I almost always book travel online through different sources. I have never encountered a problem until I decided to use some of my American Express points to book two reservations for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. It was a total disaster!
The day of my first booking I attempted to check in, and I was told that there wasn’t a reservation booked for me. I called AmericanExpressTravel.com and the desk clerk contacted the hotel reservations department. After I had spent more than a half hour trying to get the situation fixed, I asked the representative of AmericanExpressTravel.com powered by Orbitz.com if I could check in, personally pay for my room and deal with resolving the issue when I got home. He answered yes.
When I attempted to resolve it, I was told the reservation was nonrefundable. I attempted to reason with them explaining the situation. Bottom line was they would not correct the situation. Exasperated I said there was no reservation, there will be no billing from The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and you’re not willing to reimburse me?
My next move was to contact American Express Rewards trying to get my miles reinstated. Agreeing with me, the representative credited me back the points. You might think that would be the end of the story, but no, AmericanExpressTravel.com billed my American Express card for the reservation that I was not able to use for $368.81!
I again tried to resolve it with AmericanExpressTravel.com and got the same answer as the first time – it was nonrefundable. My next move was to start a dispute with American Express. To my total surprise I was checking on the dispute online, and I could find anything about it. So I started a conversation with an online representative who informed me that the dispute had been closed. I had not received, and have yet to receive, anything in writing or by phone that I had opened or lost the dispute. The online representative reopened the dispute. I received a letter about that dispute being open.
Later I got another letter saying they had reinstated the charge to my account. In one paragraph they acknowledged the reason for my dispute, and in another paragraph they stated that AmericanExpressTravel.com stated the reservation was nonrefundable. They attached documents with the terms of service and a response saying that the reservation was there for me to use. Totally untrue – why would I pay on my own if there was a prepaid reservation I could have used? The whole point of using points is to not spend the cash.
I called American Express again, and I finally spoke to a supervisor named Jerry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida who attempted to resolve the situation by getting me to call AmericanExpressTravel.com yet again. I saw no point to this and asked to speak to a higher ranking supervisor. I held for a while and was eventually disconnected. Jerry did call me back and left me a message saying someone would contact me within 24 hours. When this did not happen I called American Express again, and I was told the record said someone was supposed to call me within 48 hours. Surprise… I never heard from anyone.
I give up. I will pay the charge. On very few occasions as a card member for 26 years have I disputed charges, but when I did prior to this dispute, I had always won. In my opinion if the situation was with a company not affiliated with American Express I would have won the dispute.
If you will recall I said I had booked two reservations for The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. When I had the first problem I asked the front desk clerk to confirm my other reservation, which she did. I arrived at the hotel for my second reservation and attempted to check in, but the desk clerk informed me Orbitz had cancelled my reservation. I then inquired if they had any rooms available and the answer was no.
I got on the phone with AmericanExpressTravel.com attempting to resolve the situation. After approximately half an hour I decided to head back home. I was on the phone with a representative of AmericanExpressTravel.com for the hour and a half it took me to drive home. Shortly after I arrived home the representative from AmericanExpressTravel.com informed me the situation was corrected and they had a room for me. In this case when I told the representative I was home and was not willing to drive back, she did reimburse me for that reservation.
Needless to say I will never book a trip with AmericanExpressTravel.com or Orbitz.com. I have been an American Express card holder since 1989. My company Capone’s Dinner & Show has a corporate account, and I have accepted American Express as a business owner for over thirty years. I have already stopped accepting American Express as a payment option, cashed in nearly 900,000 miles on restaurant gift cards, will be closing my personal American Express and corporate account. I will be moving my business to my two thankyou PREFERRED Citi Cards.
After the problems I decided to compare American Express Rewards to Citi Cards Rewards, and I found out that on travel, my points went further with Citi and there is no annual fee. In the end, my issues with American Express opened my eyes and will eliminate the annual fees they charge. I also will benefit from my points going further with Citi Cards.
I urge you to check out your credit card reward programs and choose the one best suited to what you want to spend your rewards on. Also if you can avoid paying an annual fee, just do it!