Thursday, August 6, 2015

American Express: Why I'm stopping my new business card today

In May, a representative of American Express cold called me about a new Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card for my business. I have an American Express business card already which is also my Costco membership card. But Costco is going to end that card in March 2016. I thought a new American Express card for my business would be good to smooth the transition.

When you sign up for a new business card, they can set you up with a bonus program. When I talked to Frederick (not his real name) on July 8, his offer was 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points if I charged $5,000 to the card in three months (91 days). However, my wife had received an offer in the mail from American Express for the same card that offered 50,000 Membership Rewards Points for $5,000 in three months. Of course, I preferred that offer. However, Frederick's supervisor, Jonathan (again, not his real name), was going to make me a great deal: 75,000 Membership Rewards Points if I charged $10,000 in four months (122 days). What's there not to like?

Only one thing: $5,000 in charges in three months is something I can do; $10,000 in four months is unattainable to my business and me. So Jonathan, in his "generosity," set me up to fail and the bottom line is that I will have zero Membership Rewards Points in four months.

Frederick wasn't authorized to change the offer and Jonathan hasn't gotten it done, even though it's been almost a month. Calling American Express customer support was no help; the first call couldn't fix it but gave me a number for New Accounts. I called New Accounts twice. The first time, they said that they had no record of a new card for me. The second time, they said that they were a fraud department and that I had the wrong number. I asked them to give me the correct number for New Accounts and that number couldn't help either (although the representative nicely explained the terms of the bonus program).

Note that, after you get your new card and you set up your account on their web site, there is no mention of the bonus program. You can't see what program you're in or how many charges you've accumulated towards the goal. The only way to get that information is to call them.

Normally I wouldn't post this (it's my word against theirs) except that American Express has recorded every phone call I made to them. They can go back and verify that, yes, Frederick said that Jonathan would reset the offer.

I'm putting this down as bait-and-switch: They dangled one offer in front of me, switched it to a "better" offer that is unattainable then refused to switch it back.

As of today, I am stopping using my new American Express card and will cancel it after I pay the next monthly statement. Stay tuned, because I just may get a call from someone at American Express about this; I will update this post if Amex fixes this situation.

Update August 23: I have just paid the bill for the second month of charges. I feel like I'm dealing with a company stuck in the 1980s. I signed up for 3X points for gasoline charges but there is no indication that they are going to pay me the 3X. Each month, I accrue Membership Rewards Points for charges but they are not actually added to my account until the end of the next billing period. They say that I have to pay the bill to get my points, but the computer doesn't give me the points even after they've posted my payment. It's not until the next statement that I get my points and then the 3X for gasoline are not there.

This has just been a bad experience all around. I wanted to short their stock when it jumped to $81.34 per share on August 11 but I didn't get it done. It's now down 5.3% and going down further, I expect.

Update June 29, 2016: Yesterday, I canceled the account. I will forfeit just over 4,000 bonus points. If the bait-and-switch hadn't happened, I would have had about 60,000 bonus points. (I could have used the points I had but I waited too long.)

Update November 11, 2016: When I canceled the account the representative told me I could contribute the 4,000 bonus points to a charity from a list. He said to watch for two email messages. The messages never arrived. It was a fitting end to a relationship with a sleazy company stuck in the '80s. Today, the stock is down 14% from August 11, 2015 but it has been lower.

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