You know those dumb marketing surveys that expect you to have an intense personal relationship with some brand and how existentially depressing those are? I have that relationship with American Express. I love American Express with a deep intensity. There is no company that has so completely earned my loyalty. I love them like people like sports teams. When I see someone use a Capital One card, I want to attack them in a parking lot for supporting the wrong team.
Allow me to illustrate with a recent example.
A few months ago I was preparing to go on vacation. The day before my flight, I received a text message from Amex at 6 AM saying someone had tried to use my card to purchase audio supplies from some place in Montana and perfume from some company in France, so they blocked these transactions for being suspicious.
I called the number provided spoke to the customer service rep who told me that wouldn’t process the transactions and would cancel my card and issue a new one. I explained to her that I was flying out of the country the next day from New York and unless the card arrived by noon, I would have to fly out without it.
She told me that was no problem and that they’d expedite it free of charge with a guaranteed delivery by 11 AM the next day. So, being neurotic, I call back around noon and confirm that the card will arrive and ask for a tracking number. The rep says they can guarantee delivery by 11 AM, but can’t give a tracking number.
What they didn’t tell me is that the reason they couldn’t give me a tracking number was because they weren’t sending my replacement card by UPS or FedEx, but they contracted a private courier to deliver my card for free. Now, that’s not like, using a courier to deliver something from one part of Manhattan to another part of Manhattan. I live in bum fuck no where. I don’t know what a private courier charges to do that, but I’m going to guess “not cheap.”
So I get my card and fly out.
About a week and a half into my vacation, with another week and a half to go, I ended up getting both my credit card and my debit card stolen. My Amex card was fine, but if there’s one bad thing about Amex, it’s that it’s almost completely useless abroad.
So, my bank alerted me to the fraudulent charges and I explained to them that I was currently traveling and without my debit card, I wouldn’t have access to cash. They told me that it appeared that only the number was stolen, so they would deactivate POS charges, but I could still use it at ATMs. They also told me to call back in a few days to initiate a fraud investigation after the charges posted (recall, that in this exact same situation with Amex, they simply refused to post the charges and that was that, with my bank, the holder of my money, I actually had to allow them to post and then refute them).
When I dispute the charges, I again pointed out that I was traveling and I needed my card to access cash. Sure, no problem, whatever. 24 hours later, I can’t withdraw money and when I call my bank, they tell me that the card was cancelled because I reported fraud.
I spend the next four hours with my bank getting transferred to different departments. At first I’m told that they can temporarily reactivate my card long enough to allow me to withdraw enough money for the next week and a half, but I’ll need to speak with their retail escalation department. I speak to them and they tell me, no, actually, when a card is cancelled, it’s cancelled and there’s nothing they can do.
Now, it’s worth noting that I have an account with my bank’s “highest relationship,” which means that I let them play with money that I’d be better off investing and in return, they treat me better than someone with a student checking account and reimburse me for things.
So I ask them, since you’ve now stranded me abroad without access to the money that I let you use to make yourselves richer, can you arrange to wire me some of that money? No. But if I have their bank’s credit card with me, I’m welcome to use a cash advance with ridiculously high fees. No, fuck you very much, but no.
So I call American Express’ global assistance hotline. I say to the rep “I don’t really think there’s anything you can do in my situation, but my bank has screwed me over and left me stranded without access to money.”
First, the rep tells me that in a pinch, they’ll wire me emergency cash to see out my trip. Now, my bank, the people with whom I’ve left my money, treated me like a fucking moon man when I even suggested that they maybe wire me some of my own money, but Amex was happy to wire me money and trust me to pay them back. But, the rep asks if I know my bank account information, which I did, because the better solution would be that they could connect my Amex card to my bank account and I could just use that to withdraw money directly from my bank account. American Express was able to help me access money in my bank account, but my actual bank told me to get fucked.
In summary: Even if I didn’t make something like $700 a year in profit from using my Amex card for everything, they’d still have earned their $195 a year membership fee just for that one experience.