I tried to pay my credit card bill on the American Express web site yesterday, and put in
350 for the amount I wanted to pay. Back came this error message:
Yeah, they wouldn’t accept my payment because I’d entered
350 instead of
Now, I don’t like to be a big conspiracy theorist nor say that a cabal of cruel credit card cads is looking for ways to drive us all up the wall. (Okay, it does actually feel good to say that. But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, even credit card companies.) I can’t help but wonder, though, how many times a day this error happens on the American Express web site. Hundreds? Thousands? I know that I personally hit it basically every time I pay my bill. Is it really possible that they just have no idea how aggrevating their site is? Note, by the way, that they’re more than happy to ignore a comma in a bill payment —
1,234.56 is just as acceptable as
1234.56. Are they willing to make things easy when you’re paying thousands of dollars, but not when you’re paying cents? (I love the example text that suggests paying
345,678.00. Thanks, next time I have a third of a milllion dollars in Amex debt, I’ll remember that!)
I won’t speculate about why they allow this aggrevation to happen every day, and whether it is intentional or not. I’ll just say that credit card companies in general make a very significant portion of their revenue — up to one-third — from “fee revenue,” which is the money you pay them not including interest (things like late fees, overlimit fees, and so on). American Express in particular would make more money from me this month if I’d gotten so aggrevated with their annoying web site yesterday that I walked away, and forgot to come back until after the due date. So I didn’t.
People who study user experience — for instance, our friends at Adaptive Path — can teach companies how to value a great user experience. It’s unfortunate that the math is somewhat inverted, here: American Express has an economic incentive to make their web site usable (since web payment is far cheaper for them than getting checks in the mail), but not too usable. The best situation for them is if you pay your bill through the web, late. Using Adaptive Path’s formulation: “To achieve increased fee revenue, we can make our payment site available but aggrevating by making the customer pat their head and rub their belly at the same time.” Great.
I think, next month, I’ll send American Express a check, on time. Hey, Amex, fix your site! I’d love to pay you more easily.