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Monday, September 8, 2008

American Express, give me a break!

I was on a business trip last week. I got to my (prepaid) hotel. I tried to check in. My American Express card was declined. Oh, I thought, this must be related to their security policy. I hadn't been travelling much before I took this new job, so a month or so ago, Amex froze my account because they suspected unauthorized activity. When I called and verified the charges, they thawed it.

So, I used a debit card to check in, went up to my room, and called customer service.

Seems that even though my payments on this card are current (actually, I made the last payment before the charges were billed), they have capped my spending at $1000. Unfortunately, I had charged $1000 on the airfare and hotel room and conference registration for this trip.

So I found out painfully what American Express means by "no preset spending limit." It means that they can change the limit at any time. According to Joseph #445i82 (not his real ID), because I had a history of late payments, they will not allow me to charge more than that until I have paid on time for six months. I also found out that "Cardmember since 1984" means nothing, nada, zilch, if you've had payment problems.

How can I argue with that? I was very late on my payments when my husband was out of work. I have caught up. I now use this card (or was planning to) exclusively for reimbursable business travel so I don't end up driving up credit card balances and using the reimbursement money for living expenses. I guess I need a plan B.

Polly's Pointers:

1. Submit expense reports for prepaid business travel as soon as they are charged--don't wait until after the trip. You can do another expense report for cash expenses when you get back.

2. Late payments have a lasting effect. :(

3. Try to get a company charge card so business travel doesn't affect your personal finances.

4. Always have a backup credit card.
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