Monday, July 21, 2008

Thin envelopes, part II

The 401(k) nonsense was slightly perturbing, but it was the second thin envelope in today's mail that really distressed me.

American Express is discontinuing my credit card.

There's a certain irony to this arriving in the mail the same day Amex announced no good very bad quarterly earnings. I imagine that at some point in the past few months, pressured Amex executives decided to "rationalize" ("right-size?" what's our current jargon for "whack things"?) their product offerings. And clearly, my preferred product offering got rationalized right out of the portfolio.

I've blogged before about how and why I picked Amex's In NYC card as my default card. I've had it since December 2004 or so, and it's been perfect for me -- I use the reward points, I pay little to nothing in fees, I've used the various protections it's offered (oh boy, have I -- that's the happy-financial-services post Coming Soon), and all my infrequently problems have been resolved fairly easily. Plus, it's black, and occasionally gets mistaken for an actual Amex black card. It's fun!

But as of November 2008, saith this letter, my card is discontinued. It's being replaced with an Amex Blue card.

Amex is trying to make this painless, I guess. My points roll over. My balance and (I hope, I hope) transaction history presumably will too. I'm assured I'll be able to use "Membership Rewards Express," which has "more than 140 redemption partners."

But they probably won't be my redemption partners -- local restaurants, a nice local spa I routinely drag friends to with my points, and so on. (Ok, I just loaded up, and the featured partner of the moment is Olive Garden. I'm doomed.) Plus, I have the fun of knowing that in two weeks or so I'll get the new cardmember agreement and have to pour over the fine print to see how similar it actually is to my current card. I'm assured that "many" of the things I "like about [my] In NYC Credit Card" are available with Blue. "Many" != "exactly the same."

Adding to the joy: I think I have a Blue card already. In college, I had an Optima card. I zeroed out the balance but never cancelled the card, and at some point it seems to have morphed into a Blue card; it still shows up on my credit reports and I get mail every so often about my exciting Blue cardmember opportunities. What happens now if I end up with two Blue accounts? No clue.

This bites. I'm gonna sign offline and go sulk now. (Actually, I'm trying to cash in my points for a Jean Georges gift certificate first. Then sulking commences.) RIP, my beloved In NYC Amex.

(Oh, and the third thin envelope was junk mail. After the first two, that was a relief.)