We've been American Express card holders since 1988. That's 20 years. We carry a high balance, but have always paid it. Just after this past Christmas (2007) Amex suddenly terminated our Sign & Travel (which allows you to pay for higher-priced purchases over time) without warning, and demanded we pay the whole thing at once.
We were taken completely by surprise, not having any expectation that we'd have to pay for everything we charged over Christmas in the very next billing period. So we paid late -- for the first time. But we did pay the entire amount, over the next two months, to get our account current again.
And Amex responded by raising our interest rate from 6.99% to 26.99%.
Now our interest amount alone is more every month than our total bill had ever been. We've called Amex, faxed them, written them, spoken to half a dozen people in customer service and the credit department, telling them we just can't make the payments at 27%, and there must be something we can do to work it out. But they are not interested. The only choice they offer is a payment plan through their credit department that requires you to pay the whole balance in six months at 10%. If the balance isn't paid in six months, you go back to the "default rate" of 27%.
We explained we couldn't possibly pay off the balance in six months at 10%, but they don't care. We've asked them what they think they will accomplish by raising our rate to something we can't pay, when we've always paid every month at the old rate. They don't care.
In short, American Express has chosen to ruin us rather than continue getting paid every month at our old rate. As I write this I have no idea what we'll do. We were more than capable of making our payments every month -- and always did -- until they cancelled our Sign & Travel without warning, demanding full payment for the month of January out of the blue. When we were late with that payment they raised our interest rate to the maximum allowed -- quadrupling it -- and are now adding that interest to the balance every month. And we simply don't have the money.
This seems almost unreal. We had always made our payments on time. But suddenly a high but manageable balance has become a noose that may well ruin us utterly, all because American Express has decided to push our interest rate to the highest allowed by law, even though we've told them we can't possibly pay it.
How can this happen? We were barely using the card. We were making payments and bringing the balance down, then we used it over Christmas, and suddenly we're on the brink of disaster, and it's all in interest payments to American Express.
Who is supposed to be overseeing the credit industry? Who is supposed to be protecting people? We didn't go on a mad spree across Europe or something, then try to dodge paying for it. They cancelled our Sign & Travel AFTER we'd used the card, totally surprising us, then quadrupled our interest rate.
What the h**l is going on in this country? 27% interest, and no way out but total ruin? Who wins that way?