|by Jason Steele|
Generally, I prefer that my credit cards be seen, but not heard. I don’t want a “relationship” with my credit card company, and I don’t want to hear from them unless I have a problem.
So Much For That Theory
The other night, I placed a $300 clothing order from a well known online retailer. I paid an additional amount to upgrade the shipping. The next day, I received a voicemail from Amex on my home telephone indicating that they wanted to verify the charge for security purposes. I later received a call on my cell phone to the same effect. After verifying the charge was authorized by me, I thought the matter was resolved.
So Much For That Theory
Several hours later, I received an email from Amex, asking me to contact them. I figured that it was about the same issue, just sent out after it was resolved. I then received an email from the retailer telling me the charge was declined, and asking me to call them. I did call them and told them the story and asked them re-run the charge. They informed me that the delivery date had been pushed back. So much for paying extra for expedited delivery and the convenience of online shopping.
At this point I am getting a little upset. I paid extra for expedited delivery and everyone is dragging their feet.
A few things could have happened better.
1). Amex could have contacted me sooner in order to have me verify the charge without delaying shipment.
2.) The retailer could have contacted me sooner in order to have me resolved this before delaying shipment.
3.) Amex could have realized that I have ordered from this retailer before, several times, in the past, albeit not recently. That should have told them that the charge was legit.
I do find it odd that a relatively small charge at this retailer set off alarm bells, while I made a charge of $1,200 a few weeks ago from a company I had never shopped with that went through just fine. On the other hand, perhaps this online merchant is the subject of more fraudulent spending.
Nailed That Renewal Bonus!
A few months ago, my wife’s Starwood Amex came up for renewal and it’s $45 renewal fee. I asked her to call and ask for a renewal bonus. It didn’t work, and I figured it was because she really hadn’t spent much on it as we had got it for the sign up bonus and had since used it very little.
Now, it was time for my renewal bonus and I thought I would give it a try. First, I made sure to choose the prompt for “canceling a credit card.” At this point, I had so many Amexes that I actually would cancel if they didn’t give me a bonus. The conversation was surprisingly brief and frank. It went like this:
Me: I am considering canceling my card because of the annual fee unless I could have that waived or get some bonus Starpoints.
Amex: I can’t waive your fee, and I am only allowed to give you a maximum of 3,000 bonus points for renewal.
Me: I’ll take it.
Then, it dawned on me to consider if that is a good deal. Obviously, my wife and I have other Starwood Amexes, so canceling this one wouldn’t be a big deal. We would just earn our valuable Starpoints on a different card.
What Is The Value Equation?
$45 for 3,000 Starpoints equals exactly 1.5 cents per Starpoint. As I have shown many times, I can regularly find value in Starpoints in the 3-4 cents per point range at many of their hotels. It is getting harder, but you can still find some value in converting Starpoints to airline miles, especially at the 1-1.25 rate you get when you do it in a 20,000 mile block.
Of course, I got somewhat lucky when I converted tens of thousands of Starpoints to Delta miles only to take advantage of the “Big Delta Promo”. Since that was clearly a one time deal, converting Starpoints to Delta SkyMiles is now a loosing proposition. These days a SkyMile is worth merely 1 cent when purchasing coach airfare and I was only able to extract 1.7 cents per SkyMile from a business class international ticket I redeemed this week. You can fare better on almost all other carriers.
Since I wasn’t going to be using the 3,000 miles for conversion to Delta’s miserable program, will I get my $45 worth? Well, there are still many Sheratons that you can redeem 3,000 Starpoints for a night’s stay. Typically, these are in smaller towns or near major airports. Still, a night there easily costs double what I paid for these SkyMiles. In fact, it is rare to find a Starwood property where your StarPoint is worth less than 1.5 cents, so, worst case scenario, I think it is a wash. Better yet, I may just qualify for Starwood Gold again (by spending $30,000 on the card this year) if I don’t switch cards mid year. With Starwood Gold, I will get free upgraded rooms and late checkouts, a significant value when traveling with children.
I guess I am putting up with Amex’s shenanigans yet another year.