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Problems With American Airlines Credit Card

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This post is going to be bit of rant, due to very poor customer service. Many people probably don't like reading rants, but in extreme cases (like this one), I find it necessary to document the case for those interested. Maybe it just makes me feel better that someone from the company may see it and offer to fix their service.

On Saturday, my wife was looking at her American Airlines Credit Card bill. We are going to a convention in March and she purchased the American Airlines tickets with the card. As you might imagine, this is one of the ways of earning more miles. The statement had an obvious problem - no miles earned from travel purchases. "How can this be?" she asked me. I told her it clearly looks like an error.

Having a little extra time on Saturday, she decided to call the credit card and get to the bottom of it. I thought this was destined to go poorly. Credit cards seem to be getting squeezed nowadays and I didn't have high hopes that they were putting money into having the best customer service representatives available on a Saturday. I thought she was lucky to get anyone on the line to be honest.

That's where the problems started. I may be wrong on some of the details, because I simply may have lost track after awhile. The first credit card person couldn't answer my wife's question, so she transferred her to another credit card person. After my wife explained the story again, the person said that she needs to talk to American Airlines about it. (I thought this was a bovine excrement excuse because the statement clearly says the purchase was from American Airlines.) So my wife got transferred to American Airlines and explained the problem once again. This customer service person, probably more used to hearing people looking to book flights than field calls about credit cards, sent my wife to the only place that made sense to her - the American Airlines card membership application program. Of course they are not set up to help someone who already has an AA credit card. So this is a dead-end.

She starts over with the credit card company and the chain of calls repeats itself. This time they transfer her faster before she can explain that she's been through this. Starting off the conversation with "this is the 6th time I've been transferred, so please don't transfer me to [fill in the last place she was at] doesn't seem to help." At this point, I decided to give her advice. Standard stuff like, "Make sure the call is recorded in the call log and get a reference number. This way so if you get disconnected or transferred you can come back to where you were in the chain."

It really was a perfect blame game situation. The credit card company can blame the airline for not coding the purchase right. The airline can claim that they don't know what's going on at the credit card company. I suggest that she try to conference them all, but of course neither party will accept that solution - even if we are using our own phone to conference. It becomes clear to me that this is one of those fun customer service situations where you caught in the middle of two sides that won't talk to each other. By this time, my wife is nearly in tears. Though the situation is annoying enough to warrant tears, I'm starting to wonder if it's compounded by thoughts of how my wife is occasionally caught in the middle of a communication battle with her two divorced parents.

I'm getting ready to intervene and offer to try to get it resolved myself, when she tries one last call to the credit card company. This last call says that the statement appears to be in error and she deserves those miles. The statement is supposed to be fixed as I'm writing this. If it's not, I'm going to have to suggest the "We've had this credit card for years and are a frequent customer of yours. What are you going to do to make me happy?" response. We'll see how that goes if it comes to it.

Posted on February 11, 2009.

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4 Responses to “Problems With American Airlines Credit Card”

  1. Finance Girl says:

    Tell them that if they don’t fix it, you’ll cancel your account and apply for a new card 90 days later, which will give you 25,000 miles after your first $750 worth of purchases w/in 4 months. And no annual fee for the first year. Either way, they lose.

  2. It’s probably because they’re different organizations. I’m not sure how AA handles things, but I’m pretty sure like other businesses, they outsource their credit card services. I was having problems with my Lowe’s card recently. I bought some appliances on a 12 month, no payment no interest deal. The card kept charging me interest and a late fee and I was getting calls from collections. The store’s database said things were fine, so the problem was on GE Money’s end (the credit card company). I ended up very patiently explaining that I had a problem and I know it wasn’t the operator’s fault, but I would appreciate if she could transfer me to somebody who could fix the problem and make sure it stays fixed. That time it apparently was fixed.

    When a company outsources services, sometimes they also try to outsource accountability as well.

  3. Lazy Man says:

    I’m sure it’s because they are different organizations. That’s what makes the blame game work. Each one can blame the other.

  4. kosmo says:

    This is sad, but common.

    It’s too bad that fewer organizations employ a “case manager” philosophy. I work in IT and support tens of thousand of internal users. When we handle a problem calls (internal customers – i.e. fellow employees) we track everthing in a problem management system. If we need to hand off the problem, the new person has the entire history. People complain about the system (and it definitely has some speed/performance issues), but it is GREAT to have the history of the problem up front.

    And if the call languishes very long without resolution, a case manager is assigned. The role of the case manager is to ask for statuses on what is taking so long … and they don’t take BS for an answer. If they don’t like your answer, they talk to your manager …

    My wife works for an organization that does not have this sort of structure. Her calls to IT often get closed – without her consent – without resolution.

    In my company, I could probably get away with doing that twice. The third time I did it, I’d probably be asked to clean out my desk (and I’ve been with the company 10+ years)

    If there are two organizations partnering to provide a service, it should be THEIR job to figure out who needs to fix the problem. I’m the customer, not the troubleshooter. I don’t need to be included in the internal squabbling.

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