The Good Ole American Express...Gone?

Feb 25th, 2007, 06:40 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,388
Meanwhile, my very last experience in an American Express office was in Geneva about 12 to 15 years ago. We were returning to the US the next day and didn't have any US cash left (this was before I was using ATMs -- did we even have them then?). I did have a $100 US American Express Travelers check, so I went to their office to cash it, foolishly thinking they'd give me the face value of $100 for it. Wrong. They would only cash it in Swiss Francs taking a huge amount due to their high exchange rates. Then they would exchange those francs for US dollars again at a horrible exchange rate. The bottom line was that I would get something slightly less than $70 for my $100 check -- in other words a 30% + charge.

I don't mourn the loss of American Express offices in Europe.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Neo - Those who have the "regular AMEX" card knows what they have. They also know how much annual fees they're paying. It's not associated with anybody - not Costco, not DL, not Starwoods. It's also not a credit card, but a charge card that you need to pay off every month (unless you sign up to pay off travel stuff over time).

The look is also different. The regular cards still have that "classic" look with the small Roman (?) figure in the middle of the card. Go to and take a look.

rkkwan is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 07:00 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,388
OK, I see my Roman soldier is bigger, otherwise the card looks identical.
And the "regular" one is still not accepted at thousands of places that only take Visa or Master Card, particularly in Europe I suppose.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 07:17 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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During my trips to Europe the last few years, I really find the AE widely accepted in all places I went - Netherlands, Belgium, UK, France and Italy. Sure, there are some merchants that don't take AE, and I have other Visa/Mastercards to use but the majority do take it.

In fact, in Palermo, Sicily, we actually ate a restaurant that takes AE but not Mastercard. If you want name, I can give it too - "Lo Sparviero" at Via Sperlinga 23-25, one street north of Teatro Massimo.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 07:18 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
BTW, I don't have one, but I think if you have a big account at Fidelity, they can give you a "regular" AMEX Platinum charge card at reduced fee.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,388
We once ate at a place in Stockholm that ONLY took Amex. So yes, I know that sometimes happens. And my favorite place in New York - Roberto Passon only takes Amex.

But I can't tell you the number of times I see people in Europe pulling out their AMEX card and being told they don't take it. I think it is a false impression to say "the majority take it". There are thousands and thousands of places in Europe that will take Visa or MasterCard but will not take AMEX. I know a guy who only took his AMEX because he had been told "everybody" takes it in Europe. He ended up having to use cash most of the time, as he said less than half the restaurants they went to took the card, yet ALL were taking other cards.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Feb 25th, 2007, 08:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,000

I love Amex most of the time. Before ATMs I would cash checks at Amex offices all over Europe, and use their client mail service. I'm not an "old fart" but I prefer to call myself a crusty geezer. says that the platinum card is free. Has anyone signed up on this? I only have a gold and I think it costs $75 a year.

To Barb_in_Ga: Use tinyurl and your 121 character long link becomes:

My favorite American Express story took place in Paris. My girlfriend's dad took about a dozen of us out to dinner in a 2 or 3 star restaurant near the Champs-Élysées. As we were leaving the Hotel Le Meurice his son in law asked him if had cash with him. "No" he replied in confidence, "I have my American Express card." After we sat down in this restaurant full of penguins (waiters in tuxes) I noticed on the menu that the place did not accept credit cards period. I got the message around to Gustav at the other end of the table, whereupon his son in law pulled out a huge wad of francs (pre euro) and passed them over to Gustav. In the end my girlfriend paid for dinner with a eurocheque (also pre euro)and the cash was invested in an exciting show at the Crazy Horse. Wow, what a place.

FWIW, as of a year ago the Amsterdam Amex office on Damrak was still in business cashing checks, exchanging money, and selling tours.

hopscotch is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 94
PalenQ: I guess I am officially an old fart too. When I was a teen my family traveled in Europe for two years. I was recently trying to explain to my kids how it was possible to get mail and telegrams from family at the American Express offices in the cities we visited (we didn't have a permanent address and American Express was our only way to get mail). My kids can't even imagine life before computers. I remember clearly eagerly waiting to see how much mail would be waiting for us at each stop. Now you hop into the internet cafe and in a click get updated with news from home. No need for snail mail and telegrams.
WLS is offline  

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