anyone had trouble getting an Amex card accepted?

davidrt28 (zone 7)July 2, 2014

I have an Amex card with a very good cashback program, so I try to use it for everything. I've made thousands over the years on it. (I've never had a cc debt)

Recently I noticed something odd at Lowes & Walmart. My Amex card returns a "card not read" error. However, I know the card in fine. This morning, for example, I used it to buy gas 15 minutes before trying to use it at walmart. When I pull out a visa card suddenly the reader is working again. The cards are made by CPI and Oberthur, the 2 leaders in credit card manufacturing, so it isn't as though the Amex could have had some odd kind of defect.

I wonder if, because Amex has higher merchant fees, this is a scam to try to make people give up and use their Visa or Mastercard. The 2nd time it happened at Lowes, I insisted she use my Amex. She had to enter the number, and exp. date as would be expected, but oddly, she also insisted on getting a billing zip and phone number from me, AND entered the CVV code! I've never seen a type-in cc purchase procedure require that. Mail order, yes. I've been a nursery when mail orders were being entered manually, and they have to enter zip & phone if they don't have the card present. Usually if a card won't read at a merchant with a retailer account, they just need to enter the # and exp.

I'm going to call my issuer about this, but I cannot believe at this point that this is an isolated incident. It started happening a little over a month ago.

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American Express cards aren't as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard and never have been. It's nothing new.

Like its much smaller cousin Diners Club cards, Amex evolved as a somewhat exclusive card targeted to commerical T+E (travel and entertainment) use. They now have a broader customer base with sponsors like Costco pushing their cards.

You can use Amex with any airline, hotel or car rental agency. When you want to buy something at a store, Visa or Mastercard is a better bet.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:57AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Is your response supposed to be baffling? I've used Amex cards for decades at major retailers like this. Yes, many Mom and Pops only accept Visa & Mastercard - and some places still don't take credit at all. Walmart and Lowes are stores where I shop frequently and have been using Amex just fine until recently. And they still, obviously, officially accept them and have legal agreements requiring them to do so.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 1:42PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Ok, I called my issuer. This is a known occurence and I'm not at all the first to have noticed it. For whatever reason, they still want to claim to accept all credit cards rather than just flat out say Amex not welcome. According to him, in some cases they have long-term contracts and would be fined for not taking it. But the "card read" errors, really aren't. He said another variation is they ask your for zip and then claim that the zip doesn't match what is on the account!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 1:52PM
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Some 'card not read' problems are due to a card with a weak or dirty mag strip or a reader with the same problem.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 2:46PM
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Is your question supposed to be baffling?

If you've had an Amex card for decades as I have too, have you not similarly experienced it being declined hundreds of times as I have?

It's not just Mom and Pop shops that don't accept it in the US, there are lots of places that don't. Those who travel much have also experienced that Amex is pretty useless in Europe - other than with airlines and top tier hotels.

Cash back or premium redemption plans are pretty competitive among different cards. My Visa has a lot of other benefits, I use it much more.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:47PM
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I am self employed and I do not accept AMEX for the reasons stated above. All the other cards, Visa, MC, Discover are under the same merchant umbrella, so the fees are taken out from that. But AMEX wants their own fee schedules, and in today's economy, I'm not paying it.

FYI, those cash back and rewards cards are funded by the merchants. We pay that 1.5% extra in the transaction fee so the card issuer can give you the reward. That only drives up the costs of the goods.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:06AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"Is your question supposed to be baffling?"
Apparently it was. Maybe this could be adopted by ETS in a standardized test question: "You've always used a certain brand of card at a certain merchant. Suddenly this card stops working at the checkout terminal, even though the card's magnetic strip is fine, and even though the merchant still says they accept that card, and in fact can charge the card if entered manually. This is a __________ occurrence."

a) delightful
b) yellow
c) strange
d) religious

"Those who travel much have also experienced that Amex is pretty useless in Europe - other than with airlines and top tier hotels."
Yes, I've traveled in Europe and know this. In fact, plain old American Visas & Mastercards can raise eyebrows there, since they don't have a chip in them. At some places they will have to manually enter the number and see your passport. I was not, in this case, shopping at Lowes and Walmarts in Europe!

"If you've had an Amex card for decades as I have too, have you not similarly experienced it being declined hundreds of times as I have?"
Nope, if they say they accept Amex, if there's an Amex sticker on the terminal, etc., they've accepted it. Never had trouble with one before.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 5:58PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"I am self employed and I do not accept AMEX for the reasons stated above"

That's great, I'm happy for you. And I'm sure you don't post an Amex sticker on your door, to bait-and-switch people, then hope that they have another card available to them when it comes time to purchase.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 6:00PM
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When you carry a Visa card, there's no need to look for the decals on the windows or doors because they're accepted everywhere. Except when you see a "Cash Only" sign. I probably stopped looking for those little signs 20 years ago or more, it's one less thing to think about.

My Visa card from an American bank has a smart chip in it. The only places abroad it hasn't worked have been some ticket machines for subways or trains. Some, not all.

I was in Canada a few weeks ago and most of the typical places a tourist encounters (hotels, restaurants, bars, stores, attractions) all seemed to have smart card readers. My chip was read everywhere without exception.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 11:58PM
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More food for thought on keeping your cards out of the wrong hands....

A link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 12:08PM
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Davidrt28.... No I do not. I don't believe in bait and switch practices.

Maybe that's done where you live, but not here.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:47PM
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Go easy on the scare-mongering, dreamgarden.

That's not a useful article. Credit card holders normally have no liability for fraudulent use of their card numbers. If you're not sure, check with your card issuer.

If you have the right credit card, it can be used without risk. Card readers that have been compromised by the bad guys present a risk to the bank that issued the card, not to the user.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 5:58PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Update on this. For about 2-3 weeks after I posted, Walmart wasn't accepting it. After using it there regularly for over 5 years. Then I guess they decided to come to some agreement on a lowered transaction rate - as Walmart does with all their vendors - and presto, it works again. Or at least it has this weekend and last.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 6:45PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Guess what? Lowes as of last week is back to not accepting it. (same thing - "card read error" when the card is perfectly fine) Wallyworld is still OK. The person manning the self-check lanes saw me having trouble - I didn't request help - and said "Oh, sometimes we have to type those in" and I didn't want to go through the rigamorale of giving my zip, phone, CVV, etc. so I just used a Mastercard.

BTW I'm not discounting that the actual disagreement could be indirect...i.e. not exactly between Lowes & American Express, but betweens either of them and some bottom-feeding, not-a-household-name processing company. But its seems like with such big retailers, any such rate negotiation would be multi-party talks.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2014 at 1:46AM
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I use an AmEx card for 99.9 percent of all the transactions I make, and many of them are at WalMart and Lowes. I've never had a problem. Maybe you need a new AmEx card.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2014 at 5:16PM
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DH has used his Amex three times this month at Lowe's with ZERO problems.

Sounds like the OP's problem is not universal.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 2:50PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

But, as I posted previously, I called Amex (well, actually, it's a 3rd party Amex, so it was really FIA Card Services) and was told that it had been a common occurence at a handful of retailers, that Lowes _was_ one of them, and that it was, indeed a "sham" card read error. Merely designed to discourage you from using the card because of a non-competitive merchant fee. This particular card is only a few months old and works just fine at all other merchants. It isn't the card. And the chances that card readers at two different Lowes just "randomly" started having issues with this card, in the same week, are astronomically small.

Somehow I'm not surprised Lowes in involved, because they's always been non-standard in their handling of credit cards. At least on the east coast, until recently the checker always had to enter, manually, the last 4 digits of the card. Any card - Visa, Mastercard, or Amex. Going all the way back to the end of the manual charge card era (yes, I'm old enough to remember that) I've never known ANY other merchant requiring that. My guess is Lowes uses some off-name, discount pay processor that nobody else uses, and they are the ones who have some issue negotiating a merchant fee with Amex or FIA. The other people might not have had a bad experience because they were using "real" Amex cards; though I'm not sure if the back-end transaction belongs to Amex or FIA.

(in other words, Amex has now licensed their name and numbering scheme to cards that really are credit cards, mine is the Fidelity one that offers 2% cashback. I suppose it is possible that with certain accounts, the processor tries to exctract part of the cashback out of the merchant fee. In other words the problem isn't mere that it is a 3rd party Amex, but that it's a 3rd party Amex with a good cashback program. I've never carried a balance so I've made a lot of money using it.)

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Mon, Dec 29, 14 at 9:48

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 9:41AM
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Have had troubles in past using Amex @ lowes and WM but once we got replacement cards with chips--no more troubles

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 9:50AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Thanks for that interesting tidbit of info. My BofA Visa has been upgraded to a chipped card...but not my others. I guess they are on the horizon.
I'm not going to take the time to investigate this, but I have a feeling there's a somewhat shady rationale at work...given the infomation you've provided that is. I seem to recall reading that having the chip in the card changes the liability "structuring" or whatever they call it. It's something like, on the old cards, the merchants end up responsible for chargebacks. On the new cards, since they are assumed to be harder to clone and misuse, it is the card issuers who will have to cover most of the chargebacks for fraudulent use. It was a tradeoff for the expense of changing all the card readers. Or something like that. There was a very complicated article written by a lawyer and expert on the matter than I read about a year ago, when there was finally a push to harmonize us with the rest of the civilized world and use the chipped cards. So, it would be in the merchant's interest to perhaps de facto deny unchipped cards (by requiring a bunch of ridiculously tedious verification steps), to try to hasten the conversion to chipped ones.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 5:43PM
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Hi Christopherh,

You said that all of those fees are funded by the merchants.

May I suggest that, unless the merchant is so unable to compete that s/he goes out of business, they are funded by all of the customers?

And the ones who get partly shafted are the folks with cards that lack the bonuses, cash-backs, etc.

But the ones who get shafted the most are the ones who pay cash for their goods ... for the merchant gets ...

... every dollar ...

... and s/he gets it NOW - to use to meet her/his obligations now ...

...not a month or so down the road.

ole joyful ... who almost always pays cash

    Bookmark   December 30, 2014 at 4:12PM
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When I take plastic in my business, the money is in my bank the next business day.

I take plastic for the convenience of my customers. I personally use cash. If I can't afford it, I don't buy it.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2015 at 8:13AM
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