American Express: What's An Apartment Number?

American Express truncated Ted’s address and sent his account to collections when he never received or paid his bill. The card in question was a backup card Ted used once in May 2006. He called Amex when he didn’t receive a bill in June. They told him a bill would only be issued if there were charges. He asked for one anyway, but they refused. Company policy.

Jump forward to December 27th. 8:30 AM. I get woken up by a collections agency telling me a) that I owe American Express for a charge from August, that b) I was obviously defrauding them, and that c) I was, to put it mildly, not being cooperative.

Ted never received a statement. Ted never received a late-notice. Ted never got a call from Amex. So why was a collections agency on the phone?


Ted was willing to pay his bill. He tried, several times, but wanted the written statement of debt to which he’s entitled under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. He finally paid out of fear that his credit report would be tarnished. Before he did, he figured out what went wrong.
American Express truncated my address so it didn’t include my apartment number. Where’s it going? No idea. I explain that nothing’s going to get to me unless you send the apartment number, and that’s probably what’s wrong all the way back. Since I checked the address wa-aay back in June, this one’s their fault.

Ted’s email, below.

So, I got an American Express card around April. It was meant to be a backup card, so I didn’t expect to use much of it at all. I used it in May, but not in June. A week or two after I didn’t get any statement, I called in, and asked. American Express informed me that American Express wouldn’t send out statements if I didn’t make any charges. Thinking that this was an easy way to get someone in trouble, I asked if they’d send them along anyway, and was informed that it was a company policy.

Well, I wasn’t expecting it to be used much, so I wasn’t exactly worried, and since they would send one out to me if I had a charge, I’d just not use it much.

Jump forward to December 27th. 8:30 AM. I get woken up by a collections agency telling me a) that I owe American Express for a charge from August, that b) I was obviously defrauding them, and that c) I was, to put it mildly, not being cooperative.

I honestly didn’t know what the charge was, I hadn’t received any statements. After several minutes of trying to be polite prior to coffee, and trying to get actual information, I got off the phone with the collections agency, called American Express. They wouldn’t talk to me. That’s right — their policy is to not talk to people who’ve gone to collections.

I called back and finally got with a CSR who basically told me that all she could do was send me the statements. All contact I had over the matter was to go to the collections agency (yes, the same one who had called me, first thing I asked about.) I call back to the collections agency, and spoke with a rather nice woman, who sympathized, but said that basically I did owe them. I asked that they send me some paperwork talking about what I owe, and what’s going on. They ask me to send money, and I said I’d see what I could do.

OK, flash forward a couple of days. Another phone call from the collections agency. I state that I still haven’t gotten any written information on what I owe them, what I owe them. They claim they sent it, and want to know if I’ve sent the check.

At this point, I’m more worried about my credit report than anything, so I say that I’ll pay the whole thing off, right now, no questions asked, if they’ll just clean off the credit report, and we all go our separate ways. There’s been a goof-up, I don’t know who’s at fault, but I’m willing to fork out the money just to let it go away.

The collections agency said that they couldn’t do that, and that the collections agency has little or no contact with American Express. And then, just to make certain it’s just going to be a lovely day, I was told that if I keep asking about trying to make a deal, it will be considered a refusal to pay.

It’s at this point that I point out that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that they send the written statement to me in 5 days, and it’s been more than that. So, why no letter?

And finally, that’s when this all clears up. American Express truncated my address so it didn’t include my apartment number. Where’s it going? No idea. I explain that nothing’s going to get to me unless you send the apartment number, and that’s probably what’s wrong all the way back. Since I checked the address wa-aay back in June, this one’s their fault.

I’m told it doesn’t matter.

After several minutes of arguing with them, I’m exhausted. So I’m finally browbeaten into saying that I’ll see about sending money along.

Asked around, talked to several professionals, attempted to talk to my attorney (no calls back? Buh-bye.), even called into Clark Howard. All suggested that this was basically a no-win situation, pay it off and get on with life.

So, that’s what I did. I paid it off. And the payment went through, and I now have a nice faxed letter stating I paid off the money.

Why faxed?

BECAUSE THEY STILL HAVEN’T MAILED ME. Not a scratch. Bugger all.

Even when I called in to ask they fax me the information they’re required to send me by LAW, I got squat. I’ve asked, and asked, and asked. And now, I’m at my wits end.

Any suggestions?

As apartment-dwellers, we take this personally. Since this is completely Amex’s fault, at the very least, Amex should refund all late fees and send Ted a nice gift card and an apology. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
(Photo: jen dunlap)