I have holiday hangover and I am not talking about booze. It was tis the season... to overspend . And overspent I did. It started with Black Friday and ended with one last hurrah of finding the almost perfect new years outfit. (See last post).
Of course I didn't have the cash and since I no longer use credit cards, I put everything on Amex. I would just pay it off at the end of the month. After a plethora of holiday gifts and medical expenses combined with a non-existant Christmas bonus and an insurance check that never materialized,the end of the month came and I could not pay the balance in full .
I longed to be an American Express member since my college days. Maybe it was those celebrity endorsed commercials? Or perhaps the time my college boyfriend took me to a fancy hotel and the condescending clerk suddenly lost his "attitude" when he tossed his Amex onto the counter (he was probably a member since kindergarten, but that's another story). That's when I learned membership has it's privileges .
Post college, my friends began applying for and receiving their own Amex cards, some through their employers, but many held claim to their own "personal card." It was the status symbol of the 90's. So I applied. Not for a gold, not for a platinum, just a measly little green card. A month later, I received a "Dear Nicole" letter that made me cry. They rejected me!
So you can imagine my elation when in 2004, I was finally granted membership into the special Amex club with my very own GOLD card! A gold card would teach me responsibility because unlike a credit card, it is a charge card- you have to pay it off at the end of the month (click to see difference between charge cards and credit cards). And usually I did (or at least within the grace period) .
The privileges of membership? My sister booked a trip to China on the Amex points she racked up. Another friend paid for her honeymoon with points alone! But they don't treat you as privileged when your bill is late! I put everything on Amex. The dry cleaner, my gym membership dues, tomatoes. Yes tomatoes. They can be expensive. I pay a hefty annual fee in exchange to show off my shiny gold card and collect "points." I am saving up for a trip to The Amalfi Coast!
I put so much on my Amex this past season, the Huffington Post even wrote about it in a story about shopaholics click for article. Then, on December 31st, somewhere in my stack of holiday cards I noticed a letter from Amex. And no it was not a discount to the Amalfi Coast! They said my bill was overdue and they threatened to contact the credit bureaus!
Now for a shopaholic, my credit is pretty good . Why? Because I pay my bills. On time. Almost always. So I freaked out and called customer service. I spoke to a young man named Jared, who was probably VPO (very pissed off) he had to work on a holiday. I was sweet and friendly. He was not. I soon learned that if you play hardball with your Amex, they play hardball back. I explained my predicament: no Christmas bonus this year, an insurance claim that never paid, a Diane Von Furstenberg sample sale (okay, I left out the sample sale). All Jared wanted to know is "Can you pay this bill? Yes or No?" My answer was yes, but not right now. I somehow managed to channel the "holiday spirit" and flirt my way into a payment plan. I was assured my credit score would not be adversely affected.
So three incremental payments later, I paid off a third of my bill on the schedule Amex set up for me . So you can imagine my surprise while getting a pedicure last week at Zen Spa in NYC, my cell phone rings. It was Amex demanding full payment! Talk about ruining my zen! How did these guys even get my cell number? How did I know it was not some scam artist asking for my bank routing number? Yesterday, Amex called my house, threatening my spouse's credit score, even though we do not share an account and our finances (including our tax returns) are managed separately! I also learned that over 15,000 points I had earned over the past 7 years had been frozen because I may have been several days late on past payments! Can I get them back? Sure if I pay a fee of several HUNDRED dollars! Being a member of this club is not all it is cracked up to be. Amex demanded that my friend , who never had a late payment and paid his balance in FULL EVERY MONTH, produce several years of tax returns to prove he can justify his AMEX spending! Is not religiously paying your bill in full enough? We are not the only ones disgusted.( click here for consumer complaints)!
So I am starting to think maybe I am allergic to plastic and maybe the club I wanted so badly to be a part of, is not all that, (sort of like my ex-college boyfriend with his very own Amex card). My number one New Years Resolution? Pay off my Amex card and never use it again! Unless of course there is an emergency...or a sample sale!