I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.
The Visa Signature Concierge Service is a benefit included in a number of Visa Signature credit cards issued by various banks. Some cards you have already are probably a member of the program including:
- Citi American Airlines Visa
- Chase British Airways Visa
- Chase United MileagePlus Visa
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (logo on back)
To see if your card is a Visa Signature card, look for this logo:
The Visa Signature Concierge is designed to help with dining and hotel reservations, getting you tickets to events, helping you shop, and a lot of other things.
I had never considered using it–I’m not sure I knew it existed–until I read a post on Frequent Flyer University about Parag’s successful experience using the American Express Platinum Concierge service to purchase some urgently-needed clothes and replace lost tickets. I knew AMEX Platinum had a concierge, but in the post he linked to a Four Hour Workweek post about testing the limits of the Visa Signature concierge.
Read the whole Four Hour Workweek post for the ridiculous tests he puts the service through to find its limits. In the end, a list of can’t-dos is appended.
Reading those posts got me thinking whether the service would be any use for me, and an opportunity immediately presented itself. I announced a MileValue dinner in Tampa for last Saturday without any knowledge of the area. That means I didn’t have a good place in mind for dinner. Enter the concierge.
I called the number on the back of my Chase British Airways card and was connected to an agent after a few touch-tone menus. I told the agent that I wanted to find a restaurant in Tampa, and I had the following needs:
- In downtown Tampa with good freeway access.
- Could take a 15 person reservation at 7 PM on February 2.
- Could split the check 15 ways.
- Had some entrees under $15.
- Got good Yelp! reviews.
The agent was friendly and polite. She assured me the request would be no problem and that she would give me some options at 2 PM ET (about five hours later.)
Two hours later I got a call from the Visa Signature Concierge Service saying the request was more difficult than imagined, apologizing, and asking if they could get back to me the next day at 2 PM ET. I said that was fine.
The next morning I got the following email in my inbox:
Dear Mr. Grimmer,
Thank you for having Visa Signature Concierge assist you with your request. Please take a moment to review the information below at your earliest convenience.
I have attached a file with restaurant recommendations in Tampa Florida.
Please let us know if you would like a reservation at any of the options.
Please feel free to contact us here at Visa Signature Concierge. We are at your assistance 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Thank you for contacting Visa Signature Concierge.
Visa Signature Concierge
The attached PDF had three restaurants with entries like this:
I was not happy with the first response.
Basically I thought my request had been blown off. All three restaurants were listed as “$30 and under.” Theoretically that could mean “$15 and under” like I asked, but I was annoyed there was no reference to my price point.
Also nowhere in the email or PDF did she confirm these restaurants met my other parameters, including the most important: the willingness to split large checks.
I called back annoyed. I asked the new concierge whether he could see my old request on file. He could. I explained that it had not been fulfilled satisfactorily, and I asked him to repeat the task. He apologized, said he could handle it in two hours, and asked if I wanted to be called or emailed. I asked him to call.
Ninety minutes later, he called back. He told me that he had started by checking the restaurants on the PDF. The first two met my parameters, but the third didn’t meet the location parameter. He had searched for a third option and found one. He gave me the new third option’s information.
I told him I could take it from there and thanked him.
I could have picked a restaurant and asked the concierge to make reservations, but calling back would probably take as much time as calling the restaurants myself. So I checked the recommendations made by my second concierge.
The second response was a failure too.
None of the three met my requirements. The first two had zero entrees under $15. Both had entrees under $16, but I said what I said. The third was about ten miles from downtown Tampa.
I started my third call by making my request again then detailing the mistakes in the handling of the first two.
This agent asked me a lot of questions to make sure she got it right. She said things like, “I don’t know where downtown Tampa is–I’m not from there. Can you give me more direction?”
“I’m not from there either, but a section of the google map of Tampa is labeled downtown, so that’s good enough for me. And what I really want is good 4 and 275 freeway access for out of towners.”
She emailed me a few hours later with a new PDF with three choices. This was finally what I wanted. This PDF was not copied and pasted from any file on Tampa. This was the product of actual effort to meet my request.
The three listed restaurants each noted a specific person with whome she had spoken and made a reservation. I took a look at each restaurant’s linked website. Paninoteca looked good, so I wrote back to cancel the reservations at the other two options.
Twelve of us got together at Paninoteca on Saturday night–anyone present can correct me–and I think everyone very much enjoyed the restaurant, which had entrees that cost $10 and split the check without trouble.
What I Learned
I learned that the Visa Signature Concierge can handle a request, even one with a bit of work, but it won’t necessarily do it well the first time.
I think my request was more complex than most. I didn’t just say, “Find me a nice seafood restaurant near my hotel.” That would be pretty easy to find a seafood restaurant near a fixed address.
Instead I asked something that required looking at a menu (price), calling (split check policy and reservation availability), and looking at the map. I think that should have been well within the capability of the concierge service, and in the end it was within its competency.
To get the same result faster next time, I’ll be sure to repeat myself several times and highlight what the important components are and why they’re important. (Maybe a little story will make the person understand me better or at least want to help me more.)
I tested out the Visa Signature Concierge Service to find a suitable restaurant for the MileValue dinner in Tampa. The service eventually succeeded, but it took repeating my request three times.
This is a service I will use again, but their performance on this task wasn’t great. I can’t complain too much, though, since the Visa Concierge Service is a throw-in on several cards I got and hold for other reasons entirely.