Wow… I never thought a credit card company’s customer service and security could be so… frustrating. Here’s my experience with American Express customer service so you can see what you’re getting yourself into.
If someone at American Express would like to contact me about my experience, I’d be glad to share further details with the company directly.
Why I Had To Call American Express
I just activated my brand new American Express Starwood Guest Preferred card the other day. I am super excited because they have a great sign up bonus and rewards program and am looking forward to some great rewards.
After activating my card I had to set up an online account, which I promptly did. I logged into my account and saw I had access and then logged out for the time being.
The problem is, the next day I tried to log in and it said my User ID was locked. Bummer. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem because I’d be able to reset my User ID/Password. I put in my card info then it asked me for a security pin. Problem is, I never set one up. They never asked me to create a pin in the one day I was an account holder. Ugh. Time to call the number on the screen.
My Experience Calling American Express Customer Service
I called the number provided and then had to navigate their customer service maze. After entering their requested information, they asked for my security pin again. Problem is, I still didn’t have one. So, I mashed the virtual buttons on my new cell phone until they figured out I wanted to talk to a representative, finally! Until they asked why I wanted to talk to a representative… I had to listen to a laundry list of things that didn’t include my problem so I had to go with the default “general questions” prompt. Ugh.
After finally getting connected to a representative, I was disappointed to find out that American Express has outsourced their call centers overseas. The person I spoke to clearly wasn’t a native English speaker, and as such there was a language barrier that made the call even more frustrating.
Next, the representative wanted to verify I was me. It’s a legitimate question and I’m glad they do it to secure my account. They pull some questions from a public information database to ask me and list some choices for me to choose from. Theoretically, only I should know these things. Unfortunately, the questions they asked me were so easy that ANYONE who knows me could answer them.
The level of difficulty of the questions were like asking what color the sky is and what color grass is and then giving you four choices. Obviously the answers are blue and green. You don’t even need to hear choices to be able to answer. This seriously makes me wonder how secure my account really is.
Needless to say, I got the questions right… YAY! So in theory now they should be able to help me… WRONG.
Another Error That Started To Make Me Angry
Don’t make me angry. I won’t turn into the Hulk, but I will write a blog post about you. So what happened?
The representative said they couldn’t verify I was calling from a phone number on my profile. But I was! Ugh, I was so irritated. She said in order for me to verify my phone number I had to hang up with her and call the phone number she gave me 4 times. FOUR FREAKING TIMES to get my phone number to register. Insane, but I did it to get it resolved. Or so I thought.
I called this new phone number she gave me and it says it is a national telemarketing agency, NOT American Express. What the heck?! So I called the number on the back of my American Express card four times, hang up like she stated, then called back. On the fourth call it was time to start the process ALL OVER AGAIN. I got through the annoying prompts and eventually was able to talk to a human.
Luckily, this person was able to help me out a bit more. After an aggravating 17 minutes on the phone, they FINALLY fixed my problem, set up a security pin and reset my online access. This person, too, was not a native English speaker which extended the process.
The important part is, my one day old American Express Starwood Guest Preferred card isn’t compromised! The bad news is I easily wasted 30 minutes of my Sunday morning sorting out this awful problem and navigating American Express’s awful customer service. Hopefully this was a one time experience. Their credit cards have some awesome rewards and I’ve had another card of theirs for over a year with no problems whatsoever.
How Can My Experience Help You?
Based on what you’ve read today, you should have learned that credit card companies have identity verifying questions that aren’t hard at all to answer. Is the sky blue? Yes. Is the grass green? Yes. Congrats! You’ve verified who you are!
The second thing you should learn is that some credit card companies, like American Express, do not have your best interests in mind by outsourcing their call centers to places that don’t have native English speakers. Others, like the phone number for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, directly connect you to a US representative without having to navigate through annoying prompts. If you call customer service often, it might be a good idea to check out their process before you get one of their credit cards. Luckily, I rarely interact with customer service, so it isn’t that important to me.
Finally, always be alert when it comes to your credit card. If anything fishy comes up, investigate and make sure there isn’t any fraudulent activity on your account. Watch your card extra close for the next couple months. You can bet I will be doing so just to make sure nothing goofy is going on with my new card. I doubt there is, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Hopefully American Express will improve their security processes and their customer service department. Will it prevent me from getting new American Express cards in the future? Probably not, but I won’t be singing their praises for their customer service numbers and security questions. That’s for sure.
If you work at American Express and would like to contact me about my experience, please visit my contact me page and email me or use my contact form. I’ll be happy to call you and discuss this, but don’t give me a round about customer service phone number with prompts. A direct line will work best.
Have you ever had to deal with a frustrating customer service phone center experience with a credit card or any other service? I’d love to hear your stories and if anything good ever came out of them. My guess is probably not, but you never know!
Lance Cothern, CPA holds a CPA license in Indiana. He’s a personal finance, debt and credit expert that writes professionally for top-tier publications including U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Investopedia, Credit Karma, Business Insider and more.
Additionally, his expertise has been featured on Yahoo, MSN, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Kiplinger, Reuters, CNBC and more.
Lance is the founder of Money Manifesto. He started writing about money and helping people solve their financial problems in 2012. You can read more about him and find links to his other work and media mentions here.