AMEX Takes Bailout, Boots Customers

Like other credit card companies that have received bailout billions, AMEX is hiking fees, penalties, and interest rates. Now the company, which received over $3 billion in TARP money, is taking the added step of offering $300 vouchers if customers cancel their accounts. Most financial analysts caution that it is a bad deal for cardholders.

From the Wall Street Journal:

It used to be that credit-card companies lured customers with cash rewards. Now American Express Co. is paying to get rid of them. The card issuer is offering selected customers a $300 AmEx prepaid gift card if they pay off their balances and close their accounts.

The unusual move underscores how quickly conditions have deteriorated in the credit-card market. The current economic morass was provoked by spiking mortgage defaults. But as the economic crisis widens and unemployment climbs, there is growing concern that credit-card defaults will soar into the stratosphere as well.

Closing a line of credit generally hurts customer credit scores, even if the customers do it themselves. As soon as eligible AmEx customers sign up for the offer, they lose all Membership Reward points accumulated while they were customers, Ms. Faust says. That means customers should use up their points before agreeing to the offer.

Full story here.

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