In This Economic Meltdown, Anything Goes
Take a gander at this paragraph from a Wall Street Journal story by Robin Sidel on Oct. 20, 2008:
AmEx recently slapped a $1,100-a-month spending limit on John and Monica Bell's platinum AmEx charge card. The reason: AmEx customers who pay with plastic at the same places where Mrs. Bell shops and have the same mortgage lender have poor repayment histories, according to a letter sent by AmEx.
The couple pays $450 a year for the card—which promises "no pre-set spending limit." The couple routinely spent $5,000 a month—that's $60,000 a year—and has never been late with a payment.
If the data goons are allowed to start treating blue-ribbon American Express Platinum Cardmembers like chronic deadbeats, what will happen to the rest of us?
The excess of zeal that fueled the subprime real estate debacle has turned into an excess of fear.
American Express and Me
I go back a long way with American Express. My father wrote the authorized corporate biography, "AMERICAN EXPRESS—A Century of Service" (Doubleday, 1950). I worked in the AmEx mailroom at headquarters on the lower Broadway during the summer of 1956. The president and his wife, Ralph and Edna Reed, and their daughter Phyllis, were often over for cocktails and dinner when they summered next door to us. I've been a Cardmember since 1964 and have a Gold Card now. I haven't missed a payment in 44 years.
American Express Off the Hook
I went to the AmEx Web site and looked up the Platinum Card. Where—in gray, sans serif mousetype—it says "No pre-set Spending Limit." Next to this promise is a mousetype blue dagger (†). When you click on it, up comes a gray box containing mousetype, gray copy:
The Platinum Card has no pre-set spending limit which gives you purchasing power that adjusts with your use of the Card. No pre-set spending limit does not mean unlimited spending. Your purchases are approved based on a variety of factors including current spending patterns, your payment history, credit record, and financial resources known to us.