American Express - No "pre-set" limit

The ads for the American Express charge card point out that with other cards, you run the risk of not being able to pay for dinner because you have gone over your limit. With AmEx, the ad says, you don’t have that worry, because there isn’t any pre-set spending limit.

Does anyone know what they mean by a pre-set limit?

It sounds to me like the limit is not fixed, but is flexible, and you could hit it at any moment without warning. Obviously, AmEx will not allow anyone to put a $500K home on the charge card, so there’s got to be some kind of limit somewhere. Anyone got any ideas?

Amex doesn’t assign you a limit, per se . . . but they DO look at your credit information and spending habits, so someone with more limited resources would find it more difficult to charge the world than someone the company knew had megabucks.

They also would be suspicious of theft or fraud if you suddenly started a charge marathon, so your card would most likely be refused/confiscated at some point.

Remember that the standard American Express differs from most bank charge cards in that whatever you put on it, you pay it off in full when the bill comes in.

your humble TubaDiva

I actually had that happen to me. When I first started travelling on business I did two trips back to back after having barely used the card for several months. AmEx called me to make sure I was the one making the charges when the second plane reservation came through. It was and they approved it. Never had any problems since (and I a couple of months where I put over 10k on it).

“You can’t run away forever; but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start.” — Jim Steinman

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

Thanks, tanstaafl. Your situation sounds exactly like I envisioned. But this is my deeper question: Exactly what happened…

(A) You got hassled when trying to make the reservation, until you spoke with AmEx to clear up the situation. or

(B) The reservation went through with no problems, but then AmEx called you separately to make sure the card was not stolen.

If (A) happened, then the ads such as I described above are false. If (B) happened, then there’s really no limit (pre-set or otherwise) because any responsible bank does that kind of thing, so I still wonder what “pre-set” means.

Believe me, there IS a limit.

I run a business in which, during prime selling season, I may have to procure $150,000 worth of goods for resale each month. The company that I am a dealer for does not allow us to be invoiced for the goods, I have to pay with a credit card (or several of them). We contacted AmEx and received a “No Limit” card. We thought this was fantastic until we hit $30,000 the first month and they shut us off. That was our monthly limit, so for a time we were sending $10,000 checks EVERY WEEK to AmEx to keep the card open. After a 6 month “review”, we are now at a $60,000 limit, so things are better.

And you groan when you get YOUR credit card bills…

What AmEx is saying is that with most credit cards there is a expressed credit limit. Most start at $500, gold cards $5000, etc. The limit will likely be raised as you build a good payment record, but there is always a limit. AmEx has no expressed limit on it’s credit cards. They base their accept or decline decisions, IIRC, on your credit history, payment record, previous usage patterns, etc. I once saw my Father-in-Law buy a $30,000 car on his AmEx. No problemo.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Keeves, in answer to your question, YES, the card has a potential limit, NO it isn’t ‘pre-set’, YES it can be reached without warning.

Two thoughts on this:

One, this is also true to some extent with ‘regular’ credit cards these days. Change your spending pattern in some obscure way and you may find your charge declined until you wise up and call the 1-800 number and speak to ‘security/fraud’ and convince them that you really did want to purchase a $5,000 painting on it. A VERY annoying experience.

Two, with AMEX, since you pay off the entire balance every month, they are more responsive to spending needs. From what experience I have, pay off a balance regularly, and you will get even more lee-way from them in the future. This is why they are often preferred by corporations with personal expenses.

Theoretically, if it had no limit I could use it to buy the American Express company, then name myself CEO and cancel my debt.

Adam “Inky” Greene

Are we forgetting the scamola with the credit card “limit?” They usually don’t turn the purchase down - they charge you $25.00 for going (unbeknownst to you) over your “limit.”

I can’t believe I’m the only one this has happened to.

Keeves - I had given my information to our Admin who had called the travel agent to set up the reservations. She called me a few minutes later saying the travel agency needed to talk to me. I got on the phone and it turned out to be a conference call with the travel agent and someone from AmEx. They asked me one or two questions then said since they had never seen me charge a plane ticket before they thought it a little odd when I charged two in two weeks. (I had been out of school about six months and had gotten the card my senior year, so it hadn’t had a whole lot of use before I started doing the installs.) They were very nice about it, apologized for bothering me and (while I was still on the phone) apologized to the travel agent and told him to go on through with the transaction. That was with a green card btw.

“You can’t run away forever; but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start.” — Jim Steinman

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

DSYoungEsq - I had what you describe happen with a regular Visa. I have a card I almost never use that I reserve for things like Christmas shopping. Last year I started using it and on the second day of shopping it suddenly wouldn’t go through anymore. (The card had a zero balance previous to this.) I started using my normal card.

A few days later I got a letter in the mail asking me to call the card company. I found out that they had seen “unusual” activity on the card and had suspended it until they could talk to me. Why they didn’t call, I don’t know.

Keeves - Follow on to my last post; the problem I described I had happen only once and, as I said, I had only had the card for about six months at the time. My current record is just over 12k charged in one month and they didn’t blink at that one.

“You can’t run away forever; but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start.” — Jim Steinman

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

Gee, when I put my latest computer on my Discover card they called me to confirm that afternoon. I think it got flagged because I rarely put more than about two hundred dollars on any of my cards during the course of the month.

I have worked in hotels for 15 years and I have NEVER seen them decline a charge. What I have seen is they ask me to put the card holder on the line. They talk to him. And always (at least in my experience) they then give me the OK.

My aunt works for Air Canada, and once upon a time she had to put $50,000 on her AmEx to get some refugees out of a Third world country on another airline. The Government paid her bill and now she has infallible credit.

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

If you need a graphic solution, http:\\Piglet

I read recently (possibly somewhere in the Straight Dope) that there is an Ebony American Express card, above a Platinum card, which cannot be applied for. The UK branch of the company issues them to a very select group of customers. How selected, I don’t know… megabucks, and impeccable social connections with the Upper Crust?

Is this an urban legend, or does the Ebony card exist? The web page of American Express UK does not mention it, not that I was expecting it to.