What date are your bills due on?

That is a simple question. I would surmise on any bill you receive — whether its electronic or in the mail — there is a clear date the bill is due.

This is important for many American consumers and small businesses, who are balancing their cash flow, trying to maintain a good credit rating, and (of course) pay their bills on time.

I hate personal anecdotes, but one came up recently that I have to share: American Express. In general, I am pleased with the level of service, and they make managing a small business easier with consolidated reporting. But one thing they do drives me crazy: They don’t tell their customers the due date of their bills.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is true. (I had a long conversation with someone there recently on this).

Look at your AMEX bill. Nowhere on their monthly invoice is an actual due date. Instead, there are two dates on the invoice:

• The billing cycle Closing Date;

• Something Amex politely calls the “Please Pay By” date;

Neither of these is the actual due date on the Gold Card.

Here’s the crazy: The actual date monies are due is not on the invoice — anywhere –  and is something all AmEx cardholder must calculate themselves.

Impossible you say? Why would any company do that? Read on.

Let’s use my invoice as an example.

In modestly sized type at the top of the first page of the monthly bill, we see that Closing Date of 5/21/13. That is the end of that billing period.

Then in bigger bolder type is the “Please Pay By June 5th” invoice date. (Note that this bill arrived on June 1st).

I call up AmEx to see why we are getting our bill so close to the due date, and the service person politely tells me that is not the due date. I inform her that it is the only date on the entire invoice. After some cajoling, she tells me that the due date is 30 days after the end of the billing period — in this case 5/21. I say so this is due June 21st? No, because May has 31 days, its due on June 20th.

Why don’t you guys just put the due date on the damned bill?

The answer it turns out is simple: FLOAT. American Express hides their due date, puts a Please Pay By on their invoices, and guess what happens? Millions of busy small business owners and harried families pay a few weeks early.

Thus, for the omission of a simple honest due date, Dow component American Express manages to capture 100s of millions of dollars per year in free money. All they have to do to earn it is engage is one of the most misleading consumer finance practices I have ever come across.

As misleading as this billing practice is, it is an improvement from the prior bit of outright Fraud AmEx used to do, where in they wrote Due Date instead of Please Pay By.  (They ended up refunding $85 million dollars and paying a fine and settling)

There is the state of Consumer Affairs in America: We think it is an improvement when Fraud is replaced with Deceptive Billing Practices.


I wonder if the Consumer Financial Protection Board and Senator Elizabeth Warren truly understand how deceptive this practice is.


Category: Corporate Management, Credit, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

52 Responses to “When Is Your American Express Bill Due?”

  1. stonedwino says:

    I got rid of my Amex cards a few years back…they are a dishonest company and the lack of a due date on your bill is just scratching the surface…

  2. F. Lynx Pardinus says:

    I have an Amex consumer credit card, and it has an “Payment Due Date” followed by the warning “Late Payment Warning: If we do not receive your Minimum Payment Due by the Payment Due Date listed above, you may have to pay a late fee of up to $##.## and your Purchase APR may be increased to the Penalty APR of ##.##%.”

    Is your bill for a non-consumer account?

    • PeterR says:

      Ditto, with an AmEx Delta SkyMiles card here. The Payment Due Date is clearly stated with the same language below this line.

      Now get this (if you want to get hot under the collar about AmEx) the APR for late payments can go to, ready?

      27.24% !!!

    • RugbyD says:

      Same for Costco Amex

  3. capitalistic says:

    Very frustrating. I realized the same issue last month.

  4. Mike in Nola says:

    I’ve also heard various horror stories about Amex.

    I’ve been concerned about similar things after receiving a letter from FIA Card Services which services Fidelity Investment cards about issuance of a new card to replace our old one. We’ve had a Fidelity cash back card for 8 or 9 years and it has a high enough credit limit to buy a midsize car. We wouldn’t use it for that much, but it was nice having it during Katrina when we didn’t know how long we’d be away or how much it would cost.

    The letter wasn’t particularly enlightening except that it sound like an Amex card and “no preset spending limit” was mentioned. We use it a lot for routing purchases, travel and automated billing. Does that mean our card could get rejected for some routine purchase while we’re overseas? And then there’s your problem about the billing date. I’m sure ours will change so they can charge late fees to the many people who get replacement cards. Glad I have a second card with a big limit.

  5. plahey54 says:

    Several years ago when I tried to close out my account with them they kept on billing me a few dollars after each final payment. It was infuriating. Each time I called I couldn’t get a definitive answer as to what I had to do, what sum I had to pay, etc. so as to avoid these lingering small balances due. They are unreal.

  6. Alain says:

    Hopefully there is some enterprising intern that surfs the web and will point out this article to her.

  7. Greg0658 says:

    when I was younger and card shopping – remembering AmericanExpress wanted their balance paid in full each month .. I always took it as the bankers convenience card (big purchases) – they want their money back soon to reloan it back out to another

    nowadays – a month of float ? I’m surprised they don’t require margin call at the bell ring each day

  8. Marcus says:

    Simple problem. Amex has a long history of user abuse.
    Simple solution. Cut up the card and never use it again.

    I have been AmEx free for twenty years and it feels great.

  9. Moss says:

    I am sure a consumer can self report this via the new CFPB, in fact here is a link to the Complaint form.
    BTW this is a perfect example of the abuses the financial industry. I am sure they went to great lengths to pay someone to design that bill.


  10. Donald says:

    Deceptive, yes. We use our Amex cards for convenience, not credit and pay it by the requested date. But they pay us about $500 a year to do so. If they can afford that, you can only image how much someone else is getting ripped off!

  11. Bryan says:

    I went from this post straight over to my amex account. Another interesting point – I use automatic debit for my payment…no way to change the payment date on that to anything other than the please pay by date.

  12. blinblin says:

    I have an AMEX card and live in Europe.
    My friend told me that one of the benefits of having an AMEX card is that it provides you with leverage when dealing with a merchant.

    Merchant’s pay a 5% fee for accepting AMEX cards ( which could be different depending on the country of use). If my friend sees the AMEX logo in a merchant’s shop and he finds something that he needs, he then pulls out his AMEX card and asks if he can get a 5% discount by paying in cash.

    Apparently it works for him. He says that he usually gets the discount. Otherwise AMEX offers the cardholder 1%. So it’s win – win.
    I have yet to try it

  13. culhnd says:

    I have an old Blue card, it has a due date. Looks like they use due dates for credit, “please pay by” for charge. Why? Lost finance charges if folks carrying a balance pay early make it a money losing decision. To see if they went all in with their strategy, it would be interesting to see what is printed on a charge card statement when you carry a balance (they have a number of programs to allow revolve on charge).

    AmEx mostly trades on prestige, the competition has better rewards value and comparable service. AmEx is still ahead on prestige and access (reservations, concierge, etc). Venture is a great card for rewards, very simple to get the value, great service (still uses a phone tree, but easy to get an agent and they are competent). Sapphire has decent rewards and solid service.

  14. formerlawyer says:

    Former retail clients of mine refused to accept American Express Cards, in part because they were the most expensive card to process for merchants.

  15. markwyand says:

    not to defend any sort of fraud or misleading policies but it seems like a lot of these stories are from years past. my more recent experiences have all been very positive with amex. are they not considered one of the top companies in customer service? i had that impression in my head, but maybe i’m off(?) i had a friend who worked for amex and was told that if you call and complain you can literally have them add points to your balance every phone call…


    BR: Mine is from this quarter — they changed DUE DATE to PLEASE PAY BY.

    As I noted, its a shift from outright fraud to merely deceptive and misleading.

  16. peggysue says:

    Many years ago I had Amex gold card when the only other option was green card.
    Did so for cash advance privilege.
    Prior to overseas trip I called Amex to check on using cash advance abroad.
    Was told cash advance privilege was terminated 2 years prior. No reason given.
    Cancelled card on the spot. Got Citi travelers chex for trip.

    Amex on impersonal ignore ever since.

  17. mbrmd says:

    I’m surprised one of the Amex Senior VP pukes haven’t picked up on a neat due date gambit played by Potomac Edison here in rural Maryland: a bill due date that moves from month to month (21 possibilities, I’m told, all based on some carefully constructed internal company formula presumably involving chicken entrails).

    With the moving due date, some months the bill is suddenly due on the 2nd or 3rd. For retired schmucks like myself, even paying on the first with electronic bill pay, the money somehow doesn’t end up as being “paid” until after the due date (another issue…), which I only realized lately by accident. A check of my bills showed I’ve unwittingly paid quite a few late fees over the past year. A few bucks here and there, but no doubt it’s another extraction for them that adds up handsomely.

    The corporate talking points say the monthly movable due date is somehow related to when they read the meter. That’s baloney, given that they are currently under investigation for violating the regulatory rule (remember those?) limiting them to an estimate every other month. I’ve gone four months with estimates, and the monthly bills vary wildly, recently between 12 and 600 dollars, one month to the next.

    I’m so proud of how large American institutions operate in the 21st century.

    • san_fran_sam says:

      I work for a large utility in California and likewise our meter reading schedule is staggered across the days of the month. It depends on weekends, holidays, etc. We have 21 meter reading schedules but because the days of month range from 28 to 31, a particular schedule can’t fall on the same day each month.

      I am looking at one schedule in particular an it ranges from the 17th to the 20th of the month. Depending on how you get your bill, paper or electronic, you should have plenty of time before the due date to pay it.

      If you want to pay your bill on a date certain, you might looking to automatic payment plans either with your utility or through your bank. Another thing to consider is a balanced payment plan if your utility offers it. It essentially averages your bill for the last, usually, 12 months and you pay that fixed amount. Maybe once a year they adjust it to reflect the latest average. Lowers your bills in the summer and winter and you make up the difference in the spring and the fall. Definitely eases budgeting.

      • mbrmd says:

        I think suggesting work-arounds and adjustments on my lowly customer end misses the point.

        Good to see that it’s not only MacDonald’s and Big Banks that resort to a tsk-tsk about financial literacy to divert attention from wretched practices.

        Perhaps your California utility is different but in our area there is now only the barest theoretical/formulaic connection between meter reading and bills going out. Schedules are made, but actual meter-reading of homes is done only a few months out of the year, while still generating moving target payment due dates. Combined with the way they help themselves to a three-day float of electronic payments and late fees, it’s a nice chunk of change they pick up on the backs of some of us who get paid on a particular day of every month.

        I don’t think the burden should be on a customer to get a goddam average of a yearly power bill because a zillion dollar public utility company is either so miserably incompetent or jokingly “regulated” that it sends homeowners two equally fictitious bills of 12 dollars one month and a 600 dollars the next. And I haven’t even brought up the incessant outages, which have brought such fame out here to Potomac Ed and PEPCO, although they do bring back memories of traveling in Delhi.

  18. Tarkus says:

    The BIG question is -
    Can these large financial companies – any of them – continue to “grow” profits without resorting to “deceptive practices” (some may use the word “fraud”)?

    Look at all the fines levied recently on large financial companies (who can charge it off as a cost of business and move to the next fine).

    Question – if all the shady/illegal practices were removed from these companies, what would their REAL profitability be? Anybody do that study?

  19. romerjt says:

    Encountered same issue but I keep my card as I’ve had it for decades and always pay on time and may help me get the interest free credit card offers w/points. Currently have an interest free for 21 months card that I use for many, many things and use the points to pay down the bill. I love it that they are paying me for the act of borrowing money from them .. revenge.

  20. Mark Down says:

    Waiting on stock to hit 100 then i’m gonna say how bad AMEX is!

  21. cfischer says:

    If I was that unhappy with the companies (lack of) ethics, I’d just vote with my feet and get a different card.

  22. BuffaloBob says:

    AMEX also reserves the right not to post electronic payments for 3 days after receipt, which I found out after paying electronically on the due date, and getting hit with a late fee. I researched switching to a card with my local bank where I have a checking account. Guess what; even with an electronic payment coming from within the same institution, they give themselves 3 days to post the payment.

  23. NoKidding says:

    You buy from X with Amex, X gets cash from Amex when? It has to be faster than 30 days.

    If the float issue is a big deal to you personally, max out the card on the first day of each billing period, put the funds in an interest bearing account, and py in full at the calculated due date.

    If the billing cycle is equal to the billing period (30 days) plus the due date offset (30 more days) than you can pocket two months of savings account rate at 0.1 percent. Yay! ;)

  24. par1 says:

    I’ve been ignoring the “pretty please” date for 20 years and paying one day before the end of the billing cycle. Never had any complaints from them.

  25. tramboneplayer5 says:

    This is not true for consumer accounts. The fifth line on my card member agreement says “Your due date is at least 25 days after the close of each billing period.”

    My statement closing date this period is clearly marked on the bill as July 26, and the payment due date is Aug 21, or 26 days later.

    The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 also set rules regarding standard payment dates and times:
    Your credit card company must mail or deliver your credit card bill at least 21 days before your payment is due. In addition:
    Your due date should be the same date each month.
    The payment cut-off time cannot be earlier than 5 p.m. on the due date.
    If your payment due date is on a weekend or holiday, you will have until the following business day to pay.

    Also, credit cards issued primarily for business or commercial purposes generally are not governed by the consumer protections in the Truth in Lending Act or the amendments to that act in the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009. (http://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo/wyntk_creditcardrules.htm)

  26. Rathseg says:

    I have an Amex Blue card which is more of a credit card than a charge card I guess, since you don’t have to pay in full each month. I rarely look at the pdf bill since I can review all charges online before I pay ( I never do automatic payments ). I do have a due date though, and I was actually able to set it to my choosing, due to some law passed severa years back that allows consumers to pick ( nearly ) any day of the month to always be the due date. This is nice because previously the due date would shift a little bit as the months are not all the same length and the billing cycle was 30 days which was annoying. I don’t know if you can do the same thing with a charge card. I would call them or navigate their website and see if you can find an option to ‘pick your due date’. I’ve also got alerts set on the account to send me emails with a 5 day due date warning.

  27. aquamanaquaman says:

    I had a very similar problem with CitiBusiness’s AAdvantage Mastercard. Even though my company is on an autopay cycle and CitiBusiness recognized that, they ingeniously found a way to tack on interest charges each month. I only caught it when doing Quickbooks, spent a great deal of time calling them to get rectification. They would not provide a logical explanation for why I was getting charged interest (fraud perhaps?) but did reverse the charges. The moral? You really have to watch these companies or as suggested above, vote with your feet. I no longer use the card unless I have no choice. When I told the supervisor of my intent to decrease use of their card, they did not seem to care. They won’t get it until large numbers of consumers take our business elsewhere.

  28. bobmitchell says:

    I thought there was a law on the books that said you had to have at least 21 days from the day you got the bill in the mail. I don’t know where I got that notion.

    Time Warner Cable is the worst. Instead to billing for the past month, they bill a month ahead. They also send bills too close to their “pay by date”. I had one show up after the pay by date. I called and asked about it. “well, your billing cycle starts xx and ends xx”. It’s not MY billing cycle, it’s Time Warner cables billing cycle.

  29. DeDude says:

    No wonder that they and their congressional sock-puppets fought so hard against creation of a consumer protection agency.

  30. wally says:

    Same thing with my mortgage (U S Bank) – there is a “due date”, but no penalty is applied until some time after that; I think maybe two weeks or so. To me, that means the ‘due date’ is somewhat artificial.

  31. holulu says:

    My COSTCO AMEXP does have Payment Due Date on it.

  32. wally says:

    By the way, that ‘float’ may matter to Amex, but it really doesn’t mean squat to you.
    My last statement from a Wells checking account paid me 4 cents interest on an average balance of $5000.
    Calculate the rate if you want, but it isn’t worth your time. For any purpose I can image, it equals zero.

  33. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    Then there’s the “no pre-set limit” which really means that when you need to make a large purchase, you have no idea if your Amex will be accepted. Company I worked for needed to make payment arrangements for a hotel event in New York that cost around $10,000. We knew we rarely used the card and gave Amex 3 days warning. They said they’d need a week to review our financial statements. Said they weren’t interested in contacting our bank, which could have told them that our bank balance never dropped below $3MM and was often closer to $10MM. We’d also just celebrate our 100th year in business.

    Fortunately two people at the NY meeting were able to put the bill on their personal cards.

  34. curfuzzled says:

    Another interesting thing that American Express did recently was change the terms for everyone regarding mandatory binding arbitration (they now pick the venue to settle disputes). The notice for this was put on the back of the paper bill. I pay my bill online and only look at the electronic statement (not the PDF), so I didn’t hear about it until the opt-out period was past.


    Then, also from American Express, we have this recent supreme court ruling saying singing away your rights is fine and dandy (because we have “free” markets, not an oligopoly of credit card companies, and you can take your business elsewhere):


    If you want a card without an arbitration clause, credit unions are where to start looking.

    • bear_in_mind says:

      @curfuzzled: Yep, CU’s are about the last bastion. Virtually all other businesses that work with credit or lease terms either have, or are in the process of moving, to arbitration-only contracts. Enough of them are doing it that a consumer’s options are rapidly dwindling. I’ve been using a storage unit for some excess family booty, but they’ve done the same thing while jacking-up the rent by 15%. Little to they know, I’m closing that sucker down in the next 1-2 months. Hope they enjoy that empty locker!

  35. rjb says:

    I have an Amex card from Costco with a “Payment Due Date”. I pay the full bill every month. Couple of years ago I paid the bill less than 24 hours late and got a fee and percentage penalty of around $150.00 which they refused to remove.

    • bear_in_mind says:

      Holy shite! If that’s not usury, I don’t know what is!!!!! I would cut that card to shreds and report the experience to the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau.

      I have the same AmEx/Costco card, but really use it mostly for Costco, gas, and travel expenditures. I’ve found that: 1) Not nearly as many restaurants will accept the AmEx; 2) Even those that do, I wind up having to contact AmEx to challenge the fact that it WAS a restaurant expense! I mean, how many transactions named “Nick’s Crispy Taco’s” have you heard of that AREN’T restaurants?! C’mon, AmEx!

      I moved my banking to a credit union two years ago (yo Occupy!) and haven’t looked back. They gave me a one-time 12 month CD @ 5%; free checking; a Visa with 1% back on ALL purchases; and a 8.2% APR. I never carry a balance, so they pay me several hundred bucks a year for using their line of credit.

  36. Sara Stein MD says:

    PNC business credit card with zero percent intro offer – nowhere does it say when that offer expires – I had to call and be on hold for 20 minutes to get that information. Raspberries to you PNC, I’ll either pay it in full before the date or transfer it to another zero percent card.

    And where the hell are my miles from AmEx they promised? I paid, they defaulted? Oh I see, it’s another phone call which most people won’t make.

    I am very careful in my world to tell people who use 0% medical credit cards to pay me when they have to have it paid off by or they will incur astronomical interest fees.

  37. DeDude says:

    “Please pay by” is for those who pay their monthly balance every month. You only get “Payment due” dates if you are a good customer that have a balance and let them suck fees and interest out of you. If they get you tagged as a “last day payer” then they send the bill just just a few days before its due. If you sign up for autopay, then they will charge your account 2 weeks before the due data if you sign up to pay the balance and on the due date if you carry a balance. These are all policies keept secret (like your due dates) and they do it because it is legal and profitable (not included in required disclosures).

  38. Livermore Shimervore says:

    How can I put this politely. Fuck those guys and they’re deliberately opaque billing practices and your welcome for the tax-payer bailout while charging everyone mafia interest rates. I had a dispute with them a few years back. Long story short I didn’t pay, they terminated my platinum account, I kept $350 a year for not having the privilege of letting them make money on my charges. They tacked on a truck load of fees onto the ‘sign and travel’ account I kept with them. I balked and told them to cough up the agreement that authorized them to add a dime beyond the balance. I wanted specific language tied in any way to my signature. Their guys sent over what amounted to a blatantly bogus document which they legally tried to pass off as the original agreement — what any layperson would call a forgery. And don’t get me started on the harassing phone calls from their collections goons making one false statement after another, they sounded like a bunch of out of work lawyers from barely credible law schools. It went to court, (the amount was less than the minimum necessary to take it to the bigger civil court) so without a lawyer I had their case dismissed as it was plainly obvious they a) mismanaged their old records, b) couldn’t find my original agreement and c) fabricated legal documents. During a mediation later on they were brow-beaten into accepting repayment without the nearly 30% in added fees or any accrued interest. I only wanted them to report the ‘sign and travel’ as ‘paid in full’. When I followed up to make sure they had done so, it was an epic waste of time, one phone after another, they couldn’t even locate the records because they were shit-canning one subcontracted lawyer after another. 9 in 10 people I spoke with at the actual company had no idea what the hell I was talking about. It was a revealing show of incompetence coupled with shady actions from what I thought to be the top shelf brand in the credit card industry. I keep one credit card now in case I never need to rent a car. Debit card all the way. I see what goes in and what goes out in real time. Put it this way, when I first heard about the industry foaming out of the mouth because people were going towards debit card in tectonic type movements, I had a feeling I was picking the best option.

  39. MikeR44 says:

    My Costco Amex has the due date in Bold right at the top. It appears to be about 27 days from the end of the billing cycle. I earn cash back on both Costco Amex cards, business and personal. It’s nice to get several hundred dollars once a year. Barry, shopping should be fun.
    I quit regular Amex years ago because I refused to pay their fee.

  40. [...] Surprisingly Difficult Questions When is your Amex bill due? – Barry Ritholtz [...]

  41. FlyBoyMcCall says:

    I have three AMEX cards and none of them are as discussed in this blog. All of them have a clearly labeled due date which is just shy of a month after the closing cycle. I have had two of these cards almost 20 years. The third, five years.

    FYI: I never carry a balance to their margin on me is small.

    My personal opinion, based on my experiences, is that AMEX is not nearly so Machiavellian as some of those commenting have suggested. The few times I have had a question or a problem, the phone line was answered by a skilled and polite agent in Salt Lake City. On two occasions, I was out of the country and late making my payment. They waived the fee with no questions asked.

  42. bear_in_mind says:

    Well, this is a topic that maybe deserves a fresh new posting, because, lo and behold, my Costco AmEx TrueEarnings card just changed their “Rewards Program” agreement. Here’s the changes verbatim located on Page 7 of the August 2013 statement:

    Important Information About Your Rewards Program
    The terms of the account reference in or with this notice are subject ro change in accordance with the Cardmember Agreement governing the account (the “Agreement”). This notice formally amends the Agreement as described below. Any terms in the Agreement conflicting with these changes are replaced fully and completely. Terms not changed by this notice remain in full force and effect. We encourage you to read this notice, share it with additional Cardmembers on your account, and file it for future reference. If you have any questions about these changes, please call the number on the back of your Card.

    We are changing the Supplement to the Cardmember Agreement (the “Supplement”) to clarify how the annual reward period for the TrueEarnings Program works:

    Effective immediately, the second sentence in the How you earn rewards section of the Supplement is deleted and replaced with the following:

    “An annual reward period is 12 billing periods in a row beginning with the one that includes February 1st. If your billing cycle changes, the length of your annual reward period will also change.”

    So if I’m reading this contractual mumbo-jumbo correctly, AmEx just unilaterally did the following:

    1) Pushed qualifying annual rewards program purchases forward by six months, disqualifying all subsequent expenditures for consideration or “rewards” through February 1st, 2014. This naturally eliminates purchases during the all-important 2013 holiday shopping and travel season.

    2) Granted themselves the ability to extend the length of the annual reward period merely by changing your billing cycle.

    I gotta give it AmEx, they’ve got titanium balls to pull this stunt. And as it is, they haven’t been correctly accounting rewards expenditures, somehow claiming that ChaAm Thai Restaurant ISN’T considered a “U.S. Restaurant” for reward purposes. They also didn’t flag my payment of a airline ticket as an “Eligible Travel Purchase” toward spending.

    Well, I’m gonna send AmEx a letter on both these issues, but I’m also going to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is *exactly* the kind nonsense they’re supposed to clamp-down on, so I figure why not tee-it-up for them.

    The other result for me is that AmEx has just relegated their card to Costco-only spending; and that’ll only be for gasoline and in-store purchases, as you can use ANY major credit card to purchase goods on the Costco website.

    Bravo AmEx! You wanna crap on your own customers? Well, you’re gonna be the one to reap the rewards .