NOT A TRAVEL POST: Simply a rant against American Express Banking

If you came here to read about our travels, you can skip this post. Go to the prior post about Plitvice National Park, or forward to the one about Split, Croatia. I’m writing this more as a reminder to myself why I should never again use American Express as a “Bank”. This has nothing to do with their credit card company either — as far as I can tell — although the sour taste remains enough that I likely won’t be using that card much any more either, and in fact I didn’t bother to pack it for this trip, mostly because there are limited places on our travels that will take a non-Visa or non-Mastercard.

So, on with my rant:

First, a little background: I have (now had) a Certificate of Deposit with American Express Banking. These get set up as a “Savings Account” in their system. I opened the CD account on their banking website, with no assistance from or contact with anyone at American Express. It’s a pretty straightforward online transaction.

The CD matured on May 7th, and I was given a ten day grace period to cash it out, otherwise it would automatically renew for another three years. If I cashed it out before May 7th, I would be penalized and have to pay a fee. Therefore I would have to contact them between May 7th and May 16th, while we were in Europe. I had this reminder on my calendar to take care of while we were in Slovenia and had good Wi-Fi.

So on May 8th, I got online to cancel the CD, only to find that you can’t do this online. You have to write them a letter and mail it to a Salt Lake City address, which has to arrive within the ten day grace period, of course, or call them at 800-446-6307. Here’s where it starts unraveling.

  1. Unlike their credit cards, they will not provide a non-800 number to call. If you are outside the US and need to contact them about your credit card, there is a regular phone number to call on the back of your credit card (it typically lists an 800 number, then under it, says “Outside the US, call” and it has a number with a US area code. They also list these numbers on their credit card website. Those numbers are ONLY for credit card questions, and DO NOT work for their banking system. If you call that “Outside the US” phone number with a banking question, you will be given the 800-446-6307 phone number (which doesn’t work from outside the US) or the Salt Lake City address and told to write them a letter. When asked for a non-toll-free number, you’ll be told there is none.
  2. On their Banking website, if you click on “Contact Us”, you’ll be given the same two options. If you click on “Chat” within the Banking website, you will be taken to the Credit Card System website’s Chat, which first requires you to log in using your AMEX credit card login (different from the Banking System login). So if you don’t have an AMEX credit card, you have now arrived at a dead end: there is no Chat for banking customers.
  3. However, if you DO happen to have an AMEX credit card login, and you arrived at this Chat box via the Banking System, you will be connected to a person who has no idea about AMEX Banking, as they are with the Credit Card group. They will then tell you to call the 800-446-6307 phone number (which you still can’t do because you are outside the US), or write to Salt Lake City. When asked why they don’t have a non-toll-free number for Banking, I was told because they “don’t do International banking”. Worst. Answer. Ever.
  4. Eventually I was able to call a friend in the States on an app, who then called the 800-446-6307 number on her phone, and held her phone up to her speaker, and I was able to cancel my CD and transfer the money out of AMEX.
  5. While I can easily move money around in my bank accounts from here via the bank’s website (not AMEX’s bank, obviously), and I can easily put money INTO American Express’s Banking System, they make it extremely difficult to get your money back if you happen to be on vacation when your CD matures.
  6. As a final note, I am aware that there are places online that state that I can dial an 800 number from outside the US by changing it to 880. I tried this. Dialing 001-880-446-6307 goes nowhere. Dialing +1-880-446-6307 gets a recording (in Italian, then English, that says the call cannot be completed as dialed.

If there truly is a way to call 1-800-446-6307, American Express Banking’s ONLY published number that I can find, from Europe, I would appreciate that information, and would also appreciate if American Express would acknowledge that there is a way for their banking customers to contact them when outside the US. American Express should also address the errors in their website contact links that take customers to dead ends and useless points that do not actually belong to their banking system.

Until then, I’ll find a “bank” that either lists a phone number or has a working Chat option on their website, or both.

Rant over. Returning to beautiful Croatia.

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