Beware The Costco And American Express Membership Fee Double Dip

Last week we mentioned that Costco has a habit of backdating the starting date for lapsed membership renewals, which prompted Monica to write in and let us know of another issue they seem to have with billing. If you renew your executive membership with Costco but then apply for the Costco American Express card, Amex will charge you the membership fee a second time. Monica says the Amex CSR who fixed the problem told her it happens all the time.

Here’s her story:

I have the executive membership which costs me $100 a year. Like everyone in this boat, I get a check each year around renewal time that can be cashed out, or used at the register for purchases or membership renewal. My membership expired this past April 6, and I used my check, which was more than enough to cover my membership fee, at the register at the same time I purchased a few other things.

Around mid-May, I applied for the Costco American Express card so I could start earning even more money back on my purchases. About a month after receiving my card, I noticed a mysterious $100 on my American Express for “membership renewal.” That would mean that I double paid for the year. A couple of days later, I purchased some more items there, and the cashier informed me that my membership had expired and I would have to pay an additional $100 renewal fee in order to walk out of there with my stuff. I told her no, that I renewed in April and had been erroneously charged a second time in June and I was NOT paying a third membership fee.

The manager took my American Express, looked up my Costco member account, and admitted I had been charged twice. The only solution for the moment (as they were about to close) was to use a dummy account number to make my purchases (no cash back on those items), and come back to the store the next day to fix it. I went back the next day, and the lady at the membership counter fixed it in “Costco’s system,” but said I still needed to call American Express and request my money back.

I called them that afternoon, and they cheerfully and without question refunded my money. Then I requested to be removed from their automatic renewal system for members. And that was the key; she explained that every new American Express/Costco card comes with auto renewal attached and that the problem I experienced happens “all the time.” So if you’ve paid your dues for the year, you’ll be charged a second time for some reason. It shouldn’t be hard for American Express to disable this feature and let members opt in instead of making members opt out once they realize they’re being charged twice.

I would love to know how many people don’t catch or don’t challenge having to pay their membership fees twice a year?

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(Photo: Orin Optiglot)