AmexEx Gift Cards- The Gift With Strings Attached…

AmexEx Gift Cards- The Gift With Strings Attached...

I have never been a big fan of prepaid gift cards such as the ones you can get from American Express or Visa but after my experience a few days ago I hate them. Seriously, I think they are complete scam and should be avoided at all cost.

Here’s what happened.

I was going through my wallet the other day and remembered that I had an AmexEx gift card. Since I have been looking at a few albums I want to download from Amazon I went over to the Amazon site, selected one of the albums, added the gift card to my account as if it were a credit card (which is effectively what I thought it was supposed to be) and went to check out. When I did I was told that the card was invalid. I assumed that I had gotten some digit wrong along the way. I then went back into my account settings and reentered all of the gift card’s information. I went back to my shopping cart and attempted to make the purchase once again. Once again I was told that the card was invalid.

I didn’t understand what was going on so I went to the American Express gift card website.

AmexEx Gift Cards- The Gift With Strings Attached...

I checked my balance and discovered that I had two one dollar purchases that had been made just a few minutes prior. “What the…???” I wondered. That’s right, both failed attempts to use the card that costs me a dollar from the card. That made no sense to me so I called customer service.

When I finally got a customer service representative on the phone I was told that any attempt to use the card has a one dollar service fee attached to it. I didn’t know what to say to that but it got worse… I was then told that I can use the card online but I had to first connect the card to my name and my address so that the vendor selling the product would know who I am and would see the card as a valid card.

I asked where this information was available and the customer representative said… no, actually she said nothing because she didn’t know. That was the second strike. The third came soon after…

When the representative had finished manually inputting all of my information (it took a while since the names “Daniel” and “Cohen” are apparently quite difficult to spell) I asked how I could do this on the website myself in the future rather than having the hassle of having to call in, speak to a representative and having the representative of manually input all of the information. I was told by the representative… I COULD NOT.

AmexEx Gift Cards- The Gift With Strings Attached...

That’s right, you can’t use a gift card online until you have connected your name and address to it. And you can only add your name and address to it by calling a customer representative, walking through the process and spelling your name numerous times until they get it right. (Yup, you had better hope your name isn’t one of those difficult to spell names like… Smith.) 🙂 Ridiculous.

Oh, and one more thing. If you try to use the card before you’ve done this The card will be rejected and you will be charged a dollar.

Where is all this written down and explained clearly and obviously? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’m not going to use or give any of these cards ever again.



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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

8 Comments on "AmexEx Gift Cards- The Gift With Strings Attached…"

  1. Larry Greenberg | March 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm |

    I’m surprised that a company with a customer service track record as good as American Express’s is has this sort of policy? Is this new? I’ve had a couple of American Express gift cards in the past and never had this problem. Maybe it’s only on certain ones?

  2. Yup. We are long-standing AmEx users and love dealing with them when it comes to the credit card. But this… this is a whole different thing…

  3. I got one from work last year. It was such a pain to use online, I just ended up buying gas with it.

  4. My company just stopped using them as ‘recognition awards’ … I got a couple hundred worth that I used for Clothes for an Intellectual Property award last year, but AmEx charges a huge fee … and apparently there have been too many crappy experiences like yours!

  5. Here’s another annoyance…
    I received a Visa debit card as a rebate some time back, and had used it down to $3.50 or so. I decided to go onto Wal-mart’s site and use it to purchase three MP3 downloads at 88 cents each.

    The card wouldn’t go through, so I called Walmart’s customer service to ask why. They said that before any debit card transaction is processed, they run some sort of check to be sure there’s at least $5 on it. They couldn’t tell me why they do this.

    This seems colossally stupid to me. Why can’t they check the actual amount of what I’m purchasing? Why is a pre-check even necessary? Isn’t the card going to be rejected if I try to buy more than the balance remaining? What’s the point of checking to be sure $5 is on it, anyway? What if I’m wanting to buy a $10 item, and I only have $8 on the card? The $5 would show fine, and they’d still not have adequate funds to cover the purchase.

  6. It does sound like something is amiss in the system, though the dollar charge is generally the merchant’s attempt to determine the validity of the transactions. Most online transactions as I understand it do this, sort of an “authorization hold” to prevent fraud and to ensure adequate funds like dbmurray mentioned. If AmEx is calling the $1 amount a “service fee” then that is clearly not right.

    Unfortunately in Dan’s case (and obviously, for many others), Apple had no way of differentiating the AmEx gift card from a standard Amex card. You’d think with the ability to store, retrieve and digest as much information as corporations can they’d have the use of gift cards down to an elementary science. It really shouldn’t be any more difficult than using something like paypal or adding one’s checking account to a utility’s pay site. I go to AmEx and say “Hi, here’s $50…please give my friend Dan a $50 card to use a a proxy for these funds.” That’s really what the process boils down to. Why is that so hard?

  7. Visa & MasterCard gift cards have their own level of buggery: if you don’t use them up in the first 6 months, they start charging you a $3.50/month “maintenance fee”. 😛

  8. I had similar poor experience with a Visa gift card at Amazon. I had a $75.00 gift card, and to avoid the fees Judie mentions I attempted to convert that to a $75.00 Amazon gift card. Unfortunately, it’s impossible, I placed the order, but never got a confirmation. Upon calling customer support they told me the charge was turned down. Apparently Amazon sends a $1.00 preauthorization through on any new card entered into the system, which is basically any gift card. Because of that pre-auth, the most I could put on the amazon gift card was now $74.00. So basically because of the system Amazon uses, you have to throw away $1.00 to use a gift card with them. It really ticked me off, not that $1.00 is a huge issue, but it’s one of those “it’s the principal of the thing” things to me.

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