American Express has pledged to review its application process after complaints of lengthy delays when consumers try to get a credit card.

Some have had to write numerous letters, been forced to go back and forth to lawyers and the Post Office, and splash out on administration costs to prove their identity.

Amex sometimes asks applicants to send a certified copy of their passport or drivers' licence.

However, after we passed two MoneySavers' complaints to the plastic provider, the card giant accepted it had been too pernickety when asking for verification, which led to an arduous wait for both.

American Express, which has the top cashback credit card paying up to 5%, usually scores well for customer service (see the Cashback Credit Cards guide).

It was named top credit card provider by price comparison site for overall satisfaction yesterday.

But in one case a media director from Berkshire, who wishes to remain anonymous, first applied in November but Amex only accepted her document yesterday, after we intervened.

Here is the story of her saga:

  • After the original application she had to write back to confirm her salary.
  • She was then asked to send a copy of her driving licence or passport signed by a diplomat, judge, police officer, lawyer, actuary or accountant. She chose a lawyer and spent £6 to get it signed.
  • But Amex rejected it as the lawyer did not state the picture on her passport was a true likeness.
  • She spent another £6 to get it re-signed. This was rejected again as the lawyer did not use Amex's preferred wording.
  • She spent £6 again and was only told yesterday this would be accepted after media interest.

In another case, David from Hertfordshire, who wants his full identity kept secret, applied before Christmas and was told a few days later he needed to send a certified copy of his passport or driving licence. But:

  • He did not know anyone in one of the required professions so, after calling, Amex said verification from his bank would do. David went to Barclays where an agent told him he could not sign the document.
  • He instead went to a local doctors' surgery which wanted to charge £25 so he called Amex for another alternative and it recommended the Post Office.
  • David spent £7 getting a member of Post Office staff to sign his driving licence but Amex wrote back rejecting the signature as, while the clerk signed the form, she did not print her name in block capitals or state her job title, though it had a Post Office stamp.
  • Only after we intervened yesterday did Amex accept the Post Office certification, and David has now been told he will get a card shortly.

David says: "This was proving a nightmare and the time and cost I have incurred far outweighs the benefits of the card."

Amex stresses this policy is standard but only where a person's identity cannot be confirmed automatically as part of the credit check.

But it accepts the finer detail of its verification process can be arduous.

A spokesman says: "Naturally, we want the application for our products to be as smooth as possible while remaining within industry guidelines.

"We have taken on board the comments made by the MoneySavingExpert users and will look at our current processes to ensure they reflect the most customer friendly approach possible."

Further reading/Key links

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