American Express – A Comedy of Errors

A little over 24 hours ago I was ready to be a brand evangelist for American Express credit cards.

On Monday I called American Express and reported that my credit card needed to be replaced as I lost (got stolen?) my wallet in New York City.  I needed the card sent to me in Florida by Thursday night as I leave Friday on a trip to NY and Korea. They took my information and said they would send me a replacement card.  Sounded great.

Tuesday noon time I got a knock on the door and to my happiness, there was an envelope from American Express left on my doorstep.  In 24 hours AmEx had managed to send me a replacement card.  Great!  Thoughts of being able to do basic things like purchasing food or other items ran rampant in my head.  More importantly, I felt comfortable with my upcoming trips through New York City and Seoul now that I had a credit card.

12:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Attempt to call 1-800-362-6033 to activate my card.  Their system is experiencing technical difficulties so the activation system is down.

2:00 pm – 3:15 pm: Call to activate the card.  After entering the card number an operator comes on the line and says that because this is a Singapore card, I need to call a different phone number to activate it. +1 (336) 393-1111. 

I dial that phone # (thank goodness for internet calling else the long-distance charges would start racking up).  Enter my credit card #.  Get the message, “This phone number is no longer in service.  Please call the number on the back of your card.”

Phone # on back of the card: 1-800-528-2122.  I dial it… enter in the credit card # to activate and receive the same message: “This phone number is no longer in service.  Please call the number on the back of your card.” AARGH.

I proceed to call the following numbers (I don’t remember which one eventually resulted in the card getting activated):

  • 800 110 1551
  • +65 6737 8188
  • 800 528 4800
  • +65 6880 1900

The explanation for the difficulty is that this is a Singapore American Express Corporate card and that it must be activated via Singapore.  Note the above numbers are a mix of Singapore phone numbers and US phone numbers – the AmEx support I spoke to at these numbers either provided me with a different number or transferred me to another department.  There was one Singapore number which was particularly frustrating – I would enter my credit card #, the automated system would put me on hold after telling me it would connect me to the right system, and after a few minutes it would bring me right back to the beginning of the menu choices.  So it was essentially transferring me to itself.

3:30 pm: My card is activated!  It is time to celebrate what the holiday season in America is all about… shopping, of course!  What better place than the neighborhood Target where I can buy a new wallet, some gloves for Korea’s cold weather, and miscellaneous other things.  I love Target.  (But this is a rant about AmEx, so I shall save my Target praise for another day).

3:40 pm – 4:10 pm: Shop at Target.  I browse around, happily putting items into the cart.  I will be able to pay for them!  I have an American Express card!  I roll my cart to the check out register.  (You already know what happens next…)

Cashier: “Sorry sir, your card is rejected.”
Me: “Oh, let’s try it again – it’s a new card.”
Cashier: “Okay.  Sorry, it’s still rejected.  You’ll have to call the company.”

4:10 pm – 4:40 pm: I stand at the service desk at Target holding my items and a receipt that says, “Suspended – these items have not been paid for” and call 800 528 2122 from the phone at the service desk.  (Incidentally, while I was on hold on the phone, the Target clerk raved to me about how great he thought Singapore was).  The US AmEx support members says that because it’s a Singapore card, I have to call a Singapore number.  +65 6737 8188 – and the US support can’t transfer me to this number.  Certainly Target isn’t going to let me make a Florida to Singapore long-distance call so I end up calling from my mobile phone ($$$!).  A staff member answers, I explain that my card isn’t working and that I’m calling from a mobile phone in the US, and they proceed to put me on hold… for at least 12 minutes.  Which at that point I hung up since it was going to be an astronomically-priced phone call.  I figured I would go home and use internet calling to keep the cost down.  Of course I had to leave my items at Target.

4:50 pm – 5:20 pm: Back home, I call the Singapore phone number.  I speak to a very nice AmEx representative from the Authorizations Department named Sarah who takes down my information and realizes that the replacement card they sent me had the same numbers as the card that I had just cancelled.  So AmEx had sent me basically a new version of the cancelled card.  Sarah then places me on hold to speak with the US card replacement group, and she updates me every few minutes as to what they are talking about.

Sarah tells me they are going to rush me a new card and that I would receive it WITHIN 1 HOUR!  Unbelievable, I exclaim to her.  They will print a new card out and deliver it to me in an hour?  She says yes but just-in-case wait 2 hours and if I haven’t received it yet to call her back.  Okay, I say!

7:20 pm: No credit card arrives at my house.

7:25 pm: Call Sarah at the Singapore number. She takes down my phone numbers and says that she is very sorry and that she will find out what has happened and call me back.

8:30 pm: Sarah calls and has a US support member on the phone too.  They re-confirm my information and Florida mailing address and stress that they will mark this as urgent and send the card to me right away – and that I should receive it today (Wednesday).

Wednesday – 3:30 pm: I have waited at home all day.  No credit card arrives.  Time to call American Express again.  The Singapore number.  I get an Authorizations Department representative named Jiva.

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Jiva takes down my information and doesn’t seem to see anything about them promising to send the new card to me after my call with Sarah and US last night.  He talks to US customer service and comes back to me.

Jiva: “According to them, your card was delivered yesterday.  They left it on your doorstep.”

Me: “They delivered the wrong card yesterday.  That’s why I called back so many times!!  They said they were sending me ANOTHER card!”

Jiva: “Can you verify the last 4 numbers of your card again?  It should be <yyyy – the new card’s digits>”

Me: “The last 4 numbers on the card AmEx sent me is <xxxx – the CANCELLED card’s digits>”

Jiva: “Hold please”

He speaks to the US folks some more, comes back to me, and gives me a tracking number so that I can monitor the new shipment of the credit card.  He says it will arrive tomorrow.  I ask him what happened to the promised delivery from Sarah and the US person I talked to last night… he just says that something got messed up.

So now I continue to wait… will my new credit card show up tomorrow?  I certainly hope so!  Because if it doesn’t I think I will cancel my trip to Korea and head straight back to Singapore… since I have no way to pay for anything!

I just tried the tracking number.  Why am I not surprised that status says: “Not available…”

From American Express’s website on their “Lost or Stolen Card” section:
”You’ve lost your card, but there’s no need to lose hope too.”


This is how I feel.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Oh good lawd. This experience sounds absolutely frightful! I hope it gets sorted for you soon.


  2. You can call AMEX collect from any public phones to get your card replaced.. as well as authorisation and such.

    To reach Amex, you just need to dial the numbers with a 6 infront. it was invaild due to the add-on digits. otherwise… all should be fine.

    Like you said. it is a comedy of errors.. starting from the wrong number printed on the card. If that didn’t happen… you’d be ready to rock and roll with it.


  3. That’s awesome. I’ve never seen that streetsign before – that’s also terrific. And apparently real!!


  4. Following your experience was draining , imagined that expanded over real time. Sorry mate.

    I hope everything is better now.


  5. […] service design […]


  6. Try Chase Bank, they are named appropriately. You spend too much time talking to computers and, dehumanized, Carbon based life forms telling me, they don’t have time to help me!!?? The only thing they want to do is sell me a new card. So I tore up my
    iPhone 6+ and, dialed my card. Just as I expected, that doesn’t work either. We are
    all victims of this brave new world. Send in the Borg.


  7. Creative comments , For what it’s worth , if your company requires a OPM SF 85P , I filled a blank version here .


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