Way back in ’89, I first became an American Express cardmember.  For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be in that charge card financial club, and when I became a graduate student at Columbia University in the City of New York, that yearning was finally realized.  Sure, an American Express card has expensive membership fees, and it’s a sort of snotty status symbol — but I was thrilled to have that card in my hand.

As what usually happens with a charge card, you quickly realize in 30 days that, unlike a credit card, the full balance is due every single month, and you sort of gasp for air a little as you wonder how you’ll ever pay it all off before your due date.

After some early inconvenience-through-misunderstanding on my part, I kept and used and enjoyed my AMEX card for many years.  Then, one day, I decided to to close my American Express account because the membership fee was starting to outweigh my interest in continuing to use a charge card instead of a credit card.

Now that I’m older and, I hope, a bit wiser, I realize I should have just kept my AMEX card all these years and dealt with the yearly membership fee.  I have missed the outstanding customer service and benefits of membership.  I liked the ability to build a good financial relationship with an ancient company founded in 1850.

I touched a toe back in the American Express baby pool with my prepaid Serve card experience, and while a prepaid Serve card is an “American Express” card in name and logo, it is not a traditional American Express card in the common vernacular of charge cards.  That means you can’t login to the main AmericanExpress.com portal and manage your Serve Card.  You go to Serve.com instead.  You also can’t use the keen AMEX apps for iOS with your Serve card.  You use the Serve app instead.

Last week, I was invited to leap back into the AMEX charge card fold — I’m guessing because of my newfound love for Serve splashed me back in the AMEX pond — and I decided to jump back in the Big Boy pool with both feet.  I took back my American Express Gold Card — this time with “Premier Rewards” added — and it feels quite lovely to be back in the AMEX wallet.

One disappointment was that my new Gold Card arrived with this year’s “Member Since” date of “12” instead of my original date of membership way back in “89.”

“Yes,” the “Member Since” date doesn’t mean much when it comes to using the card, “yes,” I vainly wanted my 23-year “history” with AMEX memorialized on my new card and, “no,” AMEX had no problem backdating my card to my original membership year and cutting me a new card.

Before I made my backdating request, I did some research on the internets and learned AMEX is fine with backdating your card if you are in their system.  That is good and smart business on their side, because it builds brand loyalty and foments customer appreciation, and, looking back over 23 years of living, is both stunning and satisfying to remember where I was then and where I am now.

It will take them two days to get you a new, backdated, card.  The first day is spent verifying your original member date, and then updating your online account to reflect that original year.  The second day is spent verifying the backdate update took place and then preparing the replacement card with the new “Member Since” date for shipment.

AMEX loves to push you paperless and online to manage and interact with your account and I love that more than they do — another really smart move on their part.  I can also now use their excellent iOS apps on my iPhone and iPad, and I was even able to create an iOS 6 passbook card that gets auto-updated throughout the day with new charges and outstanding balances.

Now I will use my AMEX card as I planned to use my Serve card — to manage my life without having to press into a credit card.  I like Pay-As-You-Go and AMEX works well for realizing that end every month — especially with mid-cycle card payments — plus, I get some killer rewards back and some neat travel opportunities to boot!

If you want to get cash using your AMEX charge card, you have to call customer service and they will do one of two things in setting you up in their “Express Cash” network.  You can either link an existing AMEX card you own that has a credit line — like the American Express Blue credit cards — or you can link your bank account, and when you use your AMEX card at an ATM, the cash will get pulled straight out of your banking account as if you were using your bank’s debit card.  By “Express Cash” linking your AMEX card, you don’t have to carry around a debit card just to get cash from an ATM.  Your American Express card becomes one card to serve them all!

Another fun, modern, thing American Express has done is to create a “Sync with Facebook” feature.  Once you install the app in your Facebook account, AMEX will scan your “Likes” and then present special discounts you can “add to your card” based on your interests, and those discounts will become automatically applied when you make a charge with your card.

When I used my AMEX card this morning at Duane Reade, the cashier asked me for my Zip Code for a $10USD purchase before the transaction would go through.  Ugh!  I flashed back 23 years remembering this “live-and-in-person verification hassle” special only to American Express.

I provided my Zip Code and the charge went through.  AMEX sometimes wants that Zip Code check for purchases under $25 or $50 in lieu of collecting your signature.  I can tell you right now, writing my name is faster than holding up the line to speak my Zip Code to everyone within earshot and having a slow cashier enter it on her computer.

That said, I am wholly delighted to be an American Express cardmember again.  Membership really does have its privileges, and I’m now more than happy to pay an annual membership fee for access to living an easier, and more joyful life, in the Big City.

16 Comments

    1. Even though I had done my research before requesting backdating, it didn’t seem like it would be a problem, but some people online said there was a special “internal collections number in Omaha” you had to call to request the backdating because they were the only office that has that ability to backdate.

      When I called, I just chatted with the regular U.S. number, and made my request, and I was told it wasn’t a problem. They’d check my Soc. number, confirm my original account date, and it would be done. My representative told me he’d never had anyone denied a backdating request on a personal account, so that’s a really good thing.

  1. I think I might try that. We held a corporate AMEX card back in 2004. It had the corporate name on it, along with my husband’s name – however – it was based on HIS credit. I may be able to play that game as well, because secretly, I’m a fan of the member since date myself. (shhhhh) 🙂

    1. Yeah, the whole fun of having an AMEX card is that “Member Since” date. It’s neat. It’s historic. It does mean something personal.

      I don’t know if they backdate based on corporate cards. I think they only do it for personal cards. It doesn’t hurt to call and find out.

      I added my wife as an Authorized User to my card. She’s never had an AMEX account before, and she really doesn’t care much about any of this, but AMEX had to vett her first — I don’t think they did a hard credit pull, they just verified her details with me.

      Since we have different last names AMEX wanted to make sure we were actually married because they clamping down on adding AUs to older accounts because of credit benefit reporting issues. Some people will pay a person with a longtime “Member Since” date to have them added to the account as an AU so they can get a 30-point or so bump on their credit reports. AMEX doesn’t like to be gamed like that, so they are getting strict about who qualifies for an AU and who does not.

      My wife will have a “Member Since” date of “12” because this year is her actual first year of membership. If we cancel her card, and she comes back later on her own for another card — as I did — she *might* be able to get 12 as her original member date even though she was an AU and not the primary card holder.

      1. So as with Janna, that will count me out personally….. Hmmm.
        Husband wouldn’t care a whit. Maybe I’ll have to stick with my other cards that do have a nice history behind them AND I can claim them as my own.

  2. I think it’s pretty neat you got the 89 year on your card. I didn’t think it would be possible, but it does make sense American Express would want to encourage people to return to their business, right?

    I like the benefits we have with the new card. I can’t keep them all straight, but I am interested in exploring. We’ll sure have some fun.

    Now if my card would only hurry up and get here. I have points to earn!

    1. Living in the Tri-State area makes having the card again really valuable. There are so many AMEX-sponsored events for card holders that are special in this area. Yes, we will have fun exploring all this together! Go 1989! SMILE!