AmEx Charges You For Having A Negative Balance. What?

American Express hit Mike with a finance charge because his Blue card had a balance. A negative balance. Incredulous, Mike called and said, “so you dinged me for carrying a balance and not making a payment, even though it was a negative balance?,” to which AmEx replied, “Right, even negative balances.”

Mike writes:

I received an e-mail reminder to pay my American Express Blue card bill a few days ago, and, as always, I scanned the statement for any unusual charges before I submitted my online payment. To my surprise, there was a $1.55 Periodic Finance Charge. I have paid this card off in full every month since I got it and never been late for a payment, so I called their customer service number and was able to reach a human without much trouble.

While the service person was looking up my account information, I scanned my payment history on their web site, noticed that I had not submitted a payment in March, and remembered that the reason was that I had received my annual cashback reward, which was a sum larger than my balance at the time, resulting in a negative balance on that statement. I mentioned this to him as being the potential cause for the mix-up, at which point he explained to me an American Express policy of which I was unaware: there will be a finance charge any month during which you carry a balance and do not submit a payment.

“So you dinged me for carrying a balance and not making a payment, even though it was a negative balance?”

“Right, even negative balances.”

“Was I supposed to submit a payment for zero dollars? I didn’t owe anything.”

“I realize that. It’s just our policy.”

“Doesn’t that sound a littleÖinsane to you?”

He replied by saying that he would rectify it in the computer, and the charge would show up as a credit on my next statement. I am still incredulous that this is actually a company policy, and you have to call and complain to avoid penalties for carrying a negative balance of a few dollarsÖ ironically, a negative balance that resulted from their cashback rewards deposit.

(Photo: DCvision2006)