1099s for Referral Bonuses: Chase and Discover Join In
American Express 1099s
About a week ago I posted about some craziness with regards to people getting stacks of 1099 forms from American Express – one per card – for referral bonuses.
It didn’t all make sense. I got one for my Amex Gold card for $100, though I’d referred via several cards and well more than 1. Perhaps 5-7 or so.
In general people were seeing Amex MR points as well as Delta and Marriott valued at 1 penny and Hilton valued at .0625 cents. These differ from my MilesTalk miles and points valuations, where I think that Amex Membership Rewards points are worth 1.75 cents each, but Hilton at just half a cent.
Amex is sending these with no minimum threshold.
Chase was next, assigning a fair 1 cent per points valuation to an Ultimate Rewards point. But many are reporting getting a 1099 that erroneously assigns a value of one DOLLAR per point instead of one cent. I have to assume those will be corrected! This seems to be a 500 point credit for paperless statements getting counted as $500. Chase anecdotally seems to only be sending if all of your 1099s together exceed $600, though if you got the $5 as $500 error, only one more referral would have tipped you over.
More crazy is that Chase seems to be 1099ing retention bonuses! So if they gave you 10,000 points to keep a card open, expect a 1099-MISC for $100 in income! That’s a new one to me – and I’ve been at this a while!
Discover has also joined the party, though that looks to be just for those with more than $600 in referrals.
Most interestingly, Citi has *not* thus far sent out any 1099s, despite starting a low key invite only referral program last year. The most confusing part of the program by Citi requires that you meet a minimum spend on your card after enrolling and before earning your referral bonus. Convoluted as that seems, some Redditors speculate that the minimum spend requirement shifts the bonus from income to a rebate.
Thankfully, I haven’t seen nay reports of unexpected 1099s from Citi to date – including for retention bonuses. Hopefully it stays that way.
If you received something crazy, like Chase sending you a 1099 for $500 when you got $5, don’t be afraid to call and get it corrected, though I suspect it will be on its own.
What if you just disagree with the values assigned?
Many people will point out that you can adjust values in your taxes. And you can. But I don’t generally advise it as it can draw unwanted scrutiny to a return. If you want to roll the dice, Gary Leff at View from the Wing wrote about the best way to go about it a few years ago.
How does this affect my income?
Well, it pushes it up! If you earned $35,000 this year, but got 1099ed for $5,000 in referrals (lucky you!) you now earned $40,000. That can definitely affect tax credit eligibilities and the like. It may also make you rethink your strategies for earning a zillion referrals next year.
New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available now.