I’m sure you’ve heard all about the new American Express Platinum changes ad-nauseam, but in case you haven’t there’s a nice overview here (short version: higher annual fee, more stupid benefits). Once we know a little more about what works for hacking the value out of the benefits I’ll make sure you’re all up to speed.

In the mean time though, I want to offer a piece of advice that will hopefully up your game: When it comes to the Terms & Conditions in credit card offers, shopping portals, spend bonuses, or anything else we deal with in travel hacking: Trust but verify. Here’s a concrete example for us to work with: The new, higher annual fee, stupified additional credit American Express Platinum card. If you read the Terms and Conditions for the card, you’ll see the following sentence at the beginning in big bold letters, slapping you in the face:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card or previous versions of the Platinum Card.

That’s pretty easy to understand — if you’ve had a Platinum card, you’re not eligible for another bonus. Ultimately if you absolutely, positively must have this sign up bonus or you don’t want the card, you should probably trust what the terms say because that’s the legal framework that you’ll be working under if something goes wrong. However, (you knew there was a “however” coming, right?) that statement is verifiably not actually how sign up bonuses have been working in practice. Despite what the T&C says, you’ll get the bonus with American Express unless they give you a popup during the application that says: “… you are not eligible to receive the welcome offer. We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?” The flip side is true, you may be eligible for a bonus according to the T&C, but you may still get the popup and you definitely won’t receive the bonus in that case.

So much of what we do in this hobby is reliant on the Terms and Conditions, and certainly if you ever go to mediation or court with a company, the Terms and Conditions will be hard to walk away from. That said, a lot of what we do in this hobby is to hide in the noise, and sometimes the noise is simply just overzealous T&C that doesn’t actually govern what happens in practice.

So, know what’s in the Terms and Conditions, but verify within in the community to see if they’re actually enforced. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on a fair number of hiding “in the noise” opportunities.

Happy holiday weekend, don’t blow up your face with a firework.

Yes friends, even the firework’s Terms and Conditions “do not hold in hand” term isn’t enforced.