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Update: When I called to close the account, the representative asked why I am closing the account. I told him that it was due to the unreasonable late fee. Then he said "Well, I am sure you have your own reasons for closing the account." I guess he doesn't understand English. He did not offer alternatives that would allow Amex to keep my business.
I have an American Express Corporate card, which I use for travel.
I received a bill over the weekend, confirming that payments were received, however there is a late fee of $39.
Apparently, there was a $99 charge in January 2012 which was late, according to their records. This invokes a $39 late fee. (The payment was in process while the late fee was applied.)
I tried to investigate the discrepancy by going to the website printed on the bill www.americanexpress.com/checkyourbill, and got the error message "This site does not exist".
I then called American Express and entered my 15 digit card number (why does it feel like 749 digits when you are keying them in?), and the other numbers one has to key in before you get into the system, only to be told that I have a balance of $39 due. (Which I already knew, hence the reason for my call.)
I was proud as punch after navigating the rest of the system, and I almost got all the way through to India, before I hit an incorrect button and was ejected from the system. On the second attempt, (20 minutes after beginning the epic endeavor), I was speaking with a live person.
After explaining the situation, she confirmed that this is a simple billing/timing error when it was billed in January and the late fee was carried forward, even after the original amount had been paid. However, she did not have the authority to waive the fee. She referred me to her supervisor who explained that American Express has a stringent policy of applying late fees and this charge cannot be waived.
Cool. Thank you very much American Express. I will pay the $39 late fee, because my time is too valuable to argue further. And, oh yes, I will close my account this week. Believe it or not, there are other credit card companies who want my business.
Contrast this to the exemplary service I received from Bank of America in December 2011. There was a debatable $30 charge to my account. I called bank of America and the representative said "We appreciate your business" and the charge was waived.
Billing mistakes happen. It is part of life. The key to customer service is to fix them, quickly. If you refuse to fix them (like American Express), then you will have fewer customer complaints, because you will have fewer customers.