Confusion Concerning AmEx Payments and Secondary Cards


A few months ago, I signed up for and received a Qantas American Express Ultimate Card. I ordered a secondary card for my wife.

All has been going pretty well, except when the time comes to pay the bill. Looking at the PDF statement, debits are split into different areas depending on which card was used, yet credits are grouped together with no indication of where they've come from. When looking at the account online, debits can again be separated by the card used, whereas all credits are instead allocated to the primary card holder. For example, assume that the primary card holder has spent $200 and the secondary card holder $100, but the secondary card holder has also paid $100 to cover their spending. The section of the website titled 'Activity By Card Member' would show:

Card Member Debits Credits
—————- ——— ———-
(Primary member) $200 $100
(Secondary member) $100 $0

As you can imagine, this makes it difficult to figure out who owes what at the end of the month.

Making a payment is done via BPAY, where the money is transferred to AmEx's biller code, and the account code is the number on the card (different for the primary and secondary card holders). I could be wrong, but I would think this means AmEx knows exactly which card has received the credit. Why it isn't shown separately I have no idea.

My questions are: does this sound right to you, and do other banks treat payments made to secondary cards the same way? I've spoken to 3 different people at AmEx; the first said that there is no problem and it's working as intended, the second said payments made to the secondary card should absolutely show separately from those made to the primary card, and the third person agreed with the first.

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  • +9

    As you can imagine, this makes it difficult to figure out who owes what at the end of the month.

    It's your card, you owe everything. If you want to separate out who owes what, your wife needs to get her own card. There's a promo on right now, so if you refer her, you'll both get a heap of bonus QFF points.

    • +1

      I understand that the responsibility to ensure the card is paid off lies with the primary card holder, that's not what I'm questioning. If they split debits by which card was used, why not also show which card was used for payments? The primary card holder is still ultimately responsible either way, just like they're responsible for the debits made on each card, yet those are displayed separately. Why display them separately if not for the convenience of knowing which card was used?

      I know that how I think it should work ultimately doesn't matter, I'm just trying to understand the rationale and whether it's the same everywhere else.

      • +4

        If they split debits by which card was used, why not also show which card was used for payments?

        Because debit transactions are linked to a card, but credits are paid to the account, not a card. In other words, you could have paid a credit, your wife could have paid a credit, I could have paid a credit - it doesn't matter.

        • I agree that payments are for the account and not for individual cards. There is no separate 'primary card holder owes $X, secondary card holder owes $Y'.

          I say that payments are made to specific cards, as the card number (which is different for primary and secondary cards) has to be specified when making the payment. Once the payment has been received, the credit is added to the account that card is associated with.

          If you are saying that this information of which card a payment has been sent to isn't tracked, then that answers the question. I would see it as an unnecessary limitation; why not show that information? Having said that, I don't know how the back-end of it works, and there might be a good technical reason. Either way, thanks for your reply, I appreciate the input.

          • @CeleryMan: I still don't understand what you're trying to say. If I send a credit to your account, how does that either come under "your" card or "your wife's" card?

            • @p1 ama: From the AmEx site on paying your bill:

              You can pay your Credit Card bill directly from your bank account using BPAY®.

              For all Cards excluding David Jones Cards: Biller Code: 5082
              For David Jones Credit Cards: Biller Code: 88013
              Customer Reference Number: Your 15 digit Card number

              The CRN would indicate the card in question.

              • @CeleryMan: I don't think you understand what I mean - the CRN is only used to link it back to the account. You are not making payments to either card.

                • @p1 ama: I understand what you mean, and I have explained in previous replies that although the credit is being attributed to the account (and not the cards themselves), the source of the credit (which could be determined based on which CRN was used) isn't recorded or used in any meaningful way to separate the payments.

                  I don't know how else to explain it, so I will leave it there and assume that what I'm asking isn't possible using AmEx. Thanks for contributing.

    • Yes, I am the primary account holder so I am responsible for the credit on my card as well as the supplementary card my wife occasionally uses. A supplementary card is not considered a second account, just a second card, nothing more.

      Although one extra advantage is you can use offers on the second card in addition to the primary card, but if you register the second card for that particular offer.

  • All payments will be into the one account so how can it know?

    • Payments are made via BPAY to the individual cards, not the account.

  • While I understand the substance of your question, I don't understand the point.

    You've given a secondary card to your wife and you're worried about how much she has paid off vs. the charges she's incurred? How many payments are you both making that can't be tracked by some manual means? Why do you need a third party to provide you with evidence of what you vs. your wife has paid? Surely you only give a secondary card to someone where you're not worried about who's spent and paid what?

    If you are really that concerned, why not have your wife just get an entirely separate card that she is 100% liable for and you keep your card, spending, payments, etc. to yourself?

    • +1

      It's not that I'm concerned the bill isn't going to be paid or even how much is spent, it's so that we can easily see how much each of us needs to transfer to the account in order to pay it off each month. We both use the card for everyday spending as well as for some work expenses. Both of us make payments from different accounts to the AmEx through the month, and being able to see the amount that we have each contributed would mean less headache at the end of the month. It means not having to go through statements from elsewhere to figure it out.

      • +1

        If it's that big an issue, extract the transactions to a spreadsheet and then flag which payments you vs. your wife have made and reconcile accordingly.

  • +5

    Here's a simple solution. Don't make round number payments. End all of your payments in .42, hers in .77.

    Now when you see this:


    You can quickly add $100.42 and $520.42 together to see what you've paid, and $325.77, $250.77, and $350.77 to see what the other person has paid.

    Yes, it's a hack, but it works. "But what if my wife just doesn't grasp how to add .77 on the end?" you might ask. Well, as long as YOU remember to add .42 on the end of your payments, then it's a non-issue isn't it?

    • Thanks for the reply, I think we'll end up having to do something like this. A hack, as you say, but at least it gets the job done.

      • +1

        I don't understand why this is such an issue. It's your CC, you pay the bill at the end of the month. You have a record of what your wife spends through "her" card. Add up her spend, then bill her for her spend?

        • We both pay the bill throughout the month, and ensure it's back to $0 at the end. I can see what we each have spent, what I can't easily see is how much she has paid.

          I'm sorry, I honestly don't understand how else to explain this. As mentioned in my other reply, I will try implementing josetann's suggestion and leave the discussion here.

          • +1


            We both pay the bill throughout the month

            Why would you do that? You're better off keeping the money in a savings account. You're losing interest doing this and not saving any interest with the CC because it hasn't reached the billing date yet. (I'm not questioning what you're doing, just curious as it might help me!)

            I can see what we each have spent, what I can't easily see is how much she has paid.

            Don't you keep track of your payments? Keep a list of your payment receipts and if one doesn't appear in your list, then it's got to be hers?

            • @p1 ama: We get paid at different times (she's paid weekly and likes to transfer money when she gets paid, I'm paid monthly so that works for me). We also get paid expense claims from work through the month that go in so the money doesn't get spent. There's probably a better system; maybe this is just a procedural change that we need to make, rather than trying to get AmEx to fit our needs.

  • One final post for anyone interested. It might be easiest to look at this:

    My original question was around whether or not there was a way to show which card/CRN was used when making BPAY payments. You can see in the screenshot that there's no way to see who made the payments (expanding those payment lines gives no useful extra information), and all credits have been listed as activity by me, which was definitely not the case.

    I'll investigate other payment methods. I'm thinking that paying directly through the AmEx website, rather than via DD or BPAY, might allow for the 'Credits' column to accurately reflect who made the payment. AmEx might treat BPAY payments essentially like 'anonymous' transfers, rather than using the CRN to determine who to allocate the credit to as originally thought.

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply.

    • +1

      I think you should tell your wife to stop paying the account until you reconcile the debt. It just makes logistical sense and saves both of you some sanity.

  • Why dont you just get your wife to tell you weekly what she has paid so you can reconcile back to the monthly statement.

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