Blindsided by AmEx’s demand
My wife, Charlotte, and I took a wonderful trip to the Middle East and Europe, Nov. 8-30, 2011, that included a 16-day cruise from Safaga, Egypt, to Barcelona, Spain, on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Voyager. Although we were in Cairo when the demonstrations in Tahrir Square ramped up again and we were in Israel when two Qassam rockets were launched into the western Negev from the Gaza Strip, the event that caused us the most concern on our trip happened the day we left our home.
On Nov. 2, a message left on our answering machine between 9 and 10 a.m. asked us to call American Express (AmEx) immediately. Charlotte, the primary account holder, returned the call at 10 a.m. and talked to Scott, of the American Express Financial Review Team, who told her that our AmEx Delta SkyMiles credit card had been placed on “hold” until such time as we supplied AmEx with certain financial documents and/or income tax information.
She told Scott we would be happy to provide the information but that we, literally, were going out the door for the airport on our way to begin a 3-week trip overseas. (We would pick up friends at nearby Palomar Airport, then drive to Los Angeles, where, six days later, we would fly to Cairo.)
She asked Scott to remove the “hold” on our credit card and let us respond to the request upon our December 1 return from our travels.
Scott said that that would be impossible and that our credit card would be canceled if we did not provide the requested information within five days. He further said that he would e-mail us a message explaining in detail what information would be required.
Charlotte told Scott that we would not have access to e-mail during our trip so could not respond until after our return.
She asked Scott what prompted this request and why there was such urgency. He said nothing prompted the request but that it was just the result of a normal review of our account.
After talking to Scott, I confirmed online that the account’s status was “on hold.” We went to the bank to withdraw sufficient cash to get us through our trip, then proceeded to pick up our friends.
We were quite busy with friends and relatives while staying in LA, and, based on our phone conversation with Scott, we naively believed that AmEx would not actually cancel our account until after we returned from our trip. Also, without AmEx giving us some reason for the urgency of their request, we were leery about providing this type of sensitive information on such short notice, particularly without first getting proper identification. In addition, our tax returns were at our second residence, which was a 2-hour drive from both our San Marcos home and Los Angeles.
We left the US for Egypt on Nov. 8, enjoyed our trip and flew home from Barcelona on Nov. 30.
Upon our return on Dec. 1, we found the following e-mails and letters from AmEx: a Nov. 2 e-mail from Scott requesting tax information; a Nov. 2 letter from AmEx asking us to contact them, and a Nov. 15 e-mail and letter from AmEx saying they were closing our account.
The Nov. 2 e-mail opened with this paragraph: “American Express recently requested that you complete and return a tax form called the 4506T in order to conduct a financial review. The 4506T authorizes American Express to retrieve tax information. We find the review process to be a necessary requirement in order to conduct our business in a prudent and successful manner.”
We are particularly upset by this sequence of events because of our unblemished history with American Express. The account was originally opened on June 19, 2000. The credit limit for the account was $37,500. We never had a delinquent payment on this account, and every statement balance was always paid in full.
The calendar year amounts charged on this account each of the last several years have been well in excess of $50,000. It is unbelievable to us that American Express would treat loyal 11-year account holders the way they treated us. We were especially miffed that AmEx put the “hold” on our account before the original call was ever made to us.
The consequences of the above action taken by American Express were even more severe in that recurring (automatically paid) credit card charges went unpaid. We have not checked our credit scores, but we are aware that an unsolicited credit card cancellation can have an adverse effect on them.
We have made no attempt to reopen that account with American Express; however, we do have a different AmEx card under my name. Charlotte was allowed to keep her SkyMiles from the closed account.
San Marcos, CA
ITN mailed and e-mailed Mr. Rubendall’s letter to American Express (Box 981534, El Paso, TX 79998; email@example.com) and received no reply.