Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why I Hate American Express

Of all my credit cards, my American Express card was my favorite.  As I child, I fell for those television commercials with Karl Malden who warned us, "don't leave home without it."  And who wouldn't want to have the same card that Ellen DeGeneres and M. Knight Shamalayan carry?   I was overjoyed a couple of years ago when first received I got the amex that allowed me to earn frequent flyer miles.  Although this particular card had a revolving line of credit, I judiciously paid off the card monthly because THAT was the card I chose to have around if I ever ran into trouble.  I don't mess with advice from Karl Malden.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I traveled to Berlin.  Before I left, I contacted my bank to let them know I would be in Germany to ensure that I could access my funds.  This may sound like a touch of overkill, but the last time I was in Germany, my bank blocked my ATM card.  After several lengthy and expensive calls to New York and a fax my driver's license, I was able to transfer money into my husband's account.  For some reason, his ATM card issued from the same bank had no issues.  Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice I'm not as clever as I like to think I am, as they say.

When I got to Berlin and tried to use my ATM card the machine ate it, insisting I was not authorized to use it.  I made an immediate call to my bank at the rate of 99 cents a minute for roaming in Europe.  Now imagine talking to electronic voices and prompts at 99 cents a minute.  I did eventually reach a very concerned live person who quickly appreciated the dire nature of the problem and connected me to the head of the fraud department.  He was a very, very nice man who confirmed that my account had notes in it that I had called in advance to inform them I would be in Germany.  He gave me the direct dial line to his phone and suggested that I take money out on my credit card.  He realized this was little to offer, but it was the best he could do at that moment, and he offered to refund any fees immediately and post them to my account.  

I don't normally take PIN numbers for my credit cards because as I rule I never use them for cash advances.  So I would have to go into a bank and speak with a teller.   After going to several banks, I learned that in Germany, there is no such thing as a cash advance on your credit card.  Sensible.  I think Germany's credit crisis will be a tiny bit softer than ours here in the U.S.  But they offered to help me get cash if I had a PIN ...

My next idea was to go online to my amex account.  I mean, wouldn't that be the first card I should try?  VIP service, helping people in trouble, and so on?  That is what they've built their reputation on, of course.  When I went online, I learned that I could call them to get a PIN, and even access cash in my bank account through them.  Wow, amex was really good, I thought for a second.  A second later, I changed my mind with near hysterical incredulity.

Three different customer service representatives regretted to inform me, at the rate of 99 cents per minute, that my card had been unceremoniously cancelled two days before my call.  I sunk into a deep depression until I was slightly buoyed by company in my misery.  My sister and her husband, who have pristine credit and likewise have a perfect history with amex had their credit limits drastically reduced on their amex cards.  Then my friend Noelle informed me that amex had cut the credit of 50 percent of their customers.

Now I understand where amex is coming from.  They want to limit their credit risk during this economic crunch.  It wasn't personal, it was business.  But do they really want to piss off the people who actually pay their bills?  Or did I piss them off too many times by not allowing them to incur interest on my revolving line of credit?

Anyway, it's done.  We're divorced, American Express and I.  It was clean and simple, but definitely with some hard feelings on my part.  I guess Karl Malden was not as credible as I thought.


Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me just a couple days after your blog was posted. I've been a member since 1995, carried the Centurion (Black) card, and never made a payment late. I figure that American Express made nearly $4,700.00 in the 2008 year just from merchant account fees. That's $4,700 they won't make from me in 2009.

Eric Olsen

SLEZE said...

Did they ever give you a reason for cancelling your card? Do you normally travel without a Visa/MC as backup?

Douglas Muth said...


I found your post from The Consumerist.

I don't know if anyone else has suggested this, but have you considered contacting your elected representatives about this? With our economy as bad as it is, AmEx canceling your card clearly isn't helping, and it really smacks of a bad faith move on their part.

Your representatives might be able to help put a little pressure and AmEx, and maybe even look into introducing some of sort of legislation that prevents banks from silently canceling customers' credit cards with no notice.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I've been getting offers every week from amex to join their elite club of borrowers, I'm glad I've filed them in thirteen.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar problem in Cologne where I needed cash to pay for a cab that didn't take credit cards. (oops) I called Amex and they wired money to the local Western Union ( in the Airport ). There was no limit just a wire-charge fee of $14.. In your case you should have been able to remove the wirefee.

David L Good said...

I've also divorced AMEX. Not by my choosing, however. I've had several AMEX cards... one requires full payment every month (I use this for business), the other has a line of revolving credit (I use this for personal).

I tried to purchase some tickets to California for a family gathering, but was declined several times using my AMEX cards. I went to the website, but found that my cards were still listed... no indication that anything was wrong.

I paid for the tickets using a VISA card and decided to contact AMEX later in the week, when I had some free time to talk with them with all my reports and history in-hand, just in case there was something I missed.

I didn't need to wait that long. The next business day (Monday) I received two letters in the mail - both from AMEX. It appears that both my card accounts had been closed "due to low activity in the past six months."

Low activity? Just how much "activity" do they need? It's true, I don't use either AMEX every day of the week, but they did get used. It seems that AMEX waited until both accounts had a zero balance on them and then pulled the plug on me.

I guess I should have left a balance on there. Maybe they wouldn't have canceled the one with revolving credit.

I really don't understand why they did this. The business card I used made them a LOT of money. Obviously not from me, as the balance has to be paid each month -- but from the fees they charge merchants. I ran at least 100,000.00 through that card in 2007 (I fly a lot for business) so they HAD to be making something off those transactions.

Apparently it wasn't enough. I felt pretty bad at first -- no one likes to receive news that their credit cards have been terminated. It makes you feel like you've somehow done something wrong, or you're not credit worthy any more. Then I learned that this was happening to a LOT of people -- not just me. And it wasn't always based on credit worthiness or balances. Some credit got cut in half, some cards got terminated, etc.

Regardless, I've been very happy with Capitol One ever since then. It's my new card of choice and they've actually LOWERED my interest three times -- without me ever asking. Nice. Of course, I don't miss payments with them (although I try to keep some sort of balance) but it's nice to go online and see that your rates have dropped a little -- without having to call up and beg.

Anyway... that's my sob story with AMEX. What was once seen as an industry business must-have has fallen (in my eyes) to a business must-not-have (you can't count on a card that isn't loyal and issues surprises -- at least, not in business).

Anonymous said...

Its a business its not personal stop taking everything so personal you type-A personality types.

Ya it sucks they canceled/reduce your limit but lets be real here; AMEX has had its limits reduced by its lenders.

The economy is screwing with all of us including the big guys.
Credit card companies are business's: if you are a low profit(or negative profit) customer they want to lose you.
If any of you owned a business you would do the same thing.

Also its smart of AmEx to cancel your card when you have a zero balance.
if they canceled your card with a balance you would just not pay the remainder.

Brian said...

Did you think about going into one of the many american express offices in Berlin where they would be able to print you off a enw card then and there? It's a common Amex service and there are multiple places in Berlin where you could have got this done, canceled account or not; they could either reissue another card over the phone and get it printed or open a new account if need be with the old details - either way you must have got through to the rookiest of the rooks not to find that out.

Zeyank said...

Im in Germany and tried to use my card and it was declined, called them up and they said that they decided to cancel it. I guess perfect payment history, never being late and very loyal customers means crap to them. I might be only 25, but they lost a customer for life now. Crazy isn't it!

Anonymous said...

I want to share something with you. I know more about American Express and the inner workings of this company than all of you because at one point in time I was a part of it. Listen, and this is not to be taken personal, but you have to realize a few things. First things first, American Express does things because they are prompted to do so. So many people are incapable of being honest with themselves about where they are in their world financially. I dont know you nor do I know your credit history but looking at your situation, something had to prompt you being shut down. The reasons why people are being shut out is if they participated in ARMs, have poor credit scores or just credit scores in the 600's. Experian is the credit reporting agency used and they are very rough with their standards. Every day I would talk to people who said they had excellent credit yet they never bothered to pull their own credit to see how poor it is. They trust that they have made their payments on time and yet something is wrong. The reality is that they have too much debt. They have missed one or two payments. Their ARM is adjusting. The funniest thing I have heard is people who would say "well I was like one day late! It was one day! Cant you fix that?!" Mind you, they are initiating the payments themselves by computer or phone. Here is reality. It doesnt matter if you are one day late or ten. Your credit cards are a financial agreement between yourself and one of the oldest financial institutions in the world. A financial agreement that says you will make "X" payment on "X" date. That doesnt mean a day late. That means when it is due you pay. If not, as an adult, you deal with the consequences. What I have found though is that people as a whole are not prepared to deal with the reality of their situation and the reprecussions of their actions. Dont cry because Amex cancelled your credit card. Find out why they cancelled your card. They are a business and as such they want to make money, not cancel cards. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. They arent cancelling cards for fun. They are cancelling cards because at some point, unfortunately, that customer failed to hold up their end of the bargain and unlike other companies they are not willing to wait until the customer sinks they ship. They are going to cut the fat from the whole and move on.

Anonymous said...

I found this blog spot when I googled to see if this was happening to anyone else?! And it looks like it is so I guess I'll build a bridge and get over it!
Personally, I was offended and soooo mad when I received AMEX's correspondence today informing me that my account was canceled. I should have the right to NOT rack up my credit cards and show that I can manage my finances and not file bankruptcy, foreclose on my home, leave my unpaid debt to the wind and all that is going on in this day and age. Why should I be penalized due to the unfortunate circumstances of others financial liabilities. This is stereotyping 100% and it is wrong.
When I contacted AMEX I told them I wanted my account reinstated and I would close it personally due to this will affect a persons fico score. Their response was that they would need to charge me 25.00 to reinstate the account!!!!! I declined the offer and they refused to reinstate it any other way. Than they had the nerve to ask me if I would like to apply for another AMEX card! NO THANK YOU, NOT NOW, NOT EVER!

nathaniel said...

whoever said (2nd from the bottom or so)

" its a business its not personal stop taking everything so personal you type-A personality types."

screwing up my credit for the next six month got personal to me

nathaniel said...

maybe we should remind amex who is doing who a favor
and all those that have merchant accounts should discourge buyers to use them by charging them the extra 1.5 percent over any other card
please let me hear some opinons

Anonymous said...

Just reading this -- Makes me ill. Same thing happened to me. I have 5 cards, pristine credit, never late on anything -- and AmEx leaves me stranded on a business trip demanding that I pay everything in full. I charge about $80,000 a month on AmEx and pay it off. So they caught me when I was in a really bad mood anyway (long travel) and decided to cancel my cards leaving one open with a paltry $2,000 limit.

I reminded them that I owed them about $84,000 as of that day - And I'd have a real issue paying them back if I have to redirect my resources into other lines of credit.

Moral of the story, it was an $84,000 cancellation -- but I have offered to pay them back, $1 per month per card. I figured that will take about 1100 years. =]

We'll see if they negotiate any after a few months of this, or I'll have to determine if my credit score is worth trashing over my knee jerk reaction.

BGrace said...

to Amex apologist -- do some googling and you will find there are many customers being cancelled (inc. myself) who besides being in good standing with amex, had good credit, but some kind of debt to open credit ratio. The agents (no fault of their own Im sure), lie and say the same thing to everyone. They have also sent offers recently of $300 to some customers to close their accounts voluntarily. I am wondering if they are going under, or what. The ill will this is engendering can't be good for them.

My big complaint was I had NO NOTICE, just card declined when used, went online and saw the note about account canceled and went through the same routine on the phone as others here.

Couldnt they have sent an email (I was on automatic alerts for payments etc with email), or a hard copy letter, first?

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me - I was a loyal customer for 10 years, putting tons of activity on the card and paying on time. I had a medical accident last year and some bills got reported to Experian as delinquent but they were the responsibility of my insurance company (and the company paid them). In the meantime, they cancelled TWO AMEX cards I had, with tons of reward points, saying I had too much debt. THe great thing is I have a ZERO balance on the card, and had just made two huge payments in the previous months, on time and in full. WTF!!! I agree with Douglas, everyone should contact their elected representatives and the PRESS>

Anonymous said...

Yea Gads. I appears that Amer Expr is now cooking the books. I made a charge in 11/08 and printed out a copy of statement from the web page. Called American Expr. and asked for copies of my original statements. How amazed was I to find the charges did not appear of the hard copy statements. So, what has American Express done with the charge money? Who did they send the payment to? Since the vendor I purchased from never rec'd the money.

Brian said...

This thread makes me laugh. Check your user agreements, their actions are well within the guidlines you signed on to when you opened the accounts. Frankly not nearly all customers have been cut just many low value card carriers with debt elsewhere thus making the credit extended to them more risky. Every business has margins guys and your well within your rights to use other financial services.

I guess what I'm saying is that the reason nothing has been done even after many posts like this worldwide is that no laws have been broken (also backed up by the bases against American express that have rules for the company by financial ombudsmen

Anonymous said...

I was late by one day on a payment and they increased my rate by nearly 10%. This was on one card. I promptly canceled all my other American Express cards and paid those balances in full. Given how they treat cardholders, I would have been happy if they failed instead of being bailed out by the feds. Our tax dollars are being used to subsidize this type of behavior. When will the American taxpayer get bailed out?

Anonymous said...

If you bother to read through all these comments and other ones against AMEX, you notice one thing...

The sheer number of people saying, "HAHA I filed Chapt.13 or Chapt.7"

Does that tell you something at all?

and last, if you were a company in an environment where people were going bankrupt left and right, wouldn't you be overly cautious?

It;s because these people who DON'T pay their bills ruin it for everyone who does.

Anonymous said...

Despite having paid down about 1/3 of my American Express bill and having been a member for over 20 years I recently I received a nasty letter from American Express that indicated that because I missed one month's payment I could either: (1) cancel my account, have my rewards point forfeited and interest would continue at the present rate on the balance; or (2) have penalty interest of about 27% charged and not taken off the account until I have made 12 consecutive minimum monthly payments. The legal rate for usury in my state is 18%, the rate of criminal usury is 25% but this credit card probably uses another state's rate of interest.

Fortunately, thanks to Obama's new credit card law they had to give me 45 days advance notice so now I will go ahead and redeem my reward points before it is too late. Under the new legislation taking effect in Feb. I would have to be 60 days late (which I was not) on a payment for penalty interest to be applied.

I wonder how many other members received a similar letter.

I am very disappointed with Am Ex. right now.

kitty said...

I must be an "A" personality. AMEX cancelled my card without notice. Been carrying 0 balance. A family member was stranded out of state. Option...NONE unless I wanted to apply for another card. Maybe when hell freezes over. AMEX was "MY" card my first card...33 years later..that is longer than the age some of the meatheads working there. I am over it now, but man that was brutal. I am going for secured card now so neener bo beaner. I cut the card up and sent pieces and copies of letters to Card member services (HA), CEO and the Chairman of AMSE...none of whom chould give a care but I felt better. 33 Years...unbelieveaable.

Tehsin said...

I had their Clear card with revolving balance for over three years and when I started my business I got their gold card. I precisely told them I would charge anything from 1 dollar to 5000 in a month and guess what ,they stopped my charging privileges and canceled my card cause I was not their to provide them with my financial documents within five days. I was never notified that they needed that info because I was out of the country. good thing I didn't charge their stinking card. I got an email from them , called them and they said ohh u r late , we closed ur acccount today, I felt a little sad. But then I was happy. I could have been in worse situation when they would have cut me lose , like our author here. I love my Visa and MasterCards. hell with American Express. I would LEAVE home without them.

Anonymous said...

3/7/2010 Just read this blog and comments. I can tell you the truth because I worked in the company. To the previous comment from another are an a-hole and ass kisser. Amex did set out a plan to cover their ass and their bad investments as well. It always starts with the little people. Yeah they claimed credit limits & cards were canc due to thier credit report. BUT THATS CRAP..all along they did not do this until 2009 they cleaned house its not only your CBR but where you used the card. I can tell you that the elite were spared and their CBR sucked. At the same time Amex screwed their employee's by laying off tenured people over 20yrs. THE CEO KEN CHENAULT NEEDS TO GO. He kept his bonus, he dumped stock before it went down. He hurts the franchise. He laid off people & outsourced work overseas. As far as those who had negative notes on their credit report most were over 7yrs old or errors, even with the clients corrected their CBR Amex would still not reopen their accounts. Congress passed a law to all Credit Card co. So AMEX is doing what they have to recover the money it's costing them. AMEX SUCKS THEY SCREWED THEIR CLIENTS, MERCHANTS, EMPLOYEES. BUT THE CEO STILL KEPT HIS BONUS, WHY DIDN'T HE PASS IT UP AND REINVESTED INTO THE COMPANY? I ENCOURAGE ALL STOCKHOLDERS TO VOTE HIM OUT, HE HAS BEEN DESTROYING THE COMPANY OVER THE YEARS

BGrace said...

They made a corporate decision to dump a huge number of cardholders, with unfounded reasons in many cases, but it has apparently worked, their profits are up. I wish Jet Blue with stop their affiliation with them.

In my case I was never late, balance was paid in full most months (although not required with the type of account we had).

Many credit card companies are now using certain purchasing habits that correlate with likelihood of defaulting or paying late, ie those who purchase smoke alarms and garden supplies, low likelihood of default, other spending patterns higher likelihood.

I don't have a problem with a private company doing what's needed to improve profits, but to revoke a card WITHOUT NOTICE that has been used RESPONSIBLY is unethical at the least.

Anonymous said...

I hate American Express too. For over 20 years I have been a customer. last year, they lower the amount of my credit available. Ok, whatever. I wasn't using it all. I had a monthly payment from the 'sign and pay' revolving part. I paid that and whatever monthly charges due, NEVER a late payment!

Last week, they delete all except $150 of my credit line with them. WTF? Never late, 20 year customer.

Three phone calls, blah blah blah, credit history, new law, blah blah blah.

Mind you, I haven't been late on ANY bill/house or any other credit card payment. I hate American Express. I always loved their customer service people. But I am so pissed off right now!! I am seriously thinking of just sending them $1.00 a month forever. If they don't like getting paid on time and over the due amount, screw them. New credit card laws my ass.

Ray said...

Member since 1977 and I've gone through the S&L crisis , dot com crises and many other smaller ones with them~~~loved the company Now they have crossed the line this time and cost me money Limits on my Corporate card, cancellation of their capital line of credit ( for all members) and today SUNDAY 9/11 a call from them looking for payment that is not due for another week ( never late in 34 years)
paid it off and put three cards in the drawer changed them all to green~~~hopefully they will figure it out bfore they go under~~I hope

Anonymous said...

I also hate American Express. As a former employee I have seen personally how Amex has has destroyed the lives of may people who had relied on their products. The company is particularly odious.