About American Express Travelers Cheques
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I just underwent the bitterest experience in Bangkok in trying to encash AMEX TC. All the financial institutions I visited along Sukumvit refused to accept AMEX TC. Finally after all day efforts in sweltering Bangkok heat, I finally was directed to American Express Thailand. They too said that they can't cash the cheques. However they were kind enough to dial some number and connected me to a lady. After hearing my part of the story, she put me on long hold. Then she finally told me that only Krung Thai Bank would cash it. I was given an address and when I finally landed in the bank, I found the bank shutter was down. I was given to understand a few facts about AMEX TC. One that they have no expiry date. Two if lost, they are easily replaceable. Finally, the TC is accepted freely all over the world!
Now after the hassle with TC overseas, the bubble has burst. I find whatever the bank claims is far from being true. I would suggest against taking AMEX TC on your next foreign travels. Instead, if you can, try and get Pre Paid US $ Debit Card and replenish the Pre Paid Card as and when needed. If you happen to lose the card or if someone fraudulently accesses your card, you only lose the amount you put in the card. This way you don't use your regular credit card and risk losing more money. Even for online purchases, you can protect yourself with Pre Paid Credit Card. Be safe and enjoy your holidays worry free.
After four months dealing with a lost cheque (mailing copies of police report and my ID, and numerous calls to AmEx), I get a phone call saying that they denied the refund. I lost $500 and I can do nothing more. After the officer gave me the reason of being denied, I questioned the use of purchasing the cheque, then was given some other vague reason, "Thank you", and hang up. This is a travesty, there is truly no point of buying AmEx cheques, they just want your money! And to think they advertise their cheques for accessibility and safety while traveling! With advancement of today's banking, it is better just to use credit cards while traveling. Now I understand why so many places do not accept this as a form of payment. It is absolutely not worth it, traveler's cheques are archaic now.
*On another note, it was quite obvious all calls are being transferred to India. Customer Service was a joke. An instance for example, an operator says, "Claims & Refund Department has closed, you should only call during the working hour 9-5pm EST", I said back "It is 4:30 pm", and she replied "Eastern Time", and I said "I'm calling from New York, I am in Eastern Time", after a few more back and forth, I finally said, "we have daylight savings time in the US, and you should be aware of that." And how funny they are still trying pretend to be in the US. I suppose they were trained to keep customers feel like they are not transferred all the way to India. This is not an American company anymore.
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A month ago I reported my Amex cheques as lost. After jumping through dozens of hoops and playing 40-questions over the phone (always during meals or when I was heading out the door), they sent me a form stating they might replace them...but only if 1) I agreed that I violated their terms (excuse me?), 2) that I acknowledged they were unable to put a stop on them being negotiated (say what?), and that, if someone were to cash them in the future, I would have to reimburse them for the amount! INCONCEIVABLE! So, all those promises they use in their TV advertisements are all lies? I wish the Attorney General's office would look into their business practices (maybe a different AG.... the current one apparently is mostly interested in benefiting from letting Hitlery off the hook... Anyway, I digress, mostly because their crooked behavior is so similar).
I had purchased $6000.00 in Travelers checks at my bank JP Morgan Chase Bank and I had lost three books worth $3000.00. I reported them as required and at the time they checked if they had been used cashed and they had not been cashed. Since then they had been cashed and my claims rep in the Philippines and with supervisors in India I have had a big problem and my claim denied, therefore I have lost three thousand dollars. I contact the supervisor located in India and was told that I never reported all the claim amount of three thousand dollars of travelers checks. I have asked for a corporate office with no one trying to help me.
American express must not be American any more. Change ther name to India or Phillipines Express cheques, and then Americans will not purchase them and be safe. Do not buy a product without knowing whether you will be dealing with an American.
I naively bought American Express Euro Traveler Cheques in 2001 as I frequently travel within the eurozone. I believed that these would last for a long time and give me the flexibility I desired. I intended that these would be used for spontaneous purchases and small value items to avoid using my credit card and the charges it generates. How wrong could I be. Several major banks in Dublin declined to accept American Express cheques despite me banking with them, while many more said that they could not accommodate and I would have to make an appointment to prove my address, etc. in order to access my OWN money.
If only the bankers had been subject to one tenth of the scrutiny, we might no longer be reading/writing this blog. In summary, I simply can't see the point of travelers cheques in the post-2014 world. They seem just to be another way that institutions misappropriates your hard-earned cash. Require a 21-day redemption period.
Since 2003 I've been working with AmEx Travellers Cheques Refunds Department and I do know for a fact that many agents there defer a Claim just because they do not like a certain customer. They also use a System called RAS or Recommendation Assessment System. Based on 1st recommendation a Claim will be deferred or approved. If you lost cheques worth of 2000USD or more, the Claim will be initially deferred for verification. If you buy cheques & lost them within three days, the System will recommend for a deferral too. For more specified questions you can E-Mail me at **.
I originally faxed my claim for $1,000 on August 18, 2014. Even though the fax went through and I have a verification report of transmission, I later called back 6 weeks later and AMEX claims said they had no record of it. So, I filed a claim over the phone. I then called back 6 weeks later, they tell me it take 60 days, and 60 days is the 29th of November 2014.
I call back again to check the status of the claim, they say check back. I call today 12/18/2014. They tell me they will have to call me back. I had a claim with Citibank for Travelers checks - I had payment in one week. I have been a long time AMEX customer, since 1976. Their claims department must make money for not honoring claims! Beware.
I have 2000 euros in American Express travelers cheques left over from a trip to Europe. Back in Costa Rica is impossible to cash them. After going to many Banks and get rejected, I filed a complaint and send it with the purchase receipt to American Express in Salt Lake City. They call me back and were unable to help me cash the cheques, ask me to mail the cheques to them, to see what they can do about it. I feel deceived, because when you purchase the cheques, they say you will be able to cash the ones left over when you return. In my case not even BAC San Jose the one bank who sold me the cheques wants them. I will follow their procedure and like in the middle ages send the cheques by courier and hope to get my money someday.
American Express FEES of 3 pounds in UK. no one accepts them now - Wow, life have change. Bought 2 of 100 pound checks, worth of 370 USD and went to France. They look at it like trash, or Toilet paper. At least 5 hotels, and 7 shops where tourist would frequently go such as Morgan, and H and M. Totally useless, and will wait to go back to stateside and deposit into my personal acct. It's been 13 years since last time travel to Europe. Totally different world after the US and European financial Crisis. Now everything is SCAM. Will only carry cash from now on.
After buying $125,000 worth of American Express travelers checks over the past 15 years, I can now say, unequivocally, that I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER AMEX TRAVELERS CHECK! I have lived and worked in Korea for 15 years. When I first came to Korea in 1996, I learned quickly how expensive it is to send money to the US via wire transfer. After my first and only wire transfer, I decided that the cheapest way to send money back to the US would be to buy some AMEX travelers checks (TCs) and mail them to my bank in the US. The mail from Korea to the US only takes about 10 days or so, and that was not a significant delay. From 1996 to 2012, I purchased approximately $125,000 in American Express TCs and rarely had a problem.
The procedure was simple: I bought AMEX TCs, signed them on both lines, and made them payable to myself. Then I signed on the back and marked the checks for deposit only, with my checking account number below my signature. There is absolutely no way that any other person could cash these checks. I violated no rules stated on the purchase agreement that I received. The purchase agreement did state that I must sign the check on the top line immediately upon purchase and, later, on the bottom line in the presence of the person accepting the check. Since I was both the check purchaser and acceptor, I was, of course, signing in my own presence. Sending TCs through the mail system is no less reliable than carrying them in a backpack or purse. AMEX itself offers delivery of UNSIGNED TCs (!) by common carrier to Bank of America customers. In any case, mailing a TC does not violate any requirements of the purchase agreement.
I never worried much about losing a TC for the following reasons:
1st ASSUMPTION: I thought my money was safe in the form of AMEX TCs. After all, AMEX states in its ads: Your money is always safe with Travelers Checks. American Express Travelers Checks are safer than cash. If they are ever lost or stolen, the funds may be refunded (Americanexpress.com). I remember seeing Karl Malden advertising AMEX TCs for years in TV ads, and he always said the same thing, adding, "Don't leave home without them!"
2nd ASSUMPTION: I also knew that AMEX has offices in every major city around the world. Of course, AMEX has an office in Seoul, where I live, so I had nothing to worry about as far as ease of obtaining a refund is concerned. AMEX tells its TC customers: Refunds are available at American Express Travel Services Offices and partner locations around the world (Americanexpress.com)
3rd ASSUMPTION: I also thought that the refund for a lost/stolen TC would be swift and the paperwork involved would be minimal, and I assumed that you would have to supply the information only once to get your refund. AMEX states that, to get a refund, You give Issuer or Amexco all reasonable information and help requested to make a complete investigation of the loss or theft (travelers check purchase agreement).
4th ASSUMPTION: I thought that the guarantee of AMEX to replace a lost or stolen TC was valid until the check was actually cashed. If the TC is lost or stolen at any point before it is cashed, then AMEX will replace it. Let's say, for example, that I have an AMEX travelers check in the amount of $500 that I make payable to my wife and countersign. She endorses the check and marks it for deposit only with her bank account number on the back. She walks out of the house and goes to the bank to deposit it into her account. Along the way, she is robbed of her purse and the check, or she is injured, losing control of the check, which blows away in the wind. I would assume that AMEX's guarantee to replace lost/stolen TCs would apply. Wouldn't any logical person think so? Wouldn't you be shocked if AMEX told you that, under the conditions that I just described, they have no legal obligation to issue a refund?
5th ASSUMPTION: Finally, it seemed apparent that there could only be one valid purchase agreement between AMEX and me: the purchase agreement that I received at the Korean bank where I bought the TCs. Every time I bought a TC, I was given a purchase agreement. That agreement constituted the only legal contract between AMEX and me, as far as I was concerned. For any company to attempt to make material changes to a contract without the consent of the other party is both unethical and illegal.
In due time, I was to discover that all five of my assumptions detailed above were completely false. In early 2013, I had some bad luck, and TCs of mine totaling US$700 in value were lost. When I filed a claim for the $700, I had a rude awakening as to the true and devious nature of American Express. Here is the reality with respect to my assumptions:
(#1) Your money is NOT safe with travelers checks. Indeed, AMEX claims that they have no legal obligation to refund lost travelers checks if they were lost in what AMEX calls a negotiated state, that is, signed on both lines and made payable to someone but lost and not negotiated.
(#2) AMEX claims that you can get refunds at American Express Travel Services Offices and partner locations around the world. The reality is that I had to send my claim forms to India at my own expense, costing me $10 and causing more delay, in spite of that fact that AMEX has offices here in Seoul where I live. AMEX refused to give me the address of their Seoul office. It took five months to get a refund!
(#3) It is logical to supply all reasonable information. However, after I filed my claim over the phone, which is what AMEX required, they still forced me to fill out additional documents later that said the same thing as the information that I had already given over the phone. They also required me to make photocopies of my passport, driver's license, and alien registration card in Korea. It appeared that they were deliberately delaying and making unnecessary and unreasonable demands for information that I had already given. The claim form was even supposed to be notarized. I told AMEX that the only place I could get the form notarized was at the US Embassy, and they charge $50 for notarization. I chose to get a co-worker to witness my signature instead.
(#4) After I filed my claim (in a 20-minute phone conversation), I was contacted by an AMEX representative from India. She only identified herself as Donna and never used a family name in calling or in emails. She spoke to me in a tone of voice that sounded like an old fashioned schoolmarm from the 1930s who was scolding a naughty boy who had lost his homework. She told me that I had violated the AMEX agreement, and AMEX was not obligated to issue me a refund. However, they would issue a refund if I signed documents admitting that I violated the purchase agreement and stating that I would not take them to court. The required document stated, "I acknowledge I have failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the Travelers Cheque Purchase Agreement...I sign to confirm and understand that I am not entitled to an unconditional refund."
Donna never explained what part of the purchase agreement I had violated. The only thing that she said was that my lost TCs were in what she called a negotiated state. Further, according to her, AMEX has no legal obligation to refund a TC that is lost in a negotiated state. I wrote in response: The statement that AMEX is not obliged to fulfill a request for a refund when Travelers Cheques are lost/Stolen in a negotiated state will be news to almost every buyer of AMEX Travelers Cheques. This language is not mentioned in the Purchase Agreement, and buyers will naturally assume that AMEX will reimburse the buyer if the Cheques are lost or stolen at ANY STAGE BEFORE NEGOTIATION OF THE MONETARY TRANSFER IS COMPLETE. However, according to Donna, AMEX would not have any obligation to refund the TCs that were lost/stolen under the conditions of my example explained above, in which I made a $500 TC payable to my wife and then she was robbed or lost the TC on the way to the bank. According to Donna's letter, AMEX would be under no legal obligation to reimburse me for the stolen/lost cheque in that example, in spite of the fact that no one could cash the missing cheque. What a nice $500 bonus that would be for AMEX!
(#5) In the course of filling out the documents required by AMEX to get the refund, I noticed that one of the documents included a NEW purchase agreement. I conducted a detailed comparison of the ORIGINAL purchase agreement that I received from the bank when I bought the TCs and the NEW one that Donna now sent me from AMEX. The new purchase agreement added numerous new conditions and qualifications that were not in the original agreement. It was clear that AMEX was trying to substitute a new purchase agreement, with material alterations of the contract details. The following statements were found in the new contract but not the old one:(a) American Express obligation to refund lost or stolen Travelers Cheques is NOT UNCONDITIONAL (AMEX's emphasis).
(b) American Express must be satisfied about the authenticity of your claim.
(c) You must not have placed your Travelers Cheques into luggage which you have subsequently entrusted to a travel provider e.g. taxi, airline, coach or ferry.
(d) You must not have placed them at unnecessary risk.
(e) You understand that American Express may need to have access to your personal information.
(f) You authorize us to request institutions from which you purchased your Travelers Cheques any and all relevant information necessary for American Express to comply with applicable law and/or to provide you Travelers Cheque related services.
None of these statements were in the original purchase agreement. These statements are very vague and offer AMEX broad discretion in obtaining personal information about the claimant, as well as broad discretion in denying claims. In addition, the AMEX form and Donna made a big point of emphasizing that AMEX cannot stop payment on a TC: "I understand that the Issuer(s) cannot stop payment on any Cheque which I reported lost or stolen and owes me no obligation to refuse to pay any Cheque presented for payment. and I hereby acknowledge and agree that American Express is unable to place a stop payment on any Travelers Cheques, including the above referenced Cheque/s, and [they] remain at risk indefinitely from future encashment."
Here is my response to this load of rubbish about the stop payment: Ha ha. A statement that is cleverly misleading and risible. AMEX has already told me that they put the lost Travelers Cheque numbers on a watch list, and anyone trying to cash them will be arrested for fraud. This procedure is much better than the procedure of stopping payment. In the case of some miracle, by which the lost cheques reach my bank, the bank will not honor them because the cheques are on a watch list of lost/stolen cheques.
If I had been living in the USA, I would not have filled out their onerous documents; instead, I would have filed a lawsuit against AMEX for violation of the purchase agreement. However, I was living in Korea, and it is more complicated to file such a claim in a Korean court. In the end, I filled out their forms as requested. However, I added an 11-page addendum stating that I was signing the forms under duress, along with my denials of key points. I made photocopies of all documents requested and mailed everything to their office in India. A couple of weeks later, I received a refund, about five months after my initial claim.
I did not let the matter rest there. I have filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General charging AMEX with two violations of New York law (AMEX is domiciled in New York): (1) false and misleading advertising; (2) material alteration of contract (i.e., travelers check purchase agreement). I also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in New York City. Even though I already know that the BBB is a toothless tiger, I still filed the complaint to annoy AMEX. Incidentally, over 2,400 complaints have been filed against AMEX during the last 12 months at the New York City BBB alone. Concerning AMEX, the New York BBB states:
"On October 1, it was announced that American Express will refund $85 million to customers to settle regulators' accusations that it charged unlawful late fees and deceived customers to pressure them to pay off old debts or buy extra credit card services. Besides the refund to about 250,000 customers, AMEX will pay civil penalties totaling $27.5 million to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency."
Aside: In light of its manifest betrayal of its customers, why is AMEX still a member of the BBB, and with a rating of A? Because of its perfidy and lack of ethics, AMEX should have been expelled from the BBB. Is it because the BBB is a pantywaist organization that doesn't want to give up AMEX's membership fees? You can decide for yourself. In searching on the Internet for more information about AMEX, I came across numerous complaints against the company for failure to pay claims as well as for AMEX's deliberate obfuscation of the claim process. In addition, I found out that there are some banks that sell AMEX TCs but won't even cash them. Incredible!
To sum up, I now advise everyone to avoid dealing with this deceptive, insulting, and unscrupulous company. I have no faith that American Express can be shamed into including standard ethics as part of their company dealings. However, I feel a duty to warn others to steer clear of this sinister company like the plague. Incidentally, I can back up every claim in this posting with documented proof. If Karl Malden were alive today, he might very well be saying, "Leave home without them!"
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