Thursday, February 26, 2009

Note To American Express: You'll Get Paid -- Stop Harassing Your Customers (UPDATE 1 -- AmEx Neuters Scott's Card)


I'm really not trying to pile on American Express. But the card issuer has been harassing customers for payments lately. We're not talking about customers who are already delinquent, either. Instead, what I am talking about is American Express going after customers when a payment isn't even due yet. I've been aware of this practice for some time but it appears that American Express has recently intensified its efforts to collect payments before they're due. American Express, your customers -- and I -- want to say something: stop it!

A reader sent me a note earlier this week. This single example is representative of the crap that American Express has recently been pulling. My reader, Scott, was pretty shaken up by the incident.

Here's what happened. Scott's employer sent him an email on his day off. Turns out that American Express called the employer and said that it was looking for Scott. No reason was given for the call, but American Express left a phone number where it could be reached. Scott, thinking something was wrong, called American Express right away. A customer service representative asked Scott to schedule a payment that day. Never mind that the payment on his American Express Gold card wasn't due yet (it's not due until the last day of February). What's more, Scott's payment was less than $1,100. "I have never been late with my payment and have no delinquencies," Scott told me. "It kind of took me by surprise and I asked why I couldn't make the payment by myself as I normally do."

That's a fair question. Well? "She mentioned the amount was over $1,000 and she was going to do it (schedule the payment). I tried arguing with her but she insisted that she schedule the payment. I told her I would pay the amount on the due date," Scott says. Not to be denied, the representative asked Scott where he works and what his current salary is. Scott provided the details. "She scheduled the payment for me ... and thanked me for choosing American Express. I was dumbfounded and felt like I had just finished a conversation with my babysitter or worse, big brother." Basically, Scott got steamrolled -- which, I am sure, he'd acknowledge was his fault. "This is very aggressive and borders on harassment. They must be running very scared," Scott guessed. Still, the representative scheduled the payment of nearly $1,100 and that was that.

But the story doesn't end there. Later that day, Scott received yet another phone call from American Express. This time it was calling him on his cell phone. The representative -- a different one -- said that she was calling about Scott's Gold card. Scott raised his eyebrow (have to love his description of the situation) and asked what she needed. Before she could answer, "she mumbled something about noticing on my account that I already talked with them today and that it was unnecessary to continue the conversation," Scott says. "She then thanked me for choosing American Express and hung up." Scott thought that was weird. He actually classified it as "weirdness."

But it's not weird. American Express works from a list. Customer service representatives call customers and harass them for early payments. I have not heard this, but it would not surprise me at all -- at all -- if these customer service representatives are compensated for bringing in early payments. Credit-card issuers have lots of internal contests. At Bank of America, for example, customer service representatives can earn bonuses (prizes) for getting customers to do balance transfers and direct deposits. I've heard that straight from customer service representatives' mouths. So, I would suspect that American Express is no different. Get a customer to pay earlier than scheduled and win a prize.

Scott wishes that he would have handled the situation differently with the first customer service representative. "After the conversation I wished I had been more confrontational and said something like: 'Are you changing the terms of my agreement today? If you want to change my due date, then go ahead, but send it in writing.' Of course hindsight is 20/20," Scott acknowledges. If he had done that, he would have been fine. I've talked to people who have received this "early payment" call. Some of them have told American Express to pound sand. And American Express does just that.

The fact of the matter is that Scott's American Express Gold card has a 15-day payment window. In other words, the payment is due no later than 15 days after the statement closing date. It's not two days; it's not nine days. It's 15 days. It's late on day 16.

You've made it all the way here. You're wondering why American Express is doing this. Here's my theory (at least with Scott): Scott normally has a balance of $400 or so each month. This month, however, his balance was nearly three times his average balance. American Express probably got skittish and decided to grab the payment as soon as possible. But, just like so many things with American Express, that's just foolish. If it was worried about being paid, why did it allow Scott to charge around $1,100 this month? Why approve some of the charges in the first place? It's just another example of American Express not having its "stuff" together.

American Express, give your customers a break. Stop trying to reach into their pockets before the payment is due. You're alienating them. You're annoying them. And -- in some cases -- you're flat-out harassing them. And just think. If you stop pulling these kinds of stunts, I'll stop writing these kinds of stories.

Sounds like a win-win situation for everyone.

UPDATE: Since writing this story, Scott has now been smacked down by American Express in the form of a hard spending limit. He was notified this afternoon that his no preset limit card now has a hard limit. Says American Express: "after a thorough review of your credit profile we have placed a spending limit" on your Gold card. Here is a copy of the letter (click to enlarge):



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•Read More American Express Stories Here

112 comments:

  1. Wow-

    I have an Amex Gold Charge (Not Credit) card and generally have good things to say about Amex.. Last month I spent over $2,000 on it-a typical month is $800.

    They DID NOT call me for early payment. But if they had, I would have told them where they could stick their card.

    This is unbelievable, and they had better never try it on me if they wish to maintain me as a customer.

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  2. Enigma, watch my comments section. I'll bet that others will report that it's happened to them.

    I'd love to know the criteria for these early-payment calls, though. American Express is an enigma.

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  3. I'm not sure how I would respond to them stealing money from my account (would I take it so far as to file a police report? Maybe...), but I certainly would not do business with a company so subprime that they cold call about bills that aren't due.

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  4. Athens, at least they are not taking the money without asking. They're just putting pressure on customers to pay before it's due. I'd be upset, though. The payment is due on X. Leave me alone until X.

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  5. Did Amex actually initiate a payment without permission? What if that caused an over limit on the payment account?

    Unbelievable.

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  6. To be clear: Amex did not initiate a payment without the customer's approval.

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  7. Oh, I got he impression they did it against his wishes. My bad.

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  8. But Amex should not be demanding payments before they are due, either. Leave the customer alone.

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  9. Nah. I think that he just caved in to American Express. Felt the pressure to pay before the payment was due. I've heard that Amex will call as soon as the statement closes.

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  10. I already scheduled my payment for my AmEx Platinum with over $2500 balance, I tried to use it to pay for parking at JFK Airport and it was denied twice so I called them and they requested the payment to be done on the same day to be able to use the card which I did and raised my spending limit to $5000
    They get paranoid sometimes but it's embarrassing to hear that I don't have any money in my AmEx Platinum from the parking lot attendant

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  11. I had the same thing happen to me last month, but they called 2 days before the due date. I told them that I did not want to make the payment today, as I'd already scheduled it via billpay and didn't see the reason for what appeared as a collection call before the bill was even due. They gave the reason for the call as I had spent more than typical of the last six months. I pointed out that it's likely most people spend more in December than the average of July through November, with Christmas and all. I also pointed out the same card had a balance 3x the current one back in February, and I'd made all payments on time for the past 10 years with them. The result, "so can I schedule the payment? If not, you will not be able to use your card until you pay it down by at least $400." I told them I would pay it down to $0 in 2 days, as per the cardholder agreement, and that I was taking it out of my wallet since they could not tell me what my limit would be in the future (they insisted it had no limit, but I needed to pay it down beyond a specific $ amount). I canceled it a few days later.

    The real flaw (from the consumer perspective) in using the past 6 months' spending to set a limit is that if they don't let you go past your "limit" you will always average down, unless you can charge exactly your limit each month. I expect if you are getting these calls, you are a customer they no longer want. That's how I felt, so I left.

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  12. Tamerrashdan, thanks for the note. That's a twist on my story.

    And they do get paranoid. Not many would argue with that.

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  13. Anon@10:22am, thanks very much for that note. I know it's happening. Hope that more readers chime in and let me know if it's happening to them as well.

    Thanks again.

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  14. I have an American Express Green Card (charge) and last month I charged around $4,000, or approximately 3 times what my average balance is. I have not yet been contacted about an early payment. I am, however, enrolled in their AutoPay program, that autodrafts from my savings account. That way I don't need to remember to pay my bill and because it is due in full every month, I'm prepared to part with the money. I can also keep my cash in my savings account, where it earns interest all month until my charge bill is paid.

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  15. I have thought about turning off my electronic statements with AMEX just so they will give me more than 14 days.

    I schedule the payment as soon as the statement hits my CU's bill pay.

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  16. Tim, I pay the day my bill gets generated. I initiate the payment on Amex's Web site. I still haven't quite got into the 21st century yet with BillPay.

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  17. Auto payment is fine for most things like car insurance,phone bills utility, but I don't trust it enough for big stuff like mortgage or credit cards payments. I like to be in charge of when the money goes out, and the ability to schedule it based on incoming cash flow not due dates.

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  18. razdigital -- For my BofA billpay, I set it so that it pays all of my recurring bills automatically, and pays all of my CC's in full so long as that balance is below a certain amount. Anything above, say $400, requires manual payment/intervention and pops up on my front page. Might want to check that out.

    CM -- This story is awesome. Very juicy!

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  19. Glad I ran across this site. Last Sunday I attempted to buy a computer, printer, flat screen t.v. and other related items and tried to charge it on my AmEx Gold and Platinum card and it was rejected. I've been a customer with them since 1984 and have never been late, missed a payment or had any problems. My line of credit is over $25,000 with them. About an hour after I got home, I received a phone call from AmEX asking if I had attempted to use my cards and I told them yes. They said they thought somebody stole my card and that the next time I should call the phone number on the back of my card to let them know it's me. I told her that I'd used another credit card. She apologized and said she wished I had called.

    Two days later, I get a letter from AmEx stating that in the future, I would have to pay all my balances on my Gold card in full at the end of each month because they would no longer be offering me the "extended payment plan" under the Gold card due to the fact that I don't have any installment loans and my credit score. I don't even need to check because I know there's nothing wrong with my credit score or history. I was kind of worried about what would cause them to do this but now I know. They're having financial difficulties. Well they don't have to worry about me because I'm calling and closing both accounts. I only wish that they would have sent me one of these letters where they're paying you $300 to close your account.

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  20. This is Scott (mentioned in the story). I didn't cave in to them wanting me to make the payment yesterday, only schedule the payment for the due date since I am so obviously incapable of doing so myself. (I have never missed a payment or been late even one day). I was so taken by surprise that I was speechless during the call which felt like harassment to me. If they ever try the same trick again I will tell them to pound sand and even though I used my card for business and travel I have decided that if they are that frightened of their good customers then they really must be teetering on the edge. I need to think about this, but I am pretty sure they wont get any more transaction fees out of me.

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  21. Also, CM...is it just me, or did your helpful reader "Scott" file for a name change to "Chris" halfway through the story? Haha, or is that someone else now? I'm confused.

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  22. Scott, sorry for classifying you that way. My opinion is that you did not want to schedule the payment. You got pressured into doing it. You did it reluctantly.

    Regardless, it's pretty obvious that you're steamed about the situation with American Express. Sorry it happened to you.

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  23. Chris, see what happens when I am multitasking while writing?? Yeah. I did have something going on with a "Chris" at the same time that I was writing that story. I have changed the Chris's out and made them Scott. Sheesh. Slaps self in forehead.

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  24. It's ok really, I'm sure there is someone named Chris out there who is getting harassed the same way. I'm really glad you brought this topic up and I hope it's at least a topic of conversation at the next Shakey Ideas Management session! hehe
    Scott

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  25. It's what happens when you have an email box with about 8,000 emails, Scott. Haha. You interact with a lot of people.

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  26. I'm confused in a different respect. Is there an Amex Gold Charge card as well as an Amex Gold Credit Card?

    Are Amex customers having the same experiences with the Charge card as the Credit Card?

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  27. There is a gold charge card. I do not see a gold credit card when I visit AmEx's site.

    I think this is definitely something that would be more suited to charge cards, which get paid off (in full) each month.

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  28. Clarification: there is a Gold Delta credit card. But in the story, I am referring to the gold charge card.

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  29. This is a letter I sent them this morning on their website. I hope it was okay to refer to your story CM:

    I just wanted to let you know that American Express has been getting some extremely BAD press lately. See this story:
    http://www.creditmattersblog.com/2009/02/note-to-american-express-youll-get-paid.html
    And I want to add that if Amex EVER calls me prior to a payment due date and demands payment, you may as well cancel the account right then. I WILL NOT be subject to harassing phone calls like this when a payment is NOT EVEN DUE.

    I love American Express and the service I receive. These kind of calls are not at all what I would expect from AMEX-Nor would I be willing to pay for them with my continued card membership.
    Regards,

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  30. No worries, Enigma. American Express corporate reads my blog. They've already seen the story.

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  31. WOW, this stuff with Am Ex is crazy and they are running scared very scared. I'm glad I don't have a Am Ex card. So far the cards I do have are OK, no harrassing phone calls or anything like that. I do keep getting the notices of interest rate increases on my cards, which I expected at this stage in our economy. Once the dust settles, I'll deal with them about getting the rates adjusted.

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  32. To Michael. AmEX got all kinds of cards. Originally the Gold card was the one you paid in full each month with no credit limit. Several years ago they called and offered to sign me up for an "extended payment" plan using the Gold card. The AmEx Platinum credit card has always had a payment plan.

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  33. Right. There is a "Sign and Travel" feature with the charge cards. It allows you to move qualified purchases into a credit arrangement. The minimum purchase is $200.

    Lots of customers have seen that feature get suspended recently. AmEx doesn't want customers parking purchases on their charge cards.

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  34. If they don't want customers to park purchases on their Gold charge card then why offer the extended payment plan. I was doing fine with the extended plan under the platinum card.

    BTW, are they still charging annual fees. I better call and cancel before I see it on my statement.

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  35. Remember recessions root out companies with bad business practices and bad customer service. In that sense they are actually a good thing. If the numerous comments from the creditboards.com forums and the readers of this blog are any indication of how American Express has been treating its customers and running its business they are in for a world of hurt. For the few of you they have treated good by American Express don’t let your personal experience fool you. It’s very much like the guy that treats his girlfriend like gold but treats the waiter like crap. Deep down that’s a bad guy and he will turn on you soon.

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  36. sorry for the language but I would have told her to go F her self and hang up the phone. And believe me you, I'm the last person to use vulgar words on a phone. Never have and hope I never have to, but in this case i would have.

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  37. Anon, why do they let customers do it? They do collect a nice interest payment. But Amex is pretty consistent about this: do not let a balance sit for too long on your Sign and Travel (extended payment plan) for too long. If you do, it will get suspended.

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  38. Thanks Credit, it's been there since August and I guess I should have paid it in full by now.

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  39. Everyone, I have a very, very simple question. Why does anyone still due business with American Express since its clear that they treat their customers terribly? I am seriously interested to know why people attempt to keep this account?

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  40. Let me take a stab at this. My guess is that "most" people are not subjected to some of the stuff that consumers find unsavory. So, in essence, people are saying that I'm not affected by Amex's shenanigans. So no worries. I would guess that most people have a fine relationship with AmEx (myself included).

    Most people are probably thinking that the bad things won't happen to them.

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  41. With Amex trying to bill itself as a quality/luxury brand, this tactic has to be one of the most sub-prime, ghetto-fabulous things I've ever read about a credit card company. If Amex is wasting time sending a $1k current account to collections (which is what they did in this story), they've got problems. Sounds like the accountants have taken over. Accountants aren't PR reps, nor are they marketing types. I've seen quite a few good businesses get ruined when the accountants were given free rein.

    NOTE TO AMEX: If you even so dare pull this s*** with me, you can bet your ass that not only will I cancel my card, but I will ensure my company does the same. Especially considering our Amex cards have annual fees. There's plenty of other banks who would be more than happy to service us and don't charge such fees. Some of them are even offering benefits on-par or better than Amex Plat.

    Things like this are exactly why I refuse to allow "pull" transactions from my bank accounts. I don't want anyone else having the ability to pull money from me with a click of THEIR mouse. Much easier conversation to have when they don't have this info. Billpay for the win!

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  42. Anon @2:12, I'll tell you why I still have an Amex Blue card. $900 a year cash back, that's why. As long as I giving me the most cash I can get for my spending pattern, I love them no matter what else they do.

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  43. Sean, I have been talking to people off line today. They're appalled by this. They feel the same way you do.

    This is a low-rent tactic.

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  44. Peter keeping it practical. As long as they pay you to charge, it's all good.

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  45. Sad thing about this story is that I am not surprised in the least. The reputation of American Express is so diminished in my mind that anything they do no matter how outrageous seems the norm now.

    Membership has its privileges.

    Change that to:

    Membership has its annoyances.

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  46. Scott, I'm not surprised by anything either. Not sure what's left for AmEx. They've pretty much done everything to irritate customers. I think it's all up from here. Ha!

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  47. I think there is a deep problem at AMEX if actions such as these are green lighted in meetings. Scary time to be a AMEX shareholder I bet. No matter how rosy they paint the picture to their shareholders, actions such as these tell me there is serious panic going on behind the scenes.

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  48. My cousin have has Amex Gold Card for two months. They stop him using the card when the card balance is over $100.00. They demanded payment over the phone twice this month before the bill came out. They told him the card is too new with Amex.

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  49. God only $100-what is the flippin point?

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  50. Hah! Enigma exactly. $100 limit on a card that carries a $125-150 annual fee. How backwards is that?

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  51. I know where that card would be if it were mine...

    Wonder what they are going to do in the month that they have to charge him the fee?!?

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  52. Not unusual for AmEx to keep a tight leash on new customers. But $100? Uh, ok.

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  53. I wish Amex call me.I would like to speak about "early payment".:)I always keep the balance of $8000,and pay just a minimum on due date.

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  54. Anon, I will tell them to give you a buzz. :)

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  55. You got it, brother.

    By the way, hope life is treating you well.

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  56. I put this up on an older post. It's slightly related to what's going on.

    I got a note from Amex Business Platinum that my charge limit had been reduced to $1500 dollars.

    I'm freelance, a writer. I've always used my card to "bridge" stuff. Payments come in from clients all the time but bills are regular.

    I did fall behind a few times over the last 12 months when money didn't come to me to pay off my bill. But I'm current and I haven't stiffed Amex for my expenses.

    I got a note earlier this month stating that my account now went from an "unlimited" limit to a $1500 limit.

    I'm not complaining. There was a bit of pride a few years back when I got the Platinum card. In these tough times I've worked like mad to keep from being canceled.

    I've really reduced all my expenses down to the bare minimum but still find myself relying on Amex to bridge until money comes in -- but not to the point where I can fall behind.

    Should I now be concerned that my $1500 limit isn't -actually- $1500? That if even if I'm current and well under the cap, if I pay a gas bill or cable bill or food bill with my card it might be declined anyway?

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  57. Oh no! Calling my job without first calling my cell phone or home phone for a payment that is not due would have been the end of my relationship with them. That's not only rude and unprofessional, it could have a very serious impact on my job.

    I would call that harassment, and I'd be asking for an apology at the VERY least.

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  58. What I cannot figure out, is how does AmEx decide which customer to pull which stuff with. So far, I've not had these particular experiences. I've had an Amex Gold since 1995, and a Gold Rewards Plus for a few years, and my spending patterns have been very consistent: about $1500 a month, sometimes as low as $700, sometimes $3-$4K. Occasionally, if I'm traveling abroad, it can go to $6-$8K. I always pay the moment the bill is presented on their website. I have never been late. I had a few extra expenses this January, so my tab was $11K, and I paid it 2 days before it was due. No calls, no problems, no secret limits.

    Now, here's the thing that I hate about the extended payment and travel and leisure options: THEY decide which expenses qualify - and I have no say in it. I have never actually availed myself of these options, but they constantly shift items to "flexible" pay portion of the bill - I'm convinced that they're hoping I won't notice and then be stuck paying interest. As a result, I always select the option of paying the maximum amount (which includes whatever is not due yet). I find the presentation very confusing, and I'm convinced it is an intentional trap - they're hoping I'll pay their ridiculous 15% rates. No way. I've complained about it before to their reps, but of course, they're not in charge of the site design. Oh well. And seemingly every couple of weeks I get a solicitation to become a Platinum member - which I have zero interest in, as I see no advantages given how I use the card. If they ever pull sh|t with me like with Scott, I'll quit the card. They're on thin ground with a lot of customers such as me, who have as yet not had a problem with them - but I watch, and feel solidarity with the customer, not the vendor.

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  59. Jody, all you can do is do your best. It's tough to know what American Express is going to do. Even with seemingly great customers, it has done things that -- on the face of it -- seem odd.

    You, however, seem to be a risky customer. You're using your card as a bridge. That's risky. One thing goes wrong and you're screwed. Amex is right to be worried about you.

    You have to make yourself look less risky. Make more money. Charge less. Whatever it takes. For now, you're risky.

    Will Amex lower your exposure limit further? Could be. I guess you'll have to cross that bridge (pun intended) when you get there.

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  60. Tom, I have spent hours trying to figure out American Express's behavior. I can't know. But I can control one thing. I charge what I can afford and I pay the balance in full each month. Beyond that, nothing else I can do.

    I do know that I would be a bit pissed if they called me up before the payment was due and insisted that I make the payment right then and there. I wouldn't do it. I'd do it on my own terms.

    If anyone ever figures AmEx out, shoot me an email. :)

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  61. I really need some advice. I have an Amex Platinum (About 12K on Flexible balance) and Amex Blue (about 10K balance). Based on what I'm hearing, I'd like to cancel the cards. If I cancel BEFORE paying off the cards (to avoid membership fees and 'canceled by creditor' on my report), will they (can they) demand full payment of my balance?

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  62. Anon, I recommend that you get your card agreement out. It will spell out your rights and responsibilities. My guess is that if you canceled your card, with a balance, they could call the entire balance due (meaning they could demand that you pay it off right now). Doesn't mean that they would do it, but they have that right.

    Seriously, grab your card agreement and see what it says.

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  63. I read the agreement. "In the event of your default...we may require a payment...greater than the total Minimum Amount Due, declare the entire amount...immediately due and payable..." What's more, "default" is defined rather broadly including the amount of debt you are carrying. I have a perfect payment history, but I do have debt, so I think I will be in their crosshairs soon.

    I need a strategy for protecting my credit.

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  64. Good grief, I though default meant default.

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  65. Pretty amazing definition of default, eh, anon? American Express has made the term very broad.

    The strategy must be something like this: pay the balance down quicker than Amex lowers your limit. Of course, Amex could have you targeted for balance chasing already. No matter how fast, or how much you pay, Amex will keep chopping your limit as your balance moves lower.

    My strategy? Pay your balance as fast as you can. There really isn't a whole more that you can do.

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  66. As a follow-up to my earlier post-here is what AMEX is claiming:

    Dear ,

    Thank you for your e-mail.

    I understand your concern regarding American Express and we thank you for bringing this to our notice.

    Please be advised that we do not call the customers asking for payment until the account is in a bad shape or past due.

    We hope to continue providing you with the highest standard of Customer Service you truly deserve and appreciate your long standing association with American Express since 1988.

    Sincerely,

    Steven Lance
    Email Servicing Team
    American Express Interactive Services

    Sounds to me like someone isn't being honest :)

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  67. Enigma, don't worry about it. We have several people in this thread who have said it has happened to them.

    Also, remember when I reported that FICO was dying at WaMu? Remember when the customer service reps were saying that was not true? It just means that the people we interact with through these email messaging systems are not in the know.

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  68. Yeah I know-the reason I sent them the email in the first place was I was hoping that the email would get passed on to some muckety-muck and I would get a real "corporate" response as opposed to a "canned" response.

    At the very least AMEX needs to realize that in the era of Blogs, their actions are not going to go unnoticed.

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  69. For the record, I wasn't doubting what ANYONE here had to say-I was seriously doubting what AMEX was telling me.

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  70. Enigma, no worries on that. I knew what you were up to. I know you don't trust AmEx.

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  71. Well I blog a lot and I started noticing AE bi-polar behavior. I really thought I would be immune to their rants but low and behold, while traveling went to pick up rental car and used the good ole AE. Declined! Really thought it was a mistake and called only to get transferred to credit services only to be told my card has been cancelled. The guy stated recent review of your credit report showed to many accounts with a balance and average age of accounts. I'm baffled, only have a car note and a mortgage. Less than 6 months on my mortgate, car will be paid off in June 09 and nothing else. Just aweful. Good riddance! But American Express is "the" worst company to do any type of business with.

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  72. Enigma, This is Scott from the article again. Thanks for posting their 'canned' response. The key words in that letter are "bad shape". I guess since they can define that term anyway they want they can put you in "bad shape" if you owe them any money at all. I can assure you that I have never been late with a payment and often pay a few days before the due date. If they ever call me again to schedule payment, I'm going to tell them to eat it! After thinking about it and realizing how upset they made me, I have decided to stop using my account, pay them what I owe them and see whether or not they cancel my account. I also run a multi million dollar business that accepts Amex. Hmmm, I wonder if I have any leverage with them now?
    Scott

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  73. Scott,

    too bad you didn't mention the interchange fees you pay them when they called! Might have gotten a different response from them.

    I supposed if I was "under the gun" like you were I probably wouldn't have thought to tell them that either!

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  74. I got one of these calls from AmEx this month on my green card, which I have had for 25 years. Although there is a due date indicated on the statement, it is short and I have always been told by AmEx that on that card there is a "grace period" of until the close of the next statement date, and I always pay by that date (by check), which is the 17th of the month. I received a call around the 11th of this month asking for payment, which had already been mailed but apparently not yet received. They suspended my card until payment was received and said that the suspension would end as soon as payment was "posted." They also asked for my current employer and salary. After checking by bank account on line the following week to ensure that the check had cleared, I went to use the card and was declined. I called immediately after that embarrasment and was told that because I pay by paper check, the end of suspension had not been automatic, contrary to what I had been told previously. At that point, the suspension was lifted. I'm glad I got wind of your blog and their practices because i was feeling like a big loser. Thank you very much for this info.

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  75. Anon@2:15pm, and thanks for your note. Nope. You're not a loser. Just AmEx being AmEx.

    Glad you found your way here.

    Look around; feel free to comment any time.

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  76. Thanks Tom. Yeah, I'm risky. I went freelance (2004) at the start of a recession that no one knew had started.

    I've never done this before, so its been quite.. fun.

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  77. I'm starting to feel pretty glad that I don't have an AmEx, not that I'd ever have been approved for one anyway. But I must say I'm surprised by all this - I've always seen AmEx as some elite exclusive club, and to see how they are now treating their customers really speaks to how badly their business must be doing. Just another sign of the times, I guess.

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  78. Scott again. (I should sign up). Just for fun I ran a report this morning on our company's AMEX transactions for 2008. Our 5 member restaurant group accepted $820,000 in Amex payments. (vs 6,500,000 for Visa). I doubt it means anything to them even though they made about $25,000 in transaction fees.
    Just an interesting number.

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  79. CM: Did you read Consumerist about the internal leak? You have to make a post about it since you said that AMEX read the blog. I apologize if this was mention in the comments but I just came straight here after reading it.

    http://consumerist.com/5160420/internal-amex-doc-on-300-bribe-to-zero-account-and-leave-program

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  80. UPDATE:
    Scott here again. I just received this email from AMEX:

    Dear Unhappy Customer (my words, lol):

    We are contacting you to let you know that after a thorough review of your credit profile we have placed a spending limit on the account listed above. We wanted you to be aware of this change immediately.

    Your spending limit is $xxxx. This means that once you reach this limit, we will not approve any charges above this amount. This action applies to your entire account so please ensure any additional cardmembers are also aware of this change. Please understand that this spending limit is not permanent. We will review your account periodically and notify you of any changes.

    We have sent you a letter with a full explanation of how we came to this decision, but wanted to contact you via e-mail to ensure that you were aware of the change as soon as possible.

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  81. Scott, not surprised at all. Should have figured that you were going to get a hard spending limit on your charge card. Seems like a natural after they hounded you for an early payment.

    American Express: Leave home without it.

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  82. CM; funny thing, I did leave home without it.
    Yeah, i'm not surprised at all. They're the ones having a melt down, not me. Odd timing too since my monthly cash flow just increased by $1400 due to my car being paid off, a small raise and a new cheaper health care plan for my family, LOL.

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  83. Scott, that happened with me and Chase back in the day. Just when it rate jacked me (three years ago), I came into a wad of cash. I cut Chase off for more than a year. Threw the card in the drawer. They've since made amends with me. I use the card quite a bit now.

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  84. yep, same story here... was shopping at Nordstrom with my Green Amex (of 15 years!) and the salesperson was made to call Amex, put me on the phone and Amex asked me to make a payment right then and there EIGHT DAYS BEFORE THE DUE DATE AND SIXTEEN BEFORE THE GRACE PERIOD. I was horrified. I did not make the payment and waited until the last possible second to pay them.

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  85. Anon, thanks for the note. This is a lot more common than people realize. I'm still hearing from people who this has happened to.

    Thanks again for the comment.

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  86. Okay, I just have to vent...

    CM (and all the regulars who know me) you know I read through all the comments before I, myself, comment. When I don't comment is because other readers have already expressed what I felt. (I'm not on the computer all day long, due to my nature of work.)

    This time it's different. I am skipping the rest of the comments to say what I think.

    This is harassment, pure and simple. Calling Scott's place of employment when he has done nothing wrong???

    This is also an embarrassment, because now Scott has to worry about co-workers thinking, "Now, what was that all about?" "Did Scott skip a oayment?"

    All this time, I'm thinking that calling for me at work must be an urgent emergency like "Your house is burning down." Or some family emergency, or a doctor's reminder. Etc...

    But calling the place of work to schedule a payment when the payment is not even due yet?

    C'mon Amex! When have you become Rocky Balboa of Collections??? (Trivia there for you folks!)

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  87. Someone has to call the granddaughter heiress of American Express to say what she thinks!

    And if you don't know what I'm referring to:

    http://www.creditmattersblog.com/2009/02/bank-of-america-heiress-blasts-bank.html

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  88. To all above, I had a Platinum card, Gold and Optima card, along with a Amex Costco card. Cardmember for 28 years. Once I noticed limits had been put on my Platinum and Gold Cards which I payed in full, I Called and was told that a review of my Credit Report indicated too many open accounts. I cancelled my Platinum and Optima and informed Costco I would no longer do business with them due to their affiliation with AMEX. One word of caution though, Make sure to use up your membership reward points before cancelling. Amex is obviously a sinking ship. Remember "To Leave Home Without It". Thats my new motto.

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  89. Absolutely, Anon. Do not "bank" points. Do not let them accumulate. When you have reached a level where you want to redeem them, do it. I always tell my friends -- offline -- to make sure they are not canceling their AmEx cards without first redeeming those points.

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  90. Anon@10:03p, would you be willing to say how many credit card accounts you had open in total (not just Amex?) The more info everyone can provide, the clearer the picture of what Amex is/is not looking for will become.

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  91. Too many credit cards is currently TWO with Amex Personal....FOUR with OPEN AND PERSONAL

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  92. The store I work in has 10 branches in the east coast. The owner of the chain stores called a meeting to decide not to accept Amex cards in all the locations, due to the fact they cut his credit limit. He feels if Amex cut his credit limit then why should he give them business by accepting thier card. We all agreed that 95% of the customers who have a Amex card, have a Visa or Mastercard. I think more businesses should do the same!!!

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  93. I used to love Amex. I manage a few accounts and call or deal with them otherwise on a daily basis. Lately they've been harassing me each time I call whether it's for security reasons or adding/removing cardholders. They keep asking for the full outstanding balance (including unbilled charges!) many days before payment is due. And they don't stop even when I say it's not my decision when to pay. How annoying!

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  94. Anon, don't hesitate to shoot me an email if Amex does something that is really off the charts.

    plastic101@gmail.com

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  95. Now I don't want people to take this the wrong way but; what's the point of paying an annual fee for a low limit Amex?

    If giving someone money to bust chops made sense I'd still be married. :)

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  96. As long as the value proposition works out for me, I would pay an AF. I have a charge card with AmEx (first year AF waived). No hard limit. We all know there is a spending limit, though, but I don't know what it is.

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  97. What kind of value would a platinum card ,with limited charging power, have to add to justify the fee?

    Not bashing the company at all. I had an Amex for the office and used it to book a hotel room years ago. Whoever booked the room didn't understand my needs and put me too far away from the event. I called and SPG did not rest until I was happy, in a new hotel room and perfectly taken care of. They even did follow-up calls and got me checked in. I'd never argue Amex has no value and would have probably been SOL if it were any other card. These days I don't travel much, really can't see the value and am an AU on DGF's Amex anyways. If I were leaving town for an important trip it would be booked through SPG.

    At some point Amex will either offer a no frills charge card that fits into my needs or maybe I'll find a way to justify giving them $10+/month to use the card. At this point, breaking up with DGF is the only reason I could see to get one. That $10/month could be spent on beer, cigars or coffee!!

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  98. Jake, I don't know enough about American Express's offerings so let me ask you this: is the green AmEx card the no frills card that AmEx offers? It's like $100 a year, though, right? Not sure why anyone would pay for that.

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  99. For me, having an Amex Platinum card meant a few good things. When traveling with the card, I was never going to push the card to it's invisible limit.

    What was special about carrying the card was knowing; no matter what happened, no matter where I was, I would be able to count on this card, my American Express Platinum card to make things easier.

    That was always a great comfort when traveling; especially internationally.

    American Express has gone to great trouble to slap that dream out of my and obviously thousands of other customers heads.

    -Platinum Member since 1996 who no longer uses the card.

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  100. The green is basic and $95/yr but it doesn't have price protection. I don't want/need points, or most of the other features. Price Protection does come with the Citi Premier pass Amex which has no fee.

    Amex is a strange bird, though. They were probably the first company that allowed consumer to silently distinguish themselves from those who carry balances.

    Amex should get back to marketing the image that charge card users are more financially sound. Many credit card users PIF but but only one card announces it. IMO, a certain psychology is at work with charge cards and there are times when people react differently on either side of the plastic.

    I'd still argue it's better to get cash back but realize there are aspects to spending beyond getting a good deal.

    If Amex doesn't revamp the charge card image someone else will. Citi, Chase or someone else could easily do a charge card especially considering it's really just a matter of marketing.

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  101. Jake, good post.

    The Diner's card is a charge card, right?

    The thing about charge cards is that, if you don't charge an annual fee, you'll have to make your money on merchant fees alone. It makes a lot of sense for AmEx, since it controls the network. But Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, etc., would not be able to leverage AmEx's strength. They'd still be able to get merchant fees but just not as much as AmEx does.

    Also, they'd have to market appropriately. They'd have to woo the heavy spenders so that the merchant fees made up for the lost interest fees. At this point, because we have not seen a charge product from the majors, I have to think that they've decided that they can't make enough money at it.

    Do you think that Chase, Citibank, etc., would implement an annual fee if they did roll out a charge product?

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  102. People would pay a reasonable annual feel if the marketing were done right. All they have to do is reinforce the image that someone using a credit card must be living above their means. Would they ever get the brand recognition of Amex? Probably not. That doesn't mean Amex' negligence hasn't created an opportunity for other companies. Citi should do it, because they tend to have better marketing, but are probably lack capital to properly advertise the product.

    I'd like one in clear plastic but they should probably make it out of Kevlar, for those with bullet-proof credit. :)

    One buddy of mine has the Black card and would cancel the thing but hasn't used up all the points. His business model has changed and requires less travel so it's not a good value anymore. That being said, he just got the wife a Mercedes SUV on it and the salesperson almost shat themselves.

    All Citi or Chase has to do is capture the feeling people have/want when using an Amex. In a lot of ways using the gold card 'felt' far less stressful because carrying a balance wasn't an option.

    Use your gold card today at some normal place and see if it feels a little different. I know your finances are together but there was always an additional level of confidence for me with the Amex.

    You'll know the right people are reading this blog when a commercial uses the Jakeism: "No meal good enough to pay for twice".

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  103. Jake, good stuff. I think you're right. A card issuer could come in and market this idea. If the benefits were solid, and the price was right, I'd opt for a nice charge card from ____.

    "No meal good enough to pay for twice." I like that.

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  104. Amex has more experience than anyone with charge cards but I still believe someone else could do it well. My guess is that it would basically come down to marketing and changing the reward program. Citi's platinum rewards suck because reaping them means spending money.

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  105. I have been a platinum memeber since 1988 with no lates. They did exactly the same thing to me as Scott. I also have two business associates and they also experienced the same thing in July 2009. All of our payments are not even due yet. Pretty damn amazing. I charge about $5,000 a month and my two associates about $10,000 each.
    I went online after the call , and it states in red CHARGING PRIVILEDGES SUSPENDED. I think a class action suit should be started for a prorated refund of our annual fee. Since we are all current, there demands and harrasment should not be tolerated. Also by the way they cut my Platinum optima limit from $30,000 to $10,000. My balance is $9,862.00 due to some recent home improvements. Credit is closing down in AMERICA.

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  106. I was on vacation last week. I paid the balance $1,670) on my AMEX Gold Card before leaving town.
    I got an email saying they suspended use due to the high balance (1,066). I paid the balance of 1,066 and then called. AMEX agreed after some discussion to set the limit at $1,700.
    I got an email saying they suspended use due to the high limit (now $1,060)
    I got two calls today demanding payment today. The due date is at the end of the month and current online statement shows I have paid $2820 on a balance due of $1,670.
    after the two calls I got an email saying they need to discuss the balance. Email shows balance due as $0.
    AMEX must be in trouble, but they will wait until the due date.
    I did pay $1 to let them know I am alive and well.

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  107. Amex overcharged my card after making a series of booking errors and when i paid everything except a $30 overcharge, they locked my platinum card account. The overcharges and errors were documented in a series of letters from Amex, but someone else at the company just went rogue, suspended the account, and sent it to collections. Shows a lack of coordination, maybe even criminal activity, fraud, usurury, who knows...

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  108. Citibank has joined the fun. I was contacted 2 weeks ago about being at my credit limit. Yes, I told them, I know. I also pointed out to them that I had not missed a scheduled payment, that I would pay the appropriate amount on time. Oh,no, that's not good enough. The person on the other end of the conversation wanted all my information to make a payment for me. I flat out denied this. I told them the payment would go through my bank that I trusted, not through Citibank. She wasn't happy, but I didn't back down. I asked to NOT be called again because I am at the limit. Yep, you guessed it. I got a call 2 nights later for the same thing.

    Every time I send a payment, they conveniently lower my limit so that I am over the limit and they can charge my an over the limit fine.

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  109. Gold card member since 95.. Made 2 payments in November of 2010.. One for November and thinking I was a good person, paid my December bill at the end of Nov. Wellllllllllll.. wrong thing to do. They said I was late on my payments and then suspended my pay over time due to "non payment'.. My bill has gone from 1100 a month to 4300.. No one will help.. Trying to pay for a wedding and have charged and then paid but they said I was"taking advantage" of the pay over time. I told them I will pay my bill but I will never charge with them again.

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  110. The last 2 months I have been harassed for an early payment. I pretty much put all of my bills on my platinum card and pay AMEX once a month. When I refused to pay when they called me last month, they shut off my card.

    I refuse to answer when they call my cell because I do not want them in the habit of calling it.

    Of course this crap happened right after I paid my yearly fee.

    I will be demanding a refund of my yearly fee and will be done doing business with AMEX once I actually answer their call.

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