Amex left me £13,000 short
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.