In Sep 2018 I bought about $55 of clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue with my Amex Platinum card. Amex credited my account $50 because they have a perk where they will credit your account $50 semi-annually for Saks purchases.
Looks like about $38 of the items were returned in Oct 2018 (and credited to my account). I vaguely remember this.
In Nov 2018 I closed this consumer plat account (I had another Plat card and didn’t need two). They sent me a letter confirming a final $0 balance.
In Feb 2019 they applied a $33.02 bill to my account representing the amount of the Saks credit that they shouldn’t have applied (since I ended up only having $16.98 of net spend in H2 2018). This seems totally fair, but unfortunately it was kind of … not communicated. Since my account was no longer visible online there was no way to see this charge, and as far as I can tell they didn’t send any physical correspondence mentioning the charge. They did, apparently, send two e-mail messages saying “please pay your balance” and mentioning the last 5 digits of my former Plat card, which unfortunately looks very similar to the last 5 digits of my other Plat account. This was a red flag that I missed (an e-mail saying “please pay your balance” with no other details which referred to a closed account).
They applied two $30 late fees plus interest in Mar 2019 and Apr 2019, then reported my account as “30 days late” to TransUnion.
A single 30-days-late remark dropped my credit score significantly:
- CreditKarma - 819/819/821/820 to 734
- Credit Sesame - 826/814/823/816/819/823/822/819/821 to 734
Oddly neither CreditKarma nor Credit Sesame noticed the “30 days late” account – I had to pull my TransUnion report via annualcreditreport to see the remark, reportedly updated 04/05/2019.
In a brief 25-minute phone call, Amex CS explained the charge, explained the history of correspondence (“we sent a letter in Nov 2018 and some e-mails in March 2019 and April 2019”), waived the late fees, took payment for the $33.02 balance over the phone; and transferred me to Amex’s credit reporting team, who said they would be happy to ensure the “30 days late” remark is removed, which will involve “re-aging” the account, which involves creating and mailing three new statements and waiting for the next statement date, in early May.
I was shopping to refi my mortgage in the next month or so, so this does actually directly affect my finances. This is very surprising.
Obviously I take the blame here for not monitoring my e-mail inbox more closely (the “please pay your balance” e-mail should have been a red flag, my fault for assuming it referred to my currently open Plat card which had a balance which I paid), and for not noticing that a closed account was reporting a balance to credit bureaus.
This is very challenging to check – the free credit monitoring services do not currently apply a heuristic to warn you that “you have a new nonzero balance on a closed account”. This is a scary scenario; balances on closed accounts are particularly difficult to notice because closed accounts often don’t generate statements and disappear from online-management portals.