American Express Serve - nightmare replacing a lost card and learning that Serve accounts are "different"

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May 29, 2018
I started using AmEx Serve 2 years ago. In that time, the only issue I've ever had is that sometimes when I call customer service, I have to hang up and call back until I get somebody I can understand. The agents are always VERY friendly but sometimes their accents are so heavy that I find myself asking them to repeat things multiple times. Also, most answers sound as if they are being read from a script and not specific to my question.

On 5/10/18, I noticed that I did not have my card. After a thorough search, I called the customer service number to report it lost. There was no money on the card so I wasn't worried about theft, etc. The representative told me that I would receive a replacement card in 7-10 business days. I specifically pointed out to the rep that the only money deposited to this card is social security benefits and that it was imperative that I receive the replacement prior to May 29th so that I could pay my rent/bills. There are no branch offices so ATM's are the only way I have to access my funds. On 5/12/18, I received an email that my new card had shipped. Today is the 29th and still no card. I am registered with USPS for informed delivery so I get emails with pictures of the mail coming to me. There was never anything from AmEx.

I have contacted the customer service from the back of the card multiple times to try and resolve this. The first 3 times, I was told to "wait just one more day". I again stressed that I MUST receive this card before the 29th. I was reassured that it would arrive on time. Finally, during the 4th call (I believe it was the 24th) I was told that there must have been a problem with the mail delivery and that I should contact my postal carrier. I explained that I not only have informed delivery but that I had indeed contacted the USPS and made a formal inquiry. There were no undelivered items. I was then offered another replacement card, again shipped regular mail via USPS. As this will only add another 7-10 business days to the time frame, I declined. I asked for a card to be shipped to me via FedEx or UPS, i.e., an overnight service with tracking information. I was told there would be a $20 fee for this and since there was no money in my account at the moment, it was not an option. I explained that I feel the fee should be waived as I have done nothing wrong, I followed all steps required to report the card lost and obviously, there is a problem with their shipping method. I was told that it was not possible to waive this fee.

Again, I waited and still no card. During my 5th call, I finally got to speak to a "manager" named Dan or Don (I could not really tell because his accent was so heavy). This gentleman again read from the script about how he could understand my frustration and was very sorry for the inconvenience I was experiencing but he was unable to waive the fee for overnight shipping of a replacement card. I again explained that these are funds issued by the United States Treasury and, as a "bank", they are covered under US banking laws. As a bank, they have to provide me with a way to access my funds. Dan put me on hold for quite a while and then said that if I had still not received my card by the time I got the direct deposit, I could call back and an agent would arrange for a transfer via Western Union. I asked how much this would cost me and was told nothing. He said that it would be a one time special arrangement in light of the circumstances. I was assured that only the number on the card was changed and not the account or routing number being used for the direct deposit.

Today, I checked the mail and still no card. I searched and searched on the internet for a different customer service number. Apparently, Serve customers are routed out of country to a different call center than those who hold business or personal credit accounts. When I logged into my AmEx Serve account online, the only options under "contact us" were the number on the back of the card, Facebook and Twitter.

I promptly sent a Tweet to @AskAmex. After 3 or 4 hours of watching them respond to multiple other tweets, I asked if they were ignoring me. They claimed to not have seen my prior tweet. They asked which US based AmEx product I was using. When I told them Serve, they said they could not help me. Again, I was given the number on the back of the card. I logged into Facebook and tried to send a message there. But in order to do so, you must enter your credit card number into the chat window. Otherwise, a "bot" sends automated responses. First, I do not HAVE the card number as I never received it. Second, I am not at all comfortable entering my credit card number into Facebook messenger.

I continued searching the internet and found an article on this site regarding a couple who had problems getting money refunded to their prepaid AmEx cards after unauthorized ATM withdrawals. I tried the number to the corporate headquarters listed here but got a message that it was "disconnected or no longer in service". I completed the form seeking assistance from Elliott's and continued to scour the internet and a few databases that I have access to through my former work as a paralegal.

Finally, in one of those databases, I found a number for the corporate headquarters in NY. I was transferred to a woman named Rosa. I explained the entire scenario to her and expressed my extreme frustration with the poor customer service I have received. Rosa took my name and telephone number and said that she would investigate the situation and get back with me. I did not have much hope.

About 2 hours later, Rosa actually called back. She said that the account/routing numbers were definitely the same so there should be no problems with my direct deposit. She also offered the Western Union option and even took all of my information from my state issued ID to set it up once the direct deposit hits. Rosa told me to call her at (800) 297-6196 as soon as the deposit is there and then actually gave me her extension number!! She said that if she was not available, to leave her a voice mail and she would initiate the transaction immediately upon receipt of the same. She said that I was free to call the customer service number again if I wanted them to try and do it but that, given the situation, she would not suggest it. I agreed with her. Rosa said that they would send the entire amount of the deposit via Western Union as soon as it arrives. I have since done some research on Western Union rates. Unless AmEx has some sort of special agreement with them, it will cost about $135 to send my funds in this manner. Again, a replacement card overnighted to me would have been $20. Rosa's response was that even if a card is sent via UPS, it isn't really "overnight" and will take at least 2-3 business days. She has a point; however, if the fee had been waived and the card shipped via UPS when I first asked, I would have it in hand right now.

I do not exaggerate when I say that if I do not have access to these funds by June 3rd, I will face eviction and utility terminations. Like a lot of Americans, I live paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, my landlord and utility companies do not take IOU's and hardship stories of credit cards who treat their customers like dirt. I feel like it is biased and unfair for a company to offer a card targeting the 'unbanked' and then, once they sign up, treat them like second class citizens with second class customer service. Perhaps AmEx does not realize that a lot of people with excellent credit choose to use cash or prepaid cards.

I have already decided that once I receive my funds (however that may happen), I will be finding another prepaid card to use. I am beyond disappointed in AmEx after this experience. I was willing to overlook the broken English of the customer service reps and the fact that the card is not accepted everywhere. But not being able to reach somebody to escalate a complaint - and worse, being told that it is because I have a Serve account instead of a regular AmEx - was the final straw for me. I certainly do not want to go through this hell again next month and God forbid the card is ever actually compromised.

I will update if I receive a call from Rosa, a replacement card or a Western Union transfer. Fingers crossed.