Charged four times for one vacation. Why won’t American Express fix this?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Connie Cullen books a vacation with her American Express card, the resort charges her. Then it charges her again, and again. And again. Why won’t it fix the error?

Question

I have a problem with American Express that I need your help with. More than a year ago, I booked a vacation in Turks and Caicos. I paid a $400 deposit on my American Express Delta Skymiles card and agreed that the balance of $6,721 would be automatically charged to the same card 15 months later, about a month before the trip.

When the time came for the balance to be paid, I received email alerts from Amex notifying me of two large purchases. I logged into my account and saw that the resort had charged me twice for the balance due on my vacation.

The resort assured me I had only been charged once. I disagreed, stating I was looking at my credit card account online. I called Amex immediately and asked to dispute the second charge, but a representative told me it was a “pending” charge and couldn’t be disputed until it posted.

The second charge posted a few days later. I called the resort again and asked to speak to someone in accounting. A representative told me not to worry, that they had been notified by the accounting department that a number of accounts had been “charged in error” over the weekend and would be corrected. No further action need be taken on my part, and I did not need to talk to anyone.

Amex gave me an immediate provisional credit for $6,721. But it didn’t stick. Instead, the resort charged me yet again, and Amex reversed its chargeback decision several times. My card has now been charged five times for one vacation and I’ve been refunded only three times.

I am at my wits’ end. These charge issues have been going on for almost 2 1/2 months. Should I call a lawyer? — Connie Cullen, Eagan, Minn.

Answer

Your resort should have only charged you once, and American Express should have protected you when it didn’t. This is a strange story of accounting gone wrong, which can happen any time. But I’m surprised that Amex let this happen. Here’s how to avoid a hotel billing error.

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You did the right thing, first by contacting the merchant and giving it enough time to respond, and then by reaching out to Amex. The issue should have been resolved after you called the resort. (Related: What happened to his reservation and where is his Agoda refund?)

After reviewing the lengthy correspondence between you, the resort and Amex, it looks like we found the problem: You initiated a dispute, received a credit, and at the same time, your resort refunded the erroneous charge. In response, the resort re-charged you, prompting you to re-initiate the dispute. When the dust settled, you were being charged twice as much as you should have been.

In the end, everyone was confused, but your wallet was significantly lighter.

If Amex can’t help you, maybe the law can

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) requires banks to take your dispute seriously. It defines your rights as a consumer and provides a path for fixing billing errors like yours. (You can learn more about those rights on the Federal Trade Commission’s page on the FCBA.)

You could have also reached out to an executive at American Express. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on this site.

One tip about resolving a dispute. Your notes were so detailed and lengthy that I think it may have made a quick resolution something of a challenge. If you ever have a problem with a company again, try keeping things brief and polite. Summarize your problem at the top of the page so the representatives know the problem immediately.

My advocacy team and I contacted Amex on your behalf, and it refunded the money it had overcharged you.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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