Of Bad and Great CX, and Getting My First American Credit Card

June 07, 2020

It's not the first time I'm sharing about commending customer service professionals, especially when they deserve it. But this goes beyond just one experience. I'm actually smiling now while typing this because I'm easy like that and my interactions were some of the most pleasant ones I have had in any customer service setting. I also want people reading this to take 5 minutes of your day to leave a note--whether in surveys or thru the company's contact form--for the people who made your life easier. Do it!

Good job, American Express! I have just not had a bad experience with their customer service. They are consistently beaming with professionalism and always, always manage to resolve my needs--all in the first contact. Seems to me that they hire the best of the best in this field.

*cue winding down tune*

Let me take you back to an experience in August 2019, while checking in at Hilton in Taipei for work. I get in at 6AM from a red-eye flight from Singapore. I try to do an early check-in and my American Express corporate credit card got declined during the check-in. My employer had already approved my previous month's expense report but the payment hasn't been wired yet. I sat at the hotel lounge and called Amex Asia's hotline and all within that same call, they were able to reinstate my credit card access. And all that was done in the most professional and empathetic manner.

Since I got transferred to the US office this year, I had to trade my Singaporean Amex into an... American American Express. In the corporate card envelope, I received a note saying I can also apply for a Personal credit card. I disregarded it because I bank with Chase and wanted to get a Chase credit card so it's easier to pay bills.

That's Why It's Called Chase 

I was told that I qualified for a credit card on the same day I applied for my Chase bank account. The only reason why my banker couldn't proceed was because I hadn't received my Social Security Card yet at that time. (Read: It takes 2-3 weeks to process and send the SSN to the applicant's mailbox) My banker told me to just come back to proceed with the credit card application once I have the card. But then, Covid-19 happened and even banks had to shut down.

For the sake of time relativity, it's early June now as of writing.

Since March, the Chase online credit card application website was down for maintenance. I stalked it almost every day because I wanted to get my credit score started so I can rent my own place. Alas, I never saw this website up and running, no matter which device I use.

I also set an appointment with an available banker so I can open an account. I made a mistake of going to the bank, because the appointment details had the address of my bank branch. I got there earlier than my appointment, only to see it closed. Then I checked my phone and it said there the banker will call me on the time of the appointment. My phone was in my hand while I stared at the screen, waiting for it to trill. The call never came.

I didn't set another appointment but I would routinely go online to check if I can apply for the credit card, but the online application website was still down.

Note: As of today, Chase Bank's new online credit card application portal is now up! Whichever IT Systems Implementer they hired should do reparations, because they probably lost Chase a good amount of business.

Don't Live Life Without It

Then I suddenly remembered the note from my corporate card saying I can apply for a personal credit card with American Express. I went to the website, picked the best cashback card, and without really researching about it, I filled out the short application form.

I clicked on Submit and right away I got an email saying I should call the hotline so they can verify some information, and if I don't call, they will call me. I thought an information verification was normal because I have no credit history in the United States. I dilly-dallied for a bit before calling. I got a customer service professional named Amit who right away cut through the chase (heh) and connected our call to Chase so Amex can verify my bank details and address. After that group call, Amit told me my credit card application is approved and I should be getting the details over email so I can set up my online account. I could also, if I want to, start using the card right away through digital banking while I wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail.

Time Elapsed from Online Application to Approval: 16 minutes

I don't know guys, but I was very impressed. Even compared to Singapore standards, that level of efficiency was higher.

I have done a fair amount of research about credit history because that idea is still foreign to me. But I never really bothered to look into various credit card companies outside of Chase. Mostly because majority of my American friends are using Chase credit cards so I subconsciously thought that it was an overall great company to bank with.

To apply for an American Express Blue Cash Preferred credit card, same as mine, use this link.

Now onto the reason why I'm smiling and laughing while writing this. Long-winding intro, but bear with me!

The Courtesy Call

Since now I don't have to use my Chase debit card for my daily spend, in a few days I managed to accumulate small purchases across different merchants. I don't get to go out and most of those shops are considered non-essential so they're only available online.

I got a call from a gentleman with a number that said it's from Phoenix, Arizona. I picked up and this guy tells me he is from American Express and wants to verify my information. I quickly said "Why are you calling me?" He thought I didn't hear his introduction so he repeated himself. Then I rephrased myself saying, "I didn't report anything, why should I tell you my information? You're not calling from an American Express number." He picked up what I was implicitly trying to say so he said I can give the American Express hotline a callback.

I quickly ran through my purchases to see if there's anything suspicious. Then I picked up my phone to call the hotline.

The customer service rep named Anne kept apologising and saying they're doing this as a part of security measures to ensure that my newly requested card was not being used by someone else. She did this thing where she put me on hold while she called my phone number on file, which I answered too. To which she responded with "I'm glad to hear it's the same voice!" Then we went on to do a check on my recent purchases as a final check. And this is where I was already laughing.

One thing I actively tried to do over May was hold off on buying the things I needed and wanted to buy until I get a credit card... for the sake of... *wait for it*

...credit card points or for cashback.

These were non-essential items that was on my list for a long time and I saved them up until I can buy them. You can't see me now, but oh I'm laughing. I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. Right? Right?

Just some of my early purchases :(

Anyway, this was probably a you had to be there moment because it was pretty hilarious to me, especially when she asked me about two purchases from the same merchant--Rayban. Okay, I know exactly why that must have looked like someone was skimming off my card.

I...I cancelled my first order on the Rayban website because after the discount, it didn't reach the minimum required to get a $30 cashback reward. After cancelling, I ordered the same glasses but with polarised lenses... and that pushed the total up the minimum $150 spend.

I am laughing my ass off right now. It's even sillier when I type it out. Also, if you must know... I actually did the Math on this! Even with the more expensive item, with cashback it ends up being cheaper than getting the lower priced item with no cashback. 

I didn't have the heart to tell this to Anne, but I said yes I cancelled the first order and that should just disappear from my statement eventually. She said not to worry, Rayban will just cancel the charge hold eventually too.

She gave me the final spiel and instead of the usual response to "Is there anything else I can help you with?," I told her that a gentleman called me from a number that's not registered to American Express. Flustered, she said "Ah that man. Actually, he... he holds a higher position than me. He was giving you a courtesy call personally. To assure you and give you peace of mind, he is indeed from American Express. We really appreciate that you actively don't give out information to anyone, and what you did of calling us directly was right."

The overall tone of our call was very relaxed and we would chuckle with each other a lot. I am so glad I didn't really have any embarrassing purchases because that would have been way more awkward.

To anyone reading this far, I get that I'm looking very silly right now. That assumption is fine. I agree.

However it would be remiss of me not to point out again how great the customer experience was, even in such uncomfortable situation. If there's one takeaway here, it should be to highlight the consistency of customer professional experiences with American Express, then and now. And finally, it doesn't take much time to commend people when they did a good job in helping you out. Feedback is great not just for complaints, but also as a way to say you appreciate them.

To apply for an American Express Blue Cash Preferred credit card (same as mine), consider using this link so I'd get referral $$ 😊.


Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by American Express. Great customer service often inspires me to write about the experience. To Amit, Anne, and the many other Amex professionals I have spoken to over the phone, you guys are (literally) the best!

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