Terrible Tool for Small Business Owners
Shame on me for not performing more thorough customer sentiment research before signing my team up for our American Express Business Platinum cards.
I run an eCommerce startup in the apparel space and like many, was dazzled by the prestige and membership "benefits" that American Express is supposedly known for. I applied for this card, which was a much easier process than I anticipated (a facade...keep reading). I was approved almost instantly and signed my CFO up for a Platinum Business card as well.
We made it through 2 weeks of card use before the issues started rolling in.
I am not naive enough to believe an unlimited monthly spending limit is truly possible. What I do expect is for my spending projections, annual revenue and personal income to be considered intelligently by a rational human being and not solely by a computer algorithm that is clearly flawed. Despite indicating a minimum monthly requirement of $10,000 (a pretty modest limit, all things considered) we were assigned a $6000 limit. Unknowingly, I might add. It wasn't until my CFO was mid-travel that we discovered this to be the case.
After a hour on the phone I was informed that we needed to "prove a track record" of spending and payment before they could increase the limit. I paid the entire balance instantly. The card was up and running again once the payment posted (remember, we're 2 weeks in here). Total monthly spend and payment month 1: $16000. Multiple payments were made in the first month, all before they were even close to being due.
This behavior repeated during month 2 as well. We had the same issues with the card being shut off for spending that we advised them of in advance during the application process and the same behavior of making multiple payments early to try to "prove our track record" as they say.
Furthermore, when you ask their customer service representatives how the calculation for credit limit increase is performed they will not be able to tell you. I asked what we could expect our increase to be for the next month if our spending/payment behavior was as they suggested and was told that there wasn't any real way of telling. You are American Express! You don't know how your algorithms work?!
Month 3 rolled around and we were at our wits-end. The second week of month 3 I was in the middle of business travel and took out my card to pay for something. Declined. This was not only impressively inconvenient, it was also mortifying. We paid all of our bills early and made multiple payments per month. This was the last straw.
I called American Express Business Platinum "customer service" to find out what the issue was now. News to me, they do a "financial review" on month 3. Now the easy application process made sense. They were requesting 2 years of income statements, tax returns...everything I expected they would have handled upfront.
This is the shadiest customer acquisition process I have had the displeasure of being unknowingly subjected to. Whatever was required for card approval should have been handled at the genesis of the engagement. Period.
Mind you, I am in another state traveling for work. This came without any warning. I pleaded with customer service to turn the card on until I could return home from business to gather the requested documents. They said this could not be done. That was it. I cancelled the card on the spot. I was never confident that when I took the card out it would actually work. I could not keep running my business with a card so unreliable.
But wait, there's more!
Over the course of the very brief time we had the cards we accrued close to 90,000 points. Imagine my surprise when I logged into my account a few days later to find they were gone.
To make an already long story a bit shorter, American Express is not required to disclose to you when you are cancelling your card that they will wipe the points from your account immediately upon account closure. Why, you might ask.
Several phone calls and multiple hours of my time speaking with the American Express Business Platinum "customer service" team led me to the following discovery.
Do you remember that brick of a contract that they packaged so beautifully with your American Express Business Platinum card when you first got it? READ IT CAREFULLY. Memorize it. That discloses every shady thing that American Express will be doing to you over the course of your time as their client. Because it is stated in there, they were not required to advise me of the point seizure upon account closure.
This is easily the worst tool any startup could get locked into. American Express should be ashamed of the way they treat small business owners. We were impeccable customers to them. I will NEVER give my business to them or anything they stand to benefit from ever again. Nor will anyone who asks about my opinion of American Express, I can assure you.