Amex left me £13,000 short

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

While on a cruise, my wife be­came se­ri­ously ill. She was treated on board for a week and, de­spite her hav­ing in­tra­venous an­tibi­otics, her con­di­tion wors­ened.

She had to go to hospi­tal as an emer­gency. We were to be off­loaded on an is­land in Aus­tralia and then taken by spe­cial air­craft to New Zealand.

I had lodged my Amex credit card on join­ing the ship and 12 hours be­fore we were to be put ashore, I was pre­sented with a med­i­cal bill of more than $33,000 (£23,280). My Amex card maxed out at £17,000.

I con­tacted Amex ini­tially on its chat line and was told to con­tact the credit de­part­ment by phone. I used a satel­lite phone for 40 min­utes at a cost of $8 a minute. I was ask­ing for a one-month credit in­crease to £30,000 and of­fered to bank trans­fer an im­me­di­ate £30,000 to my card.

I have al­ways paid my card by stand­ing or­der ev­ery month and have an Ex­pe­rian credit rating of 999. I was fi­nally told to call back on the Mon­day (this be­ing a Satur­day) when a man­ager would be avail­able.

The ship in the end ac­cepted the bal­ance of the bill on a seven-day prom­is­sory note. Amex re­fused my com­plaint that the call had been han­dled badly and not hav­ing a man­ager in at the week­end amounted to poor ser­vice. DEREK LONG, GLOS

Your wife de­vel­oped hep­ati­tis A, prob­a­bly from eating shell­fish be­fore em­bark­ing on the cruise. This was de­spite her vac­ci­na­tions be­ing up to date. Ter­ri­fy­ingly, the con­di­tion, which at that stage was un­di­ag­nosed, evolved into sep­sis and be­came life-threat­en­ing.

You were in­sured through your bank ac­count and the insurer was help­ful. Time was of the essence and agree­ing and then set­tling bills via the insurer could not hap­pen quickly enough. Amex said there was a pre-fixed limit on a credit card that it had to ad­here to.

It said: “As a re­spon­si­ble lender, we con­duct thor­ough credit and af­ford­abil­ity assess­ment checks when set­ting credit lim­its. Un­for­tu­nately, we were un­able to over­ride the credit limit on Mr Long’s ac­count.”

It told you that preload­ing your ac­count with funds in or­der to ex­ceed your credit limit would not guar­an­tee that you would be able to spend the money. If you did this, the trans­ac­tion could po­ten­tially have been de­clined be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns. As for a man­ager be­ing avail­able, al­though it ad­ver­tises a 24/7 ser­vice, this does not ap­ply to all its de­part­ments.

One of your sons sought to pay the ship’s med­i­cal bill with his own Amex card and faxed his sig­na­ture, card details and au­thor­ity from the US, but the ship would not ac­cept this. He also of­fered to be a guar­an­tor on his own Amex card to help sup­port a tem­po­rary in­crease in your credit limit.

In the end, the ship’s purser sug­gested you signed an $18,000 US prom­is­sory note as a way of over­com­ing the short­fall. Your son ar­ranged to pay it off within the re­quired time.

In case your wife was not as ill as you were say­ing, the insurer faxed a form seek­ing your agree­ment to pay $70,000 be­fore re­leas­ing the spe­cial­ist air­craft to col­lect her. Ul­ti­mately, the insurer cov­ered es­sen­tially the full costs of your claim.

Hap­pily, your wife has made a full re­cov­ery. Both your sons were ex­tremely sup­port­ive through­out.

Mean­while, you would like to share your ex­pe­ri­ence as a les­son to oth­ers. Many peo­ple do not re­alise the dif­fi­cul­ties they can be faced with, even if they are ad­e­quately in­sured.

Costs can soar and some fi­nan­cial re­sources may well be needed as a backup to tide things over.

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