To Whom It May Concern:
February 2012 would have marked my 30th year as an American Express cardholder. *Would have marked* being the operative phrase in that I am writing this letter to advise that effective on the billing cycle for my 30th anniversary, I am canceling my membership.
Since I secured my Green AmEx card back in 1982 at age 24, I have been a proud member of your tribe. Being a member did have it's privileges back then, and the prestige associated with the name carried a lot of weight in my profession(s).
I've always been responsible and most often managed my finances wisely; however, in those earlier days of my youth, I did manage to back myself into a minimum monthly payment bind. The strict payment requirements of AmEx helped me to restructure my finances and ingrained in me the necessity for consistently living within my means. It worked, and after ten meticulously micro-managed years, I paid my way out of debt, and except for my mortgage payment, today remain debt free. Another significant benefit has been that through ongoing fiscal responsibility I now have a FICO score near 840.
I am not a wealthy person, nor would I be considered anywhere close to even upper middle-class, but I've worked hard for over 40 years, never missed a credit card payment, always paid my bills early, and I gratefully paid the $55.00 annual fee to maintain my membership.
Granted, I have not made significantly high charges at any given time in 29+ years, and more often than not, charges were under $100.00, so I understand that I am not a big fish in your ocean. A mere minnow in the school of the 99%, I'd say, but still in the boat with you.
Over the years as the standard Green Card fell to the bottom of the class as AmEx introduced the Gold Card, the Platinum Card and the Black Card, privilege spoke loudest to the 1%.
Rewards programs are not free. In order to earn rewards points for charges made to my AmEx, I would have to pay a fee to enroll. How is that a reward?
Two years ago, I inadvertently made an on-line purchase through a foreign retailer, and when the conversion charges came through, I called to inquire. The Customer Service Representative was so kind and explained what had happened.
He noted that my card was up for renewal the next month, and asked if I might care to change my account to a "Senior" Green Card. He said it came with a $35.00 annual fee and was offered to elder and/or long time card holders in appreciation for their loyal patronage. I told him I was only 52, but he assured me that I qualified based on the length of time I held the card!
There were supposed to be extra perks for us oldies, but when I received the paperwork, I didn't find any exceptional additional benefits. In fact, it was essentially the same as the Green Card, except it read "Senior".
I paid the pro-rated fee and received my new card that looked exactly like my old card with terms exactly like my old card. None of that mattered as I enjoyed the tried and true security of my AmEx despite its continuing demise into the discount cellar.
In 2009, I started my own business as an independent contractor, and through February of last year (2011), did quite well for myself. Then as the bottom fell out of the economy AGAIN, I found myself in a sea of promises for "when things get better" but without any new or sustainable business. I've done what I've had to do to stay above ground, but as many in this brutal economy can attest, it's been an exceptionally harrowing time.
I have not ever been an extravagant person, and my financial goals are centered around living comfortably. I'm lucky that I enjoy my own company and am content to be at home, read, and write (otherwise I'm out pounding the pavement to find more work), so it has not been terrifically difficult to live without an expendable income. Still, the drain on my savings is too quickly reaching a degree of some alarm.
Yes, I do have a point. As I mentioned at the start of this letter, my 30-year anniversary would be in February. I called Customer Service to inquire as to whether the $35.00 annual fee might be waived this year to mark the occasion and in deference to my long-time status with AmEx.
I would mention here that my Internet Service Provider reduced my monthly bill by $10.00 for as long as I remain with them (a savings of $120.00 year), my cable company reduced my monthly bill by $10.00 for six (6) months (a savings of $60.00), and when my cell phone carrier discontinued the plan I had contracted in 2002, they allowed me to continue on that plan at the same rate.
I cannot imagine how a request for a *one-time only* waiver of the $35.00 annual fee would put a strain on the financial strength of AmEx, but for me at this point, it would go toward the purchase of stamps so that I can send out more flyers.
I was told by *C* that you appreciate my business but because it was an annual fee and billed automatically, it could not be waived. What? Of course it's billed automatically! It's been billed automatically for nearly 30 years! When I told her that I was only asking for ONE exception, she said (with quite the attitude I might add) that they were already doing me a favor by discounting my annual fee as a "senior", so I couldn't expect any further allowances. I was stunned.
I was going to let it go, but I was so shocked that all of a sudden I went from "a valued member" to an deplorable siphon. I probably shouldn't have tried to defend the request, but I did, and we went round and round the issue. I apologized to her as I knew she was just doing what she was told to do, and finally asked to speak to someone who might have more authority to consider my request.
I was transferred to her supervisor *A* who essentially regurgitated what *C* had said only with more gusto. I have not ever experienced such an end-run and evasive tactics around a simple request, all the while having my intelligence insulted with implausible and feeble excuses (especially in this age of technology). She was not just condescending but patronizing to the point where she spoke noticeably louder and slower as if that would make it easier for me to understand what she was saying.
At that point, I was so humiliated, I advised that I would rather blemish my credit by closing my account than be treated so shabbily by a company by whom I have stood shoulder to shoulder for probably longer than either representative has been alive! For a company that purports to be *all about the cardholder*, you've become the face of corporate narcissism and are literally biting the very hands that keep you in business.
So ding my credit I shall. I'm sure it's no skin off your greed, as there are probably a billion other minnow subscribers that keep you swimming in collective annual fees. I also have no doubt that this letter will draw scoffs and end up in the trash before it might reach eyes that are willing to read it or any one with the integrity to do something about it.
It's unfortunate that AmEx has become a caricature of the institution it once was, and that it functions in the capacity of any other hungry and competitive creditor vying for measly dollars any way it can.
Shame on you.