American Express Amazes Family After Cardholder's Death Abroad

Let’s travel back in consumer history to 1989, a time before widespread Internet access, when she shopping and financial landscape was recognizable, but still different from what we deal with today. One thing that doesn’t change is that true “Above and Beyond” service leads to customer loyalty, and reader Margaret remains loyal to AmEx because of how they came through for her family in a time of crisis and grief.

Comment In 1989, my father died while traveling in another country. We were told by the State Dept. that we needed to deposit $2500 into an account to cover all costs of cremation, processing, and shipping him and his belongings home. Any monies not spent would be refunded to us.

It was a Sunday and none of our banks were open. My mom was frantic. In the course of a conversation with… someone from one of the banks? I don’t remember… the woman whispered into her phone that if I had an AmEx card, I should call them, but not tell anyone she had suggested it.

So I called AmEx and spoke with an impossibly perky 15-year-old-sounding person who promised to take care of everything for me. Fifteen minutes later, she called with the transfer confirmation number and said that the State Dept. now had our funds. She also wanted to send the AmEx rep to take care of everything, but by then my poor dad was so wrapped up in red tape that no one could have gotten near him or his stuff.

In the course of the next few days, the State Dept. managed to lose my father in transit so he missed his own funeral, but that’s another story. During that time, I got two more calls from managers at AmEx, asking if there was anything they could do to help us.

I waited for the bill so I could reimburse AmEx for the $2500 they had fronted for us in July, but it didn’t come. I called every month, and finally, when I called in November, fully five months later, I was told that AmEx has no mechanism for billing for services provided to Cardmembers. Unbelieving, I asked if that $2500 was a “gift” from AmEx to me. They repeated that they can’t bill for services and confirmed that yes, it did amount to a gift.

I know a lot of vendors don’t take AmEx because their fees are higher, but I will never forget what they did for us when we had no other way out, and that they actually paid the substantial State Dept. fee for us and wouldn’t let us repay them.

We have a friend who has had similar experiences with AmEx.

It’s a pain to have to pay it all off every month, but well worth it to me, just to ensure that they are in my corner if, God forbid, I ever need them.

PS – When the State Dept refunded the $700 they hadn’t spent, I gave it to charity.