Instant Frustration: The Instant Approval Credit Card Experiment – Part 3

When I heard that American Express could give me an “instant decision” on a credit card application in 60 seconds, I had to put this claim to the test. Now I would make an offer they couldn’t refuse … money.

INSTANT APPROVAL TEST #3: BLUE FROM AMERICAN EXPRESS

Once more I filled out the American Express Blue application with my ridiculous character, but this time I made him an incredibly powerful drug lord, pulling down $622,000 per year.

Online Instant Approval Credit Card Application

This dude should be applying for American Express Platinum, then using his card to shmear butter on toast. They are lucky to have such a mighty drug baron applying for their lowly Blue card!

This time Horace Greenwaffle got a very different response.

Credit Card Application Confirmation

AHA! AMERICAN EXPRESS DID NOT PROVIDE ME WITH A DECISION IN 60 SECONDS!

“In order to provide you with an instant decision,” the response read, “we need to speak to you.” This wording makes it seem like it’s still an instant decision, but we consumers know the truth: this is not a 60-second decision. Remember the promise:

Guaranteed Instant Approval Credit Card?

Of course, their offices were closed, meaning the “instant decision” would have to wait until morning, when it would already be eight hours old.

I called and spoke with a grumpy supervisor named Jeanette. “Who am I speaking with?” she asked.

“Horace Greenwaffle,” I said. “I’m calling for my 60-second approval, which has already taken over eight hours.”

“I’m showing that we need you to confirm your income using a form called the 4506-T,” she said coldly. “This will give the IRS permission to send us a copy of your taxes.”

“Yeah, that could be a problem,” I said. “I haven’t paid taxes for the past few years. Or ever.”

“Okay, well, we’d need to find some way of confirming your income.”

“I’m self-employed,” I told her, lowering my voice to a whisper. “Tell you what. If I just sent you a photo of a big stack of money in my basement, would that work?”

Stacks of Money

“Probably not.”

“I’ve got a lot of it,” I said. “Believe me.”

“No, we need the 4506-T.”

“I was hoping for an instant approval,” I said. “How long will the 4506-T take?”

“It depends on how long the IRS takes,” she confessed. “It can take them up to four to six weeks to respond to us.”

“FOUR TO SIX WEEKS?!” I exploded.

“Well, are you in a rush?” she asked.

“YES!” I demanded. “You said I would get a response in sixty seconds!

“We can’t provide you with a decision,” she said. “We don’t have enough information to provide you with a decision.”

“So you need me to fill out a form, send it to you, then you will send it to the IRS, then the IRS sends it back to you, then you get back to me with a decision.”

“That’s right.”

“And that’s an INSTANT DECISION?!” I demanded.

Silence.

“I’ve got an easy way we can end this right now,” I said. “Just say to me, ‘We didn’t give you a decision in 60 seconds. We lied.’ Then I’ll let you go.”

“Sir, I really don’t need you putting words in my mouth.”

Instant Oatmeal - Instant Coffee - Why Not Instant Approval Credit Cards?

Exhibit A and Exhibit B

“You’ve heard of instant oatmeal, Jeanette,” I said. “You add water, you’ve got oatmeal. Instant coffee? Water, bam, coffee. You told me instant decision, and now we’re faced with a two-month governmental bureaucratic nightmare. How is this an instant decision?

“We did give you an instant decision,” she insisted. “The decision is that we need more information.”

“C’mon, Jeanette,” I said. “That’s not a decision, and we both know it. Now, here’s all I need you to say, and then I will let you go. Just say, ‘You’re right, it’s not a 60 second decision.’”

“Okay,” she sighed in defeat. “You’re right. Okay. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

“Nothing more, Jeanette,” I said. “You’ve made me a very happy man. Thank you.”

I hung up the phone and did a little dance, savoring my small, silly victory. I felt like the guy who just got a free Domino’s pizza because the driver was two minutes late. True, I had to put nails down in the street, then cover my house with a giant black tarp so the driver couldn’t find it—but who cares? Free pizza!

I got American Express to admit they lied. The 60 second “instant decision” can actually take up to two months. For most people, of course, the decision really will be delivered in just a few seconds. Just make sure you’re not an incredibly powerful drug lord. Apparently those guys require a little more investigation.

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