Why You Should NEVER Use AMEX with Google AdWords

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That’s right. You should never use American Express for your payment method for Google AdWords. While American Express (AMEX) is widely accepted as the credit card for businesses, it may be a bit overzealous at protecting card members from actively marketing online — specifically with Google. While I certainly respect AMEX for being zealous to protect its card members from fraudulent charges, time after time they reject legitimate charges from Google AdWords.

Not long ago, I posted a story about why you should never use the prepay payment option with Google. Ironically, this is a continuation of that same issue… but driven by an AMEX chargeback. For those of you that have never experienced a chargeback, it occurs when the credit card company reverses the payment. Chargebacks can negatively affect your ability to move to the invoicing option with Google — even though they may not be your fault as the card holder.

In one case, I have a client, an ad agency, that is trying to move to the invoicing option with Google AdWords. However, I was told today that the credit application was denied solely because there was a chargeback on the account. Additionally, for some reason, two months after the first chargeback that AMEX made, just last week, even though the account is now paused and its prepay funds depleted, AMEX made yet ANOTHER chargeback! My client called AMEX to have the chargeback reversed, thus giving Google the funds back. However, AMEX indicated that it was Google’s responsibility to charge the amount again. Google does not agree.

In another case, a client with the postpay option also had a chargeback. While the client consistently spent nearly $70,000/month with Google AdWords EVERY month, for some reason, AMEX thought one month that the charges must be fraudulent and created a chargeback. There was no clear reason why Google AdWords would have been a red flag charge to AMEX in this case.

So where does this leave advertisers? I’ll say that I’ve never had this problem with Visa or Mastercard. Ideally, just move to invoicing with Google AdWords if you can and avoid the whole situation!

Janet Driscoll Miller is the President and CEO of Search Mojo, a full-service search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising management agency.

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  • Lydia Taylor’s assistant

    A note from the other side of the coin…We’ve used AMEX to handle our AdWords payments for well over a year and never had a problem.

    I suspect the problems noted in your post have more to do with the amount charged, or perhaps occurred only with corporate card accounts. (We use a personal AMEX for our site, and only spend a few hundred per month.)

  • Tony Wright

    Hmmm. I’ve used Amex for years with Adwords, in some months charging more than $500,000 on the card. I even got a black card for a little while because of this. Usually, with a new account or new card I do have to hand-hold the fraud department, but I’ve NEVER had a chargeback, just a denial of charges. Interesting experience though.

  • Anon

    A somewhat related tale, though not AmEx. Had one client dispute $35 worth of AdWords charges and the credit card credited them.

    After this, without warning or explanation, Google suspended ALL of my adwords accounts, though they were on different credit cards, different IPs, etc. The only thing in common was they were all in the same Webmaster Tools account.

  • Joshua Steimle

    We’ve experienced the same thing with some of our clients’ Amex cards. They’ll get declined for $400-500 charges, then they’ll call Amex, Amex promises not to do it again, and sure enough, it happens again. It’s never an issue of being maxed out, it’s always “fraud protection”.

  • Greg S

    I’ve spent well over a million on an Amex card with not a single issue. I’ve gotten kind of hooked on the points I’ve accumulated, been to Europe with 4 kids three times, so when Google asked me if I wanted to go on invoicing I asked for a discount to compensate me for the difference. They declined. So did I.

  • Dotcom Exec

    I have used my personal Platinum AMEX since January for my company’s Adwords accounts. Monthly billing ranges from $30k-$90k, and I’ve never had a chargeback.

  • Christine

    We had the same problem at my company with AmEx and Yahoo. They rejected the initial charge we made to put money into the account because it was a “large amount of money being spent on the internet” and seemed suspicious. Apparently $500 is a large amount of money to be spending on the internet.

  • Adam Sharp

    This happened to me with Amex 3 times. By the 3rd time , I was pretty harsh with the customer service rep. “No, you don’t understand. If this happens again, you’re losing my business. Period.” Hasn’t happened in the year or so since.

    That sucks about not being able to do invoicing because of the chargeback, I wasn’t aware of that.

  • SEO Web Design

    I did not know about that…Nice article.

  • jeff smith

    google adwords works for me very well and i will always use it.

  • Jonatan

    Adwords is excellent.
    But sometimes rejects many credit card in the process.
    I hope the ad prices to drop in the near future.