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Anonymous24 Jan 2008
When I graduated college and got my first job, My father told me that one of the most important things I need to do is to get an American Express card. I then told him that I did not agree, as I did not see a reason to pay for a card, when so many other banks offer cards for free. I went on to argue that the credit card companies already earn a percentage on my purchases from the fees they charge to merchants, and that there was no reason to for me to give them more money on top of that. My father then explained that American Express is more than a Credit card, rather it is a service that is designed to help you in a wide arrange of situations you will encounter in your life, If I remember the quote correctly, he said “from renting a car to a major incident, AMEX is there”. Trusting my fathers words, At a very young age, I applied and received a AMEX card.
Becoming an international business consultant, I found my fathers advice to be very helpful. Having the American Express Platinum card in my pocket made my traveling life much easier. I received assistance from AMEX from situations like the airlines loosing my luggage, Car Rental accidents, finding hotels in far away cities, to helping me get a new card and some local currency, when my wallet was stolen, within hours. Anytime I had a problem, I would call the International service center and it seemed that someone would do whatever they could to assist me in my time of need. I never doubted that the 500 dollar a year membership fee was not worth it.
In 2002 due to my extensive time in Europe, I set up a second residence in Germany. For the first three years, I relied on my US AMEX card for all of my needs. As time went on, and it became clear that I would live in Germany on a more fixed basis, I decided to apply for an AMEX card in Germany. Due to my good credit status, I was granted a Platinum AMEX card from American Express Germany. Since I traveled mostly within Europe, I began to use this card for more and more things. As with the US based card, I felt I received the same service with this card. As time went on, American Express offered me a line of credit. Being a consultant, who deals with complex, multicurrency contracts, a line of credit in Germany, my current home base, seemed like a good idea. From then until now, I used the card and the line of credit often, NEVER missing or being late on any payment.
At the beginning of this week, I went out to a restaurant with a client. At the end of the meal I took out my AMEX card, and gave it to the waiter. He processed it, returned to the table, and then informed me that the card was rejected. After being embarrassed, I pulled out my US based AMEX card and asked him to use that one. He returned with a receipt for me to sign, as the card was happily accepted. Upon returning home that night, I found two separate letters from American Express Germany informing me that for no particular reason they were cancelling both my Platinum card and my line of credit. Fearful that someone had tampered with my account, I wrote a fax and sent it out that night, asking for a call back.
As I expected, following all of the other service I received in the past, I received a call the next morning from a woman called Frau Schallau. She informed me that the accounts had been cancelled due to them receiving a letter from the Schufa ,the German credit reporting agency, informing them that there is some kind of bad account that is under my name at a bank that has no affiliation with any branch of American Express. As soon as she said this, I was aware of the issue she was speaking about.
Earlier the prior week, I had received a letter from Barclay Bank Germany, issuers of my local Visa and Master Cards asking me to call them. During my call to them, I was informed of a letter they received from Schufa stating that I had a delinquent account. Knowing that I always pay my bills Barclay Bank told me that this would not affect my account, but I should check into it. The same day I requested a copy of my report, and received it 3 days later. On this report, there appeared some strange entries stating I owed a debt since the year 2003. I acted upon this information by sending the documentation to my lawyer, and having him begin the proper measures to remove this error from the record.
After Frau Schallau finished explaining that since the Schufa sent her a letter, she HAD to close all of my accounts. I then began to inform the woman that I had been a customer for years in the US and for the past years here in Germany. I added that if she would look into her system, she would see that this must be a mistake, as my balance is often in the thousands of Euros, and I have never missed a payment, Period. I then explained the story above. Throughout my dialogue, Frau Schallau, listened carefully, and did not interrupt. I figured that she would look up my file, see the backup to what I was saying, and then open my accounts. When I finished, she repeated her line that she could do nothing, but she told me that when the lawyers do fix the situation, she would be “more than happy” to reinstate my accounts and “even give me a credit for the membership fee” during the “days” this would last.
If you live in Germany, you know that very few things take days, especially when there are lawyers involved. I told the lady that I think that this will last at least some weeks, and that taking my card away now, when I am probably mostly in need of its services, is a huge breach of confidence. I let her know that this IS the reason that I pay 500 Euros a year for the “privilege” of membership. She again listened, apologized, and repeated her promise to refund the membership fee for this period. I thanked her and then hung up.
What it seems like to me is that American Express Germany, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Express USA, Overseen by the UK office, does not really care to uphold the commitment to card members as the main branch does. This kind of treatment I would have expected if I missed a payment to American Express, which I have not. I was surprised how the extreme difference how I was treated from American Express, a card that costs 500 Euros a year, verses Barclay card, a card that costs 30 Euros per year. Since this has happened I have looked at the possibility to switch to the Barclay Card Platinum product. It seems that they do not abandon their customers for no reasons, and their platinum services seem to match American Express.
UPDATE: before I left for my yearly holiday in December, I faxed a letter from the lawyer of the creditor that falsely stated that I had an open balance. I faxed this letter to the German Amex office expecting a prompt response. I received an SMS from them while I was away to “Urgently” call them. From overseas, I called the office. The person on the other side of the line stated that he would not accept or any other letter. He then told me that my card would be cancelled as of Jan 31st. I came home to receive a letter stating this, and also a new card statement with charge of 500 Euros to renew my platinum membership. I have now decided to cancel my American cards, and after telling this story to my family and some friends, they have also chosen the same action. I am so disappointed that this has happened. You can check all of these facts in my membership history and profile.24 Jan 2008
Wow, nasty storyline there and I hope they haven’t cancelled your cards on 31 Jan.
I too have Amex Plat (both work and personal) and pay the oustanding balance in full each month.14 Feb 2008
Slightly different story, but something to be wary about with Amex.
Having recently downgraded from Platinum to Gold, I was on a trip to LA for work and on checking out of my hotel my card was rejected. After being rejected a number of times I called Amex in the UK, only to be told that my planned expenditure at the hotel would put me over the limit of the card.
I promptly replied that Amex cards do not have a limit (one of the reasons I use them as I have no idea how much I will spend on many of my trips – I deal in exhibitions and events, so can put on a load of extras on my card), and Amex promtly informed me that they analysed the use of my card over the past year and put in place a limit.
I have no objection, in principal, to them doing this, however, to market a srevice that has ‘no spending limit’ and then put a limit on the card is, I think inappropriate and misleading. Moreover to dot his and not inform the customer that this is happenning is down right rude and unprofessional.
At the time, I had no other means of paying the whole bill and Amex would not raise the limit of my card so I had to get a couple of my colleagues to split my bill and cover the costs. Had they not been there, I honestly do not know how I would have managed to pay my bill.
Having spoken to Amex since they have not apologiesed for putting me in this position nor for not helping me out of the situation. Moreover, no one has been able to tell me what my actual spending limit is.
I am so annoyed with them that I would like to take my business elsewhere, but don’t know who provides a similar service (Diners is an obvious choice, but has very limited acceptance).
I should point out that I clear 100% of my balance every month and have done in the 10 years or so that I have been a customer.20 Apr 2009