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This is a placeholder for more thorough documentation of the pain that American Express have caused me. I have grave concerns that their behaviour may have a negative influence on my credit ratings, and I need to supply them a history of the problem in writing, presumably to encourage me not to proceed. I'll update this over the next few days; currently it's a copy of my comments in my diary.

American Express: We don't need no steenking customers

A few months ago I got an American Express credit card. As I mentioned at the time, I had had problems with them in the past, and hoped that things would be better this time round. They were not. Right from the word “go” I had problems with their web site, which locked me out of the system. Attempts to arrange direct debit failed in similar manner; to this day, direct debit has not been set up correctly. I tried again in January 2009. The web site was still broken, but they promised to send me a form, which never came.

All that wouldn't have been so bad if my March invoice hadn't got lost. The first I heard of it was when I got the following invoice with a supplementary charge. I called them up and resolved the problem—they were prepared to waive the charge because I had always paid in full, and fortunately this particular invoice had been very small. So I arranged to pay shortly before the date specified in the invoice.

But that wasn't the end of the matter. On 12 May 2009 I received another stupid call (“This is American Express, can you please identify yourself?”), telling me that I was in serious trouble because my account was in arrears. It seems that this part of American Express had wanted me to pay the sum immediately, and not to wait until the date stated on the invoice. What kind of nonsense is that, especially since I discussed exactly this matter with the previous consultant? Getting sense out of these people is like getting blood out of a stone, but the second consultant (Veronica) did tell me that the first one had given me incorrect advice, but that she would accept it, and I would have no further problems. I asked her how I could know that some future consultant would not say that she had given me incorrect advice; that was, of course, impossible.

Today the impossible happened: I received a letter from American Express, dated 21 May 2009, with the statement:

We recently reviewed your account and have revised your credit limit. The credit limit on your American Express Credit Card noted above has been reduced immediately.

The reduction was to $1,900—barely more than the current balance. Clearly this was related to the previous incident. And they didn't even bother to call me to tell me! Yvonne later told me that she had been unable to pay at two different places on the following day: payment was rejected with the statement “Declined. Prov. Error 02. Contact Issuer”.

Called up American Express and confirmed, yes, this was a result of the previous issues, which two different consultants told me had been resolved. Spoke to two different people, Geoff, who was on his first day, and Roland, who claimed to be his supervisor. Neither could explain to me what “Prov. Error 02” meant, though Roland went off looking, and after only 5 minutes confirmed that it was because they had dropped this credit limit immediately and without notice—to which, he told me, they are entitled.

Clearly American Express have forgotten the purpose of this relationship. The idea is to make payment transactions easier, not more difficult. It's in their own interest to ensure that these payments are easier. This includes the direct debit facility, which takes them two months to set up—why? And if I can't rely on the credit limit being available, why should I even bother? I signed up with American Express in the hope that they wouldn't be as stupid about security as Verified by VISA, but even that didn't happen.

So: American Express is still at least as bad as they ever have been. I asked for a written apology (“I do apologize”) and confirmation that this incident will not somehow find its way into my credit history, but for that I have to ask in writing to “Executive Correspondence”. Maybe that's not such a bad idea: I already have evidence that I can't rely on arrangements made over the phone. I suppose it's typical that Roland took two minutes to find the address, which proved to be the one on the letterhead—and then got it wrong.

So: I'll write a letter in minute detail, numbering the points to which I want an answer. Part of the letter will be this text, which I'll keep up to date on this page.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Mail from American Express today. Two years ago I signed up with them for a free credit card. After months of incompetent and insulting behaviour, I gave up and stopped using the card. Today they told me of changes in the conditions. There's a new card type with lots of exciting advantages:
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Diary entry for Monday, 28 February 2011


It doesn't really make much difference, does it, if you're not using the card? Well, it does. The big difference, mentioned only if you read the entire letter, is that they will now start charging $80 a year for the card. So why is that in the small print? Probably because that's the kind of company they are. Called up the Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 51 81 81 and spoke to Evelyn, who told me that I should talk to the Financial Ombudsman on 1300 78 08 08, but she thought that they were probably allowed to do it by virtue (is that the word?) of their terms and conditions. She's probably right. But why do business with people like that?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

When I had my trouble with American Express two years ago, I didn't bother to cancel the card because it didn't seem to have any advantage. But now that they have told me that they will deduct $80 from my bank account, I have to react, so sent a letter to the purported author of the letter, person to person, asking for explanations. I might not have done person-to-person if I had known how much it costs, but it should be fun to see what kind of reply I get, if any.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

First response from American Express

Call from a Fausto at American express in response to my letter to them last week. It seems that I can keep the card and not pay the $80; I just get half the number of reward points. That's not the point for me; on the contrary, it just adds to my suspicion. The letter did mention that the $80 was for the rewards programme, but not that it was optional, and that I could participate in the programme even if I didn't pay the sum. Asked him to send me a written reply to the letter, to which he agreed.

Monday, 21 March 2011

American Express: good riddance

Letter from Fausto D'Ambra (yes, that's really his name) of American Express today. At least he answered my questions, and he confirmed that the card and direct debit authority are cancelled:
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Hopefully I'll never have anything to do with them again.

Friday, 26 August 2011

American Express: surpassing incompetence

A bill in the post today, from American Express:
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Diary entry for Friday, 26 August 2011


On the face of it, nothing unusual. But earlier this year I went through a whole rigmarole of complaints, culminating in an apology and confirmation that my card had been cancelled, and that I had no obligations to them any more.

So what do I do now? Call them and point that out to them? That way madness lies, and there's no reason to believe that the next call to their help line would be the first one to be handled correctly. Wait and see? They may try to debit the money from my bank account, although I have written confirmation that the direct debit authority has been cancelled. But then, I have written confirmation that the account has been cancelled. I suppose if I have to contact them, it should be from a position of strength. So I'll make a note to check my bank account just after the due date. And if they do, there will be a formal complaint to the regulatory authorities.

The incident had one positive outcome, though: to find the confirmation letter from American Express I had to search through the mess in my office (and that part of the mess that had spread into Yvonne's office), so decided it was high time to tidy up. I'm not done, but things look a lot better.

Monday, 26 September 2011

American Express: true to form

Last month I received an invoice from American Express for a credit card which had been cancelled in March. At the time I decided to wait and see what they would do.

The good news: they didn't try to deduct the sum from my also cancelled direct debit authority. Instead, they sent me another invoice, including charges of $30 for late payment and $2.60 (!) in interest.
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I wonder how long it will be before it comes to the attention of an intelligent life form, and whether that will be within American Express or not.

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