.

  3. Gary, have you reached out to Flying Blue for a comment? You quoted the response a reader received, but I’m curious what they would say to a blogger like you, knowing that this will be “broadcast” widely. It may even help them realize they are overreacting, or reveal that these are the actions of an over-eager enforcer run amok.

  4. I just transferred from SPG to FB yesterday into a totally different account name, I’ll see what happens and that account has only been for 9 months.

  5. I don’t even understand. Amex / Citi pay their partners for each transfer. It sounds like Air France is accepting the miles that have been transferred into the account, presumably accepting the payment from Amex, and then refusing to provide the benefit of those miles to the intended third party beneficiary (the cardmember). Makes me wonder if there is a rouge, over-zealous staffer or two in the fraud department, or if this is a real policy change.

  6. Agree with “The Other Carl”. This sounds like an AirFrance/KLM issue. I don’t know if you have contacts with them, but getting Flying Blue to respond to this nonsense would be much more valuable than Amex/Citi, if possible.

  7. lol they are a transfer partner for amex and citi, and aren’t aware of it??? That’s like club Carlson giving me a 20k CL but effectively shutting my card down anytime I try to use it lol!! 🙂 Doesn’t Diners transfer to FB as well…?

  8. This is a grave concern to me as I plan to transfer 100K from Amex Platinum to Flying Blue. I hope this is just a snafu that will be cleared up. Please keep us posted. Thanks!

  9. I’m guessing that Citi and AMEX will send some “representatives” over for a little chat with AF/KLM/FB and things will get straightened out REAL fast. You don’t mess with the banks.

  10. Gary, thanks for clearing that up. If they said it to you… well, it’s absurd. I opened a FB account a year ago and transferred miles into it from Amex in order to book a couple of flights. My first and, to date, only transaction with FB. They were great, but it sounds like it may have been a one-time thing for me. Pity.

  11. Holly Cow!! This is absolutely ridiculous! Not only that, the whole situation now leaves me fearing for my booking to Rome next March. I transferred MR points from my wife’s AmEx as well as from my own AmEx to my Flying Blue account in order to book 3 tickets (Wife, Daughter, Self) from Toronto to Rome in Business… Do I need now to be checking my booking every day to make sure it’s not cancelled? Unbelievable!

  12. I think it might be the combination of..

    1. New Account
    2. Large transfer of points
    3. Ticket not in account holders name

    Overreaction on the airlines fraud department, as they should look into it further before shutting down someones account, but doesn’t sound like everyone who transfers points should worry.

  13. I am confident that there’s an overzealous individual working in their fraud department, and that this will get sorted as it cannot be the intention of their superiors.

  14. they also closed my account… i have never earned or redeemed a single mile there… i was just using it to search for availability.
    very odd. i need to call them to see what’s up with this.

  15. Guess I better look into alternatives to get SO and me to Tahiti unless this gets resolved quickly and definitively. Not going to risk the MR.

  16. I opened a FB account, transferred points, and booked tix for my wife to Europe; I’m not traveling with her. No emails yet; keeping my fingers crossed that the same last name avoids the FB “fraud” department.

  17. So AF like the US based carriers is trying to take advantage of the legal immunity given to them by the Supreme Court and generate revenue by stealing miles canceling tickets. AMEX can claim to be isolated from the activity of their partners and that they fulfilled their obligations so that they can wash their hands. So in the end if you have damages, you many not be able to sue anybody and they both know this. The only weapon you have is embarrassment for uncovering the scam.

  18. Typical French mentality. Never mind the actual rules, perception is reality. Plus ca change…

  19. This is rather insane. I think we all have FF accounts that we don’t credit any flights to and maintain just for points.

    I’m hoping Gary gets to the bottom of this as this is rather disturbing. AF FB regularly has promos out of Houston and I’ve been looking forward to jumping in next time they a special on J awards (has been Y-only lately.

  20. @Gary – Just FYI, your comment about “this morning” isn’t timestamped publicly, though I’ll assume you posted this on 1/27 or 1/26. 🙂

  21. Also, you should consider editing the article to reflect that the staffer’s statement was made *to you* because I assumed, as others did, that it was made to your reader, Mike. That makes a significant difference in its credibility. Of course, this being a fraud dept staffer, I’m still waiting to hear what the PR bods will have to say, and I expect that they will announce an investigation.

  22. Sorry to pester you on this, but do you have any update on this? I’m anxious to book a FB award, but don’t want to transfer the MR points until I have some assurance the points won’t be confiscated!

  23. I was supposed to have a call Tuesday. That was pushed because of the Northeast storm. It was supposed to be yesterday or today. I haven’t been able to pin them down for a time.

  24. Dear Gary,
    I have transferred Miles from my Amex to Air France Flying Blue and tried to book a ticket. I booked the flight on miles but wasn’t able to proceed on the website with the payment and was told, as some of the people you mentioned, to go the airport to pay. I live an hours and a half from the airport!
    Do you know how to deal with this “security issue”? Can I requests my miles to be send back to Amex since Flying Blue doesn’t allow me to use them. I have had 9 calls and 4 hours of twitter/facebook exchanges with Air France and they offer no solution.

    Would appreciate your advise!

  25. The same thing is happening to me, 2 years later. Registered FBlue from Amex, transferred my points and now cannot log into my AF account. “Technical error/ try again later” on every AF/KLM platform.
    Still waiting for an answer from AF, does anyone know more about this issue yet? Yulia I see you’re having the same issue, is it resolved? Considering going to the airport too if I must but I’m afraid my reservation won’t stand anyways (if they cancel it?)

  26. Julie, my issue never got resolved. I transferred points but can’t use them because of “security alert” Talked to at least 10 people at AF and nobody helped. The points are still sitting in my account but can’t use them without going to the airport.

  27. Yulia I have been trying to talk with the social media team (facebook) of Air France. They are very helpful but unfortunately they are not aware of this issue. I will let you know if I find a solution.

    Have you been able to use your points by booking directly at the AF counter? My issue is that I can’t even log into my account despite changing the password and email address multiple times!

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