This Saturday I was awakened by a call from
American Express. Although they had not sent me a bill yet, they decided
I had to send them money right away. The pleasant Customer Service
Representative explained that American Express had decided my charges for this
month were more than they would allow, even though my account was current. In
fact, I had never been late on this account. But, even though I had not been
billed yet and American Express called to demand prepayment on my account, she
said, as a courtesy to me, that they would waive their usual "pay by
phone" charges, and asked for my bank account information. Of course I
declined to take their courtesy offer of a waived fee to pay them ahead of my
bill. How could I be sure it was even American Express calling?
After a cup of coffee, I went online and checked my account. In red
letters, the phrase "Charging Privileges Suspended" appeared next to
both of my cards. One card had not been billed for the current month, so
no payment showed as due. The other account had closed the billing cycle
a weekday earlier. I called American Express to reconfirm that they were
demanding payment before the bill. She confirmed that American Express
could not wait for my money and needed it before it was billed and
due. Again, the customer service representative offered the
courtesy of waived "pay by phone" fees and asked for my banking
information. I promised to have my bank send them some money. They
graciously offered a 2 day grace period (remember, I have not even been billed
yet). Ironically, one of statements from American Express arrived in the
mail Saturday, after I requested their payment online from my bank.
In the past, I was able to rely on my American Express card to pay for fairly
large expenditures. Of course, I have used the card to pay for travel,
including cruise and international travel reservations. I have even charged
college tuition for my two sons to get "Reward" points. No
problem. Suddenly, American Express decided they do not want you to use
your card anymore, even when you have paid your bill. They did it to me
without notice. What if I was away on a trip and was relying on my
American Express card to pay for hotels, meals, etc. American Express
used to boast "Don't leave home without it." If I take American
Express as my only charge card, I may not even be able to get back home.
My Visa card has a greater spending limit than American Express now allows to
American Express charges a card membership fee for using their card. Then
they stop letting you use it. So, you pay for a service they may not need to
provide. How can you know when your charging privileges are suspended?
(I have read they will text any phone number they have for you, even if it is
not yours.) My charge card now offers the same benefits as a bank debit card.
And, my bank does not charge a fee for a debit card. In fact, they
encourage me to use my debit card with higher points than when I use it as a
This event with American Express is surprising, disappointing and
insulting. But, large corporations are allowed to treat their customers
with contempt and do anything they want to their customers. This made me
think about many other companies that we taxpayers have bailed out with our
money. How large companies do not answer our phone calls. How they
can unilaterally change the terms of service. How consumers are at their
mercy. Have you ever tried to resolve a billing issue with your phone,
cable, or cell company? What recourse does a customer have from a large
company who mistreats a customer? What about airline customer
service? We all have different service expectations. Sometimes they
are not realistic. But, what about when the customer has a legitimate
complaint or problem?
I started to search for blogs about my experience with American Express.
My search for "credit card company consumer reviews", and the like,
produced myriad credit card solicitation websites. All of their
"reviews" were stellar and encouraged readers to get one of American
Express charge cards. So, dear reader, I am starting a thread here.
Has your credit card company pulled the carpet out from under you?