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Several months ago, American Express had a very limited time offer of 70,000 bonus SkyMiles for signing up for the American Express Delta card. Delta miles aren’t worth as much to me as miles from American, United, US Airways, Frontier, Southwest, Virgin America, or many other airlines, but 70,000 miles is a lot–especially since the normal bonus is 30,000 miles.

I jumped at the chance, and I was approved for the card. The 70,000 mile offer required $5,000 in spending, so I met that requirement, and all the bonus miles posted by mid-December.

When I got back from my trip to Australia and New Zealand late last month, I had received this letter from American Express.

Dated December 28, 2012 the letter apologizes that at the time of my credit card application “a system error” had kept American Express from providing me with an “Instant Account Number.”

For those who don’t know, an Instant Account is an advertised benefit of several American Express cards including the SkyMiles card.

The Instant Account gives you the ability as soon as you are approved–and before you get the card in the mail–to charge purchases at one or more merchants to your new credit card account.

In the case of the SkyMiles card, you can use your Instant Account for purchases of up to $1,000 from Delta.com.

For not giving me the ability to use my Instant Account, American Express’s letter said that a $100 credit had been made to my credit card account and a 4,000 mile deposit had been made in my SkyMiles account. Both adjustments were indeed made to my accounts.

But I had been planning to use my Instant Account feature, and its unavailability had cost me miles. I sent American Express a secure message to see if they could offer me more compensation.

To send a secure message, click Contact Us along the bottom of the page after signing into your account.

Then click the icon that looks like an envelope.

Finally click the Ask a Question tab.

Select the card that the secure message is in reference to and the appropriate department to handle the inquiry.

I sent the following message:

“I applied for my Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, knowing that I could get an instant account number to use on Delta.com for up to $1,000. I was planning on booking a first class itinerary from Los Angeles to Tampa and Tampa to Washington DC for $799.20. But when I tried to use the instant account number, I wasn’t able to get one. This cost me a lot of potential miles. I’d be happy to provide you screen shots of the itinerary I wanted, and the one I took. I hope American Express can make this situation right for me. Thanks.”

I had the following screen shot ready in case they wanted to see it.

My secure message followed my standard procedure when contacting banks or airlines for compensation:

  • Keep it polite.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t add in other complaints unrelated to the main one. “And one time I called and your agent was rude, which makes me rethink my relationship with American Express.”
  • Make it specific. “I was planning on booking a first class itinerary from Los Angeles to Tampa and Tampa to Washington DC for $799.20.”
  • Ask for compensation. “I hope American Express can make things right for me.”

About six hours after I sent the secure message–American Express says it will answer within ten hours–I received a response. An American Express agent apologized again and said that 1,599 more miles would be credited to my SkyMiles account in the next few days.

He didn’t say it, but that represents two miles per dollar on the contemplated $799.20 Delta purchase.

Of course, I would have earned many more redeemable and status miles from flying that first class itinerary, but I was happy with the show of goodwill from American Express and decided not to push it any further. That’s $100 and 5,599 miles for a temporary delay in being able to use my new card.

Has anyone gotten a similar letter and credits? Have you successfully asked for more compensation? What compensation have you received from banks or airlines in the past by asking?

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