Why You Should Avoid American Express Brokerage
AmEx may have a great credit card, but they suck when it comes to investment services.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 21 June 2001

I just closed my AmEx brokerage account after almost a year as a customer, and good riddance! My time with this company has been plagued by misleading marketing campaigns and malicious policies.

It all started when I saw an ad proclaiming unlimited free stock trades (buys and sells) for clients with a certain level of assets. Ever the bargain hunter, I eagerly signed up and all was well for a few months. Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from AmEx saying that due to some "abuses of the system", they were implementing a cap of 10 buys and sells per month.

I accepted this without complaint, never intending to exceed that amount anyway. Then, a few months later, after executing a limit order trade, I noticed that I had been charged the normal commission of $19.95. A perplexed call to the customer service department ensued, whence I was informed that in addition to the cap of 10 buys and sells per month, the trades were further restricted to market orders only.

Market orders only. This was going to be a big problem for me, as I only ever write limit orders. I also suspected that AmEx was using the market order to work the spread to their advantage and profit at the customer's expense on each and every trade.

While this was happening, TD Waterhouse was undergoing a renewed campaign to improve its customer service. I was assigned a personal account manager in Portland, and 800-numbers, long wait times, and random customer service reps were replaced by one well-known contact.

I decided to move all of my assets from AmEx into TD Waterhouse. Before the final transfer of my securities and cash, AmEx extracted their final revenge. They deducted a $50 "account transfer fee" before sending over my cash. I complained vehemently to their customer service department, but to no avail.

I would admonish anyone considering American Express as a broker to go somewhere else. American Express looks good on the surface, but they fail in the most essential department -- trust. I personally hope to have many decades of fruitful investing ahead of me, none of which will ever go through American Express.

Update April 2003: TD Waterhouse is on my bad list now too. Like AmEx, they have implemented account maintenance fees and transfer account fees. I have started moving everything over to Scottrade and have been quite pleased with them so far.

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