[Disclosure: The links to the limited time 30,000 point American Express Starwood Personal & Starwood Business credit cards earn me a referral. But you can get an extra 5,000 points for yourself by NOT using those links and referring your friend or partner.]
Link: American Express Starwood Refer a Friend 30,000 +5,000 Points Personal Referral
On August 9, I applied for both the American Express Starwood personal and business credit card. The sign-up bonus is 30,000 points (up to Tuesday, September 4, 2012) instead of the regular offer of 25,000 points, so I decided to apply for both cards one after the other.
As I wrote before, I don’t think the American Express Starwood card is a great card for regular spending for me, but it certainly has a very attractive sign-up bonus which can be stretched into lots of cheap hotel stays with Starwood Cash and Points awards.
I knew that I’d have to call American Express for my 2nd business application, because they flag a second application for the same card (even though 1 card is a personal credit card and 1 card is a business credit card) as a potential duplicate application.
However, it took 7 phone calls and 20 days to receive both the cards! Collecting miles and points isn’t always simple and often times things aren’t as easy as filling out an application and waiting for the miles and points to coming gushing in.
But persistence always pays off!
I had only 2 other AMEX cards when I applied – an American Express Business Gold credit card and the AMEX Hilton credit card. I never fill in the shorter application for existing card members, but always fill out the complete on-line application.
After applying, I checked the status of my application online, and both applications were received.
I called American Express at 866-314-0237 and the representative (call #1) told me that both applications were received. I specifically asked him if he saw the business card application and told him that it was NOT a duplicate application and that I had applied for a business credit card as well.
I usually apply for business credit cards as well as a way to double-up on the sign-up bonus and many folks qualify for a business without even knowing it!
He indicated that he would make a note of that, but that my personal application would get processed first and the business application would take longer.
Day 4 – I’m impatient, so I called American Express (call #2) and the rep said that my personal application was being processed and that I’ll hear back from AMEX soon. I was busy so I didn’t call back to verify if that was indeed true.
Day 5 – I called American Express (call #3) and the rep said that I have to provide additional documents to American Express and that I’ll receive a letter in the mail. The last time this happened, American Express wanted me to fill out an IRS form 4506 and request the IRS to send American Express my tax returns.
I asked if I had to submit my tax returns, but the rep kept evading the question. So I hung up and called back (call #4). The next rep confirmed that I would have to send in my tax returns before the application could be processed.
I wasn’t happy. Not because I had to provide the returns, but because I had already provided them 3 months earlier!
I completely understand why American Express wants to see my tax returns, and it is prudent to verify the income of an applicant before extending unsecured lines of credit to him or her.
But I had already provided a copy of my 2011 tax returns to American Express in May when I got approved for the Citi Hilton card. I’d be providing the same information again since it is too early to file tax returns for 2012, and I was frustrated that American Express couldn’t find my earlier tax returns which I had submitted just 3 months ago!
I explained this to the representative, but she didn’t seem to care. So I hung up and called back (call #5), and the new representative seemed apologetic, but kept on telling me how that was policy and that he couldn’t do anything differently.
So I asked to be transferred to a US call center agent. I don’t have any hangups about speaking to an India-based representative (heck, I speak Hindi too!), but in this case, the India-based representatives seem unempowered to do anything and keep on repeating scripted responses to my questions.
I’ll admit to being a little frustrated on the call, which I try to avoid, since the poor reps are not personally responsible for the mix-up, and probably have lots of angry customers calling in. On the other hand, things happen quicker in India when there is a little controlled yelling & histrionics involved!
I’m not sure where the new representative was based, but he had an English accent. He very patiently heard me out, and seemed surprised when I told him that I already sent in my 2011 tax returns 3 months earlier.
He put me on hold for ~10 minutes, and came back on the line and told me that I wouldn’t need to submit my tax returns again and that my personal application would be processed first and the business application would be processed 5 days later.
I thanked him profusely and asked him to expedite delivery of my business card when it was approved.
Day 11 – I got an email that my personal card was approved and that I’ll receive it in the mail within 7 to 10 days. I called American Express (call #6) to process my business application, since it was still showing as pending online, but was told there was nothing they could do for 4 to 5 days. I reminded them to expedite my card when approved since I had a business expense coming up.
Day 15 – I make my 7th call to American Express and the rep tells me that my business Starwood card has been approved. But the card can’t be expedited to me.
Oh well, I guess I’ll have to use my Chase Ink Bold instead.
Day 20 – I receive my American Express Starwood business card in the mail.
Bottom Line: The key lesson for me is that sometimes the pursuit of miles and points gets you caught in a beaurocratic maze with no escape. And that things aren’t as easy as they seem (or are made out to be).
It never hurts to follow-up and escalate your concerns if you feel that you’re not getting anywhere. Credit card sign-up bonuses are the easiest way to get lots of miles and points, but it is hard work sometimes!
But, oh, so worth it when you actually use those miles and points!