by PATRICK RIPLEY, Staff Writer

As Americans' credit card debt steadily rises, card companies continue to dole out applications offering more. But how much consideration, if any, goes into the offers?

As one Glen Burnie woman learned, even her house cat is deserving.

Last month Marilyn Hecox's 4-year-old black domestic short-hair, Samson, received an offer for the American Express Rewards Plus Gold Card.

"At first it's funny. Then you get a little nervous about it," Mrs. Hecox said, sitting in her dining room and thumbing through the application with a puzzled look on her face while Samson sat at the door waiting to be let outside.

"As the membership criteria at American Express remains stringent, the Rewards Plus Gold Card is difficult to acquire for all but the most financially disciplined," the application letter starts off.

Really?

Ms. Hecox said Samson is a good boy, but has no financial history.

Marilyn Hecox and her cat, Samson, show off the American Express Gold Card offer the cat received in the mail.

American Express spokesman Kim Forde couldn't comment on the offer to Samson, but said it was not the company's intention to provide credit for a cat. She planned to follow up with Ms. Hecox.

"Mistakes happen," Ms. Forde said.

This isn't the first time Ms. Hecox has gotten a strange offer from credit card companies. She has received applications for her children and even her late husband - mistakes she understood, sort of. But she has trouble grasping how a cat could get one.

The card offer is riddled with praise for Samson, touting his financial prowess, assuring him that he's "earned this recognition":

"Only a select group of people will ever carry the Rewards Plus Gold Card. It instantly identifies you as someone special - one who has earned a superior degree of financial freedom."

"It really goes on about how great a credit record he could have," Ms. Hecox said. "How could they say that?"

She said she never applied for an American Express card and neither did her daughter Tanya, who lives in Alexandria, Va. The card application was sent to Alexandria even though Samson has lived in Glen Burnie for years - a minor mix-up considering the circumstances.

"All of us have been mystified as to how they got his name and my daughter's address," Ms. Hecox said.

According to the Federal Reserve, Americans were carrying $2 trillion in credit card debt in September, a $300 billion increase since 2000.

Ms. Hecox said she considered sending in Samson's application.

"I've thought about it, just to see what would happen," she said.

Would a cat be expected to pay?

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Has your cat ever received an offer to have a credit card? Contact the Daily Mews to let us have your story.

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