AMEX Cuts You Off Unless You Show Them Your Tax Returns

The credit crunch is affecting all of us differently. Right now its affecting Nick as he sits in a hotel 3,000 miles from home.

Reader Nick says he is opening a new business and has been charging his expenses to his Platinum AMEX — and paying on time — or he was… until what has been happening to so many people happened to him. AMEX randomly cut him off.

Nick says:

I read the consumerist all the time. I also see that, over all, American Express is the best credit card company to deal with. I have just experienced the worst customer service I’ve ever received, and I STILL haven’t gotten my problem resolved, even after calling Executive Customer Service.

I normally spend approximately 7-8k per month on my Platinum Card. I have an additional card holder that does about 50-60% of the spending. I always pay on time, and haven’t ever been late or missed a payment. I amcurrently opening a new business, have been under construction, so I have been using both of our cards for construction runs to Lowes and other big purchases. Last month, our bill was 12,500. The bill closed on December 1. December 4, I got a call from American Express informing me that, “Until you pay us, you can’t use your card.” The bill was due on December 15th. I submit our bill to our investor, who in turn, pays me, normally by the 8th or 9th of the month. So I took care of paying the bill, and thought everything was fine.

I got a plane to Los Angeles yesterday, and thought that I would have a great trip and that everything would be great. I couldn’t be more wrong. I went to make a purchase this morning on for trip in a few weeks, and it wasn’t taking my card. I called AMEX and was referred to the “financial review” team. I got a person in India that I could barely hear or understand, and after a 45 minute call, was told that “basically, we don’t think you can pay your bills.”

This after I’ve never missed a payment or been late in any way across any credit line. I called back again, got someone in the US finally, explained what was going on, and that I was stuck in Los Angeles on vacation, and that I don’t carry another card. I carry my AMEX because it’s the card I use for everything. I told them that I was 3000 miles from home, and that I couldn’t even go out and have a good time while I was here. I asked why American Express didn’t inform me of this, didn’t send an email, or a letter asking me to provide financial documentation. No answer, no explanation.

They didn’t seem to care. So I did what any consumerist reader would do… got in touch with executive customer service. Christine, the executive assistant got me in touch with someone that “could help me.” I got in touch with the executive customer service agent, and they said that they could help out, and understood my situation. They sent me the form that they said I needed to fill out. It was a form AUTHORIZING THEM TO LOOK AT MY TAX RETURNS. I asked if they could turn my card back on for small purchases. She said they wouldn’t. So I am in Los Angeles, with no purchasing power, and after faxing back the form immediately, she called back and told me that she wouldn’t have an answer for 3-5 business days.

So no call, no letter, no call. They let me get 3000 miles from home, and now the “card that never leaves you stranded” has done just that.

Be careful, it will be the last time that I recommend the Platinum Card. Time to start carrying the other cards that I have that don’t want to see tax returns just to let you use their cards.

A few quick Google searches will turn up quite a few other similar stories of consumer credit being slashed as banks try to manage their risk. Even with macroeconomic circumstances being what they are — leaving someone hanging 3000 miles from home is pretty inconsiderate — especially for a card that carries a $450 annual fee and supposedly has excellent travel benefits.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.