American Express Concierge, Messaging, and Gold Card

American Express famously touched the privileges and benefits of having their cards, of which there are quite a few. One of the most well known and storied is that of the American Express concierge1. There are stories about the American Express concierge acquiring a bottle of sand and shipping it to a card member, finding the specific jacket worn in a movie, and even getting reservations at in-demand restaurants. We had luck with the American Express concierge securing a table for four at The French Laundry when we visited Napa last year. I hoped to repeat that luck with another of Thomas Keller's restaurants, the soon-to-be-open TAK Room at Hudson Yards.

TAK Room

TAK Room at Hudson Yards

This gave me another chance to experience the American Express concierge service, as well as try-out the new in-app messenger to chat with them, rather than needing to call on the phone. When we booked TFL, we charged the dinner to the platinum card at one-point-per-dollar earnings; we'd recently gotten the American Express Gold card, which promised four points per dollar. How did this all work out?

The Good

I should start-off with what I continue to like about American Express, because while there's a lot I can complain about, they're one of the two best credit card issuers in the United States, along with Chase. AmEx and Chase apps and Web site are not downright bad (although recent redesigns have seemed to make them less usable), while basics such as getting autopay to work and transaction notifications work better than Citi and Bank of America (to name other big issuers). Discover may be the only issuer whose IT I've found to be consistently good, with a functional app and Web site; and while Amex and Chase are a step down, I find stronger benefits and value from their cards.

Strong points for American Express:

  • Good rewards earning potential: better than 2% cash. Membership Rewards has a variety of transfer partners.

  • Mix-and-match cards for optimum earnings (5x on air via the Platinum, 4.5x on supermarkets via the Everyday Preferred, etc.)

  • Call center staff has always been professional and pleasant (as opposed to when I've dealt with, for instance, one specific big bank in America)

  • Authorized users, or additional card members in AmEx terms, get unique card numbers, making it easier to track expenditures

It's that last item which I particularly like, as I think about what card my kids will have for emergency purposes when they get older. Unfortunately, American Express requires children to be at least 13 years of age before issuing a card.

American Express Concierge

When I booked The French Laundry, I started by calling the concierge line on the back of my Platinum charge card. This is the principal way that American Express publicises for you to reach the concierge. American Express has a special relationship with certain restaurants, including The French Laundry, and so I was transferred to a specific agent who managed booking that restaurant. The concierge created an account at Tock, which sh e would use to secure the reservation I was told (and then I would be able to change the password, and I could continue using the account in the future). In the end, while I still had the Tock account, the concierge secured the table by some other method.

Restaurant Reservations

Unfortunately, American Express does not have any similar relationship with the TAK Room, yet. My hope, given the tight connections with Thomas Keller's existing restaurants and American Express was that there was an unofficial/unannounced relationship, which would allow me to get added to an unofficial queue; or some such. After waiting on hold for about forty minutes, I decided to explore other options. American Express used to have an application for messaging directly with their concierges, but that was invitation-only and appears to be retired. The main American Express mobile application, though has recently integrated messaging support directly, so I decided to give that a try.

via Mobile App

Matthew: Dining reservations

AmEx: Hi Matthew! Thank you for chatting in today! How may I assist you today?

Matthew: I was interested in reservations at Thomas Keller's upcoming restaurant (tackroom) [sic] in NYC (scheduled to open in March). My wife and I will be in town weekend of April 27th.

Matthew: Is that something with which you could assist?

AmEx: Thomas Keller's restaurants are superb! I can see why you would like to dine there. At this point we do not have a partnership with him for his new restaurant, however, I:ll be happy to check if they have opened their books online.

Some time later:

AmEx: Matthew, thank you for your patience. Their online bookins haven:t opened yet, and they are not answering the phone. I will contact them in the afternoon to confirm when their books open and chat back with you.

AmEx: I know you said you'll be there that weekend. Are you open to dining Fri, Sat and Sun? Id [sic] so, what's your time frame?

AmEx: If they are able to reserve a table when I contact them, they will need a phone number. Please provide me with your preferred number to release to them.

Matthew: Sat dinner would be ideal. 7pm but flexible. Otherwise Sunday anytime, or lunch Saturday as lease preferable.

Matthew: phone number

AmEx: Awesome! Thank you for that I:ll chat back with you today with an update :)

A few hours later, I felt a rush of excitement as I was informed that I had a reservation!

AmEx: Hi Matthew, I hope you are having a wonderful day. I was able to speak to The Tuck Room Tavern for availability and you are in luck! Your reservation is confirmed. Please find all the details below: The Tuck Room- New York 11 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038(212) 776-8273Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 7:00 PMParty of 2Confirmed by (elided) Your credit card was not required to secure the reservation however to preserve our relationship with the restaurant please let us know if your plans change by the morning of the reservation local time. Please arrive on time, restaurant will only hold table for 15 minutes.

AmEx: Please let me know if there is anything else I can assist you with, I am always happy to help! :)

Upon reading the full message, I realized that address didn't look right. Sure enough, the reservation was in the seaport, on the east side of the island, in a restaurant entirely unrelated to Thomas Keller or the TAK room.

Map of route

The reservation was about as far as you could get and still be on Manhattan.

I called-up the Tuck room, and left a voicemail cancelling the reservation. Hopefully they got it. I figured I'd try a different medium, as the messaging system had its share of short-comings, some of my text had been "auto-corrected", such as the introduction of "tackroom", and being able to provide more context in a single message might avoid a further mix-up.

via eMail

Jan 22 I sent an eMail to the concierge. This involved a little dance to verify a different eMail address (they had associated the address associated with the Tock account). After a dance of sending and replying to eMails from both accounts, they acknowledged the new address and sent the following to both addresses:

There is still no word on when exactly Tak Room will be opening their doors, and often the announcement is not made until the last minute. I will keep an eye out for any news and will send you an update by 6:30 PM ET on Friday, February 15. If I happen to find out anything before then, I will certainly be in touch.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need assistance with anything else in the meantime. Have a great day. I hope to be in touch again soon.

On February 15th, I did get a response; to the old eMail address. Fortunately, it was one to which I still had access:

I hope this email finds you well. I am excited to confirm your reservation at The Tuck Room on April 27, 2019. The details of your booking are listed below - please note the cancellation policy.

Should you need any changes to your reservation, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make your request with the restaurant. If you need transportation to The Tuck Room, we would be happy to assist you.

Enjoy your dinner, and please share any feedback with us.

Your Reservation Details:

The Tuck Room 11 Fulton St, New York, NY 10038, USA 212-776-8273

Your reservation for 2 is at 7:00 PM on Saturday, April 27, 2019. It is reserved under Matthew Wronka.

Please note: Dress code: Business Casual Cancellation Policy: Your American Express Card was not required to secure this reservation. However, in order to preserve our relationship with the restaurant, we ask that if your plans change for any reason, please let us know at your earliest convenience so that we may advise them as a courtesy.

Thank you for your American Express membership. Please contact us at any time for Lifestyle expertise by dialing the number on the back of your card and selecting Concierge. We look forward to assisting you - enjoy your meal at The Tuck Room!


We were closer to the Tuck room when we stayed in Brooklyn. It's in that glowing complex in the left of the window. The Brooklyn Bridge is to the right.

I couldn't believe the exact same thing happened, and that this was after three weeks of waiting. I responded concisely:

The request had been for Thomas Keller's Tak Room, on the west side: 20 Hudson Yards, 5th Floor, 500 W. 33rd Street, New York, NY, 10001

I never heard back.

In-App Messaging

American Express had previously trialled communicating with concierges via SMS messaging, but this was invite only and as the reports go on-line, now completely disabled—much like their dedicated concierge app. They recently added a chat function to their iOS and Android mobile applications, however, which ostensibly serves the same purpose. Since you're already logged-into the application, there's could be some benefits here in terms of improved reliability (SMS messages are best effort deliveries) and tighter integration with your account.

Unfortunately, deliverability in the application is worse than SMS, which for the most part is pretty reliable these days. The app2 does not give any indication of whether a message was actually sent, or is in the process of being sent. The UI is updated immediately as if the message was sent, but if you close the app too quickly, switch applications (possibly?) or even just switch in-app conversations (definitely), messages you thought were sent—and appear to be part of the conversation from your side—are never sent and are silently lost.

Even when everything seems to be working correctly, there's the equivalent of being disconnected. We were planning a trip to burn-up our remaining Marriott points, so I wanted to check what prices American Express' International Airfare Program could provide. In the past, you would need to call-in to check the discounts3, and the messenger app seemed to offer less hassle.

Messenger screenshot

Attempting to use the messaging app to book international flights.

Unfortunately, the agent went away to check on something, and the conversation ended. There's no way of getting reconnected to the same agent as far as I can tell; reconnecting essentially starts a new conversation, where the new agent may or may not read the history: I've had to repeat my issue three times before giving-up, when trying to track down some issues with points posting—which brings us back to: the new Gold Card.

Gold Card

American Express used to have two versions of their personal Gold card: the straight Gold card and the Premier Rewards Gold (or PRG). In late 2018, they simplified their charge card line-up, with their basic Green card offering 1x Membership Rewards and not much else besides; the new Gold card, which is a revamped version of the PRG offering 4x on supermarket spend4 and 4x on restaurants; and the Platinum card which continued to offer 1x spend on most purchases, but 5x on airfare (the Gold offers 3x on airfare) and a bunch of auxiliary benefits, like elite status at Hilton and Marriott hotels.

The problem with the Gold card, is getting the extra three points for restaurants. There are the regular bugaboos of miscoding, which happens more often with restaurants since some use the same credit card processing as a related entity (such as a hotel or amusement park which contains them). Even places which Amex codes as restaurants don't necessarily get the credit. Data points tend to pick these up as locations which use payment processors like Square or Toast were inevitably not getting bonus points. These are popular in smaller locations where you pay at the counter, and you might see large branding or the tell-tale point-of-sale system, but many times sit-down restaurants might take your card back to run them through the same systems, making it difficult for you to know without trial and error which restaurants work.

Stick to the Basics

American Express and Chase are competing essentially with each other, both offer transferable points that are roughly equivalent, and the revamped Gold is a clear shot at the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 3x restaurant earnings. Just as I'm not a fan of the recent Web site revamps both companies have undertaken for their account dashboards, I'm frustrated by the issues American Express is introducing as its trying to add flashier features (and cut-back from more expensive call center staff, presumably). There's a lot I still like about American Express, but unless they can work-out the frustrating bits, and deliver on what they advertise, I'll be booking my own restaurants and paying with my Chase credit card.

  1. From what I can find on-line, and based on other's research, and some job postings; this is currently provided by Aspire Lifestyles, but was provided by Circles until about 2015

  2. based on the iOS version

  3. even farther in the recent past, you'd call-in to book a free companion on full-fare business or first tickets, rather than get a straight discount

  4. up to $25,000/year