The Dreaded Amex Financial Review…….For the Least Likely Target

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If you spend much time around miles and points or credit message boards, then you have certainly heard of an American Express Financial Review.  For those of you lucky enough to not know that I am talking about, it is where Amex suspends all of your American Express cards without warning, and requires you to provide access to your income tax filings with the IRS or they close your accounts within five business days.  Your only options are comply, or close the accounts yourself…..and fast.

I have had a few readers email me or leave comments about their own financial reviews, however most (but not all) of those stories involve some nugget of information that at least makes it plausible that Amex might want to do a financial review.  For example, situations where there were very large purchases, multiple Amex cards within a short period of time, or dozens of authorized users added to the account.  Not saying that anyone should have to go through a financial review, but at least I can often see some logic in why it might have happened.  That is, until last week.

Last week I logged into my mom’s Amex account to see if any of her referral points she is owed from Amex had posted.  They of course hadn’t, but I noticed in big bright red letters the following message: “Charging Suspended”.  My heart sank a little when I saw that.  I hoped against hope that there was some kind of minor administrative issue to call in about, but in the back of my head I was worried that it was a financial review.

If I got a financial review from Amex, I would probably be annoyed.  However, since I have obtained three Amex cards in the last year, I would at least be able to rationalize why they might be doing one.  Amex, that does not mean that I want a Financial Revew!  There are some inherent risks in getting new cards the way I do, and I can accept that.  However, my mom has one Amex card total.  She got it nine months ago, has used it very modestly since then, has made no large purchases, and has not made any purchase on it since November 2011.  Since obtaining the Amex card in May 2011, she has obtained two subsequent credit cards and her credit utilization percentage remains low.  The most recent card she received was a Chase card back in October.  She is by no means a heavy card churner.  She did add four authorized users to her Amex  (her husband, her son-in-law, and her two daughters) back in August 2011, and each authorized user card has been used just twice for small purchases.

To make matters worse, I am the one that discovered the alert on her account.  She didn’t receive a phone call or email first – I just stumbled across it.  She did receive an email I think later the same day that I found the alert in her online account, but it still just seems wrong to find out your card has been cut off by logging in to your account.  Since she has not used that card in a while, no one would have probably noticed the alert if I hadn’t been trying to assist in following up on her missing points.  In case you are curious, here is the text from an email that Amex sent.

American Express recently requested that you complete and return a tax form called the 4506T in order to conduct a financial review. The 4506T authorizes American Express to retrieve tax information. We find the review process to be a necessary requirement in order to conduct our business in a prudent and successful manner.

Detailed instructions on how to fill out the 4506T are included below as well as in the American Express Fax Cover Sheet. It is critical that this information be completed correctly and faxed back to us within 5 business days of the date of this email to avoid closure of the account.

Instructions to help ensure quicker review times
1. Print out the American Express Fax Cover Sheet
2. Print out the Blank 4506T Form
Instructions for completing this American Express Fax Cover Sheet1. Fill out the FROM field with your name as it appears on your card.
2. Fill out your 15 digit account number (this is used for internal processing, your account number is not given to a third party)Instructions for completing the Blank 4506T Form1. Please refer to your copy of the tax return you filed for accuracy. Information you provide must match IRS files, or the documents obtained may be insufficient and your account could be canceled.
2. Please write legibly by hand. DO NOT do any of the following: type out the form, write your account number on the 4506T, or make corrections by whiting or crossing out (you must print out a new form). Doing any of those things will cause the 4506T to be rejected and could result in cancellation.
3. Complete lines 1-4
4. Complete line 6. Line 6 must contain the name of the form you filed. Box 6C should be checked already.
5. Leave lines 5,7,8 blank
6. Line 9 must be completed as requested. Please do not add years not requested. Use mm/dd/yyyy format. If you are asked to fill in multiple years, please ensure you use the correct format mm/dd/yyyy for each date (place dates on separate lines)
7. If you filed using a Tax ID instead of your Social Security Number, please put your Tax ID number in the Social Security Number filed. Names and socials must be on corresponding lines for the IRS to accept this document.
8. Sign and date the 4506T3. After completing instructions for the American Express Cover sheet and Blank 4506T Form, return BOTH of the completed forms to: 1 800 219 8549
Once the forms are received, they will be processed in 5-7 business days. If you have questions regarding your review, please call 1800 762 8157 and enter your account manager’s five digit extension (listed at the top of this email) to avoid long wait times.

Thank you,
The American Express Financial Review Team

There is just no logical reason why Amex would need to see her tax information.  She and I were both already perturbed that Amex is thus far not honoring the referral bonuses she should have received by being targeted for a 10,000 point Membership Rewards referral bonus for each person she referred back in November.  While her limit was 50,000 points for making referrals, she referred dozens and dozens of people for that offer.  Amex says that they have no record of it.  So, she is told they aren’t honoring that deal two weeks ago, and now last week she gets a Financial Review.  Not a good month for my mom and Amex.

She is writing them a letter expressing her displeasure, and I am calling in (again) to try and have them honor her referral bonuses.  At this point, she will likely just close her account, and probably not get the points that were rightfully hers.  I feel bad, because she basically just follows my advice with credit cards.  I give her very conservative advice so she doesn’t have to deal with things like this, but in the end, the Grandma with one Amex that barely gets used got hit with the dreaded Financial Review.  While she certainly has nothing to hide on her taxes, that is not a request that she is likely to agree to right now just for a credit card that she barely uses.  I’m not sure what the lesson to take away from this might be, other than anyone can be a target of a Financial Review.  I would love to know the real reason behind why she was targeted.  Was it truly random, or is there some super-top-secret criteria that resulted in her card being suspended.    Perhaps she secure messaged one too many times about missing points?  😉 Or perhaps her and Amex just weren’t meant to be.

I share this information not because I want to dislike Amex.  In fact, I want to like them very much, but they are making that difficult right now.  I mainly share this info because it wouldn’t be fair to only share the great news about credit cards and sign-up bonuses.  It’s only fair to show the whole picture.  This blog is, in part, my family’s story of miles and points, and so this is one of those yucky chapters that you hope to get through quickly.

Have you had experience with an Amex Financial Review?  If so, I’d love to hear it.

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Comments

  1. Don’t forget that if you loose the “Spanish Inquisition” aka the AMEX FR for ANY reason and they close all your MR accounts your points are just GONE forever. Not saying you will, but even with a frozen account with NO charging you are allowed to pay the fee with the frozen cards to get the points out! Just so you know all the facts on the FR.

  2. This is one of the reasons why I now prefer Chase over AMEX. Not only I can talk to an American CS right away, I don’t have to deal with FR. Visa Signature has “no preset limit” anyway and w/o a risk of financial review. I have AMEX 3 cards in the past year while my credit history is little over 1 year so I guess sooner or later I will get hit with a FR. When that happens, Chase will be there to take care of me;) It’s disappointed but you win some, you lose some

  3. @deltagoldflyer: I believe you have 90 days to use your points when they close your account, as long as the account is current at the time of closing. My friend transferred her points after her account got closed

  4. Oh no!! I know the feeling with advising the parents and them just doing whatever you say and then something goes wrong. You feel horrible, right? No fun!

  5. I really hate that logic of “not allowing a search makes you look like you have something to hide.” No what it means is I don’t want some random person digging through whatever it is without good reason.

    If I ever get a demand like that it will be the end of my business relationship with amex. Far too many other companies that want my business without digging through my tax returns….

  6. Hey MP, do you think this has to do with her recently increased number of referrals? Maybe they got suspicious because of the number of gold cards she was referring, and because of the points they’d have to pay out? That is my best guess…it seems like the “one little nugget” to your story with her.

    I have tried and tried with AMEX, but had little luck. My young credit’s only caught their attention for the Zync card, and even with it I only seem to catch luck with the big promos AMEX runs. I’ve never been through a FR with AMEX, but I have with Chase. It was really simple though–they asked for my W-2’s, 2 most recent check stubs, and any other documents I wanted to include in my reported income. I gathered the documents, sent a fax, done. 5 minutes lost for 50k Southwest points!

  7. You said your mom referred many many people and did not get the referral. May be all those referred application NEVER got approved.

    You wont get the fees UNLESS those applications were approved.

  8. I also think that the reason must have been the many referrals!

    Sign and comply and bear it…don’t cut off mommy from so many points:-)

    Sometimes this happens, something in a computer triggered this…so put up with it and get back in good terms with Amex…Chase is so much tougher granting new cards ya know;-)

  9. I hate to say this. But may be your mom “overstated” her income in her original application with AMEX.
    And may be all her referrals were NEVER approved, thus, she was NOT entitled to her fees.

    I know you read other blogging sites and they all talked about having screen shots. I am sure your mother had the original email of “referral bonus”, and if she can PROVE whom she has referred and APPROVED, I dont think AMEX can deny her fees.

    Usually AMEX does not audit people unless they feel there is some exergerrating on her application

  10. Thinking it was the referrals, that Amex has “no record of” doesn’t make sense. It’s wrong to support a business with such unethical practices. When there is nothing, in terms of card usage to justify the demand for tax returns, this is just going too far. I agree with the thought you should stand up for your Mom and take any Amex links down and quit supporting a company with such practices. Maybe if enough people actually stood up for what’s right, Amex would eventually change their bullying.

  11. Nothing to lose sending them the info they want. The best way to make a statement is to continue doing business with them – as in maximizing referrals, churning cards, arbitraging promos, etc.

  12. I second Joe’s comment. It is a bit enehical in my opinion to be collecting $ from your Amex referral links when Amex is clearly not a product you are supporting or endorsing at the moment.

  13. I was just thinking the other day… “I’m surprise banks don’t have a way to verify your income other than relying on easily forged documents”

    Turns out they do. :p At least, in the US. Good luck getting anything out of the NZ IRD. :rolleyes:

  14. To me it seems a financial review may result from drawing too much attention to yourself, whether through large or questionable purchases, many referrals, lots of contact trying to get points or whatever. I’m not saying it’s right but guessing that blending in is probably your best defense against the potential FR.

  15. Amex is not worth bothering with, they’re just too much of a pain. Amex’s FR (and subsequent suspending of all my Amex cards) of me means that a few hundred $k of spending will go to Chase instead. One of these days they’ll learn. I view Chase as the premiere credit card company right now; Amex has lost that crown.

  16. I’m almost certain, the reason she was flagged is: as you stated that she hasn’t used the card since nov/11 !!!
    thats definitely something attracting attn. when someone uses the card then all of a sudden stops using it.

  17. I go through an Amex FR every single year, my one little nugget is that they’re extending A LOT of credit. Just did it a month ago. They always ask me at the same time how my credit is working out for me, I told them I wanted more, and as part fo the financial review they gave it to me.

    Just part of doing business with Amex.

  18. Pretty sure adding authorized users to my wifes card did it for her… Always seemed odd to me that I never got hit when I worked promos so much harder though I spend quite a bit more than she does so that may mitigate things. My wife rolled with it and all was well.

    I’ve been reducing my amex use since and switching to ultimate rewards (5x telecom for our business is GREAT) although I still need those delta mqms so havent left entirely.

    They were building some serious goodwill with us but the FR was a reminder that they’re a bank. Nothing more, nothing less. I’d supply the info and keep being one of their least profitable customers.

  19. @Mpoints: I’d use it as leverage to get those referral bonuses. If they don’t bite, then it’s time to peace out.

    As a general rule, the less folks that have access to your (or you mom’s) financial data, the better.

    I don’t buy the “if you don’t have anything to hide…” argument.

  20. “There is just no logical reason why Amex would need to see her tax information.”

    No logical why a financial institute would want to see their client’s Finanical records to make sure he/she is capable of paying back an unsecured debt?

    Believe me I was mad when I got FR’ed. I wanted to kick AmEx where the sun doesn’t shine. But at the end it upsets us not because AmEx is wrong, but because we are so used to approvals without ever having to proof what we write in the credit applications. So when a financial institute decides to get verification — it tickles us in the wrong way.

  21. I would refer this matter to the FTC. This is type of treatment is over the top. Just reading about this makes me want to close my AMEX cards.

  22. Hey MP,

    I was recently FRed for the same card! Did she apply for the 75,000 offer back in November? I completed ONE charge on this card and I was FRed immediately. I survived, but there was a $6,000 limit placed on the card and my Delta AMEX card was cut to $3,900 from $25,000.

  23. Nice post, but… AMEX has a legitimate business right to protect themselves and their interests. With that in mind, WHY did Mom open this accout? FOr her own charging use – or to acquire points and other benefits for her son? Why were the other used added? Mom’s benefit or other. Be honest now… If she had not been prodded by her son, would dear old Mom have opened this account on her own? Did she generate those now questioned Bonus Points on her own, or was her account simply a convenient place to park some of your own? If one explores ALL of the details in full, the situation may get warmly close to fraud. Again, AMEX has every right to inquire into unusual circumstances and to close any account that does not smell right – and at their sole option. Read the details! AMEX accounts are a service, granted for a fee (or not) and subject to their terms and conditions. This may be annoying to you and to Mom, but AMEX is well within their rights.

  24. @deltagoldflyer, she has a very small number of points, but we certainly won’t leave them sitting there. Thanks!

    @Mark, there is a side of Amex that certainly is not pleasant.

    @Andy, I think my mom is liking Chase better right about now as well.

    @Susan, that may be her plan as well. Thanks.

    @Joe, I’m not sure that would be putting my money where my mouth is as I have three Amex cards (that I like) myself. I’m not happy with the way they are doing some things, but that doesn’t mean that I am going to cut my nose off to spite my nice and get rid of the cards that I have and cut all ties with them. There are some real benefits of Amex cards, so I continue to have them for myself and continue to support those benefits for others.

    @Mr. Pickles, I disagree with the guilty until proven innocent point of view. She has nothing to hide, but has never been asked for her tax information in all of her years of life from anyone (never had a mortgage as they bought with cash), so it is a big deal for her.

    @DealsWeLike, it does stink. I feel good in the guidance I have given her, but the result still stinks.

    @aeronathan, I agree. Not wanting someone searching through your information doesn’t mean you have something to hide. It means you don’t want someone searching through your information.

    @Jared, I have no idea what caused it. If referrals are in anyway related to it that is quite an interesting business practice.

    @Voice of Reason, thanks for the feedback. The advice I have given is sound, but you can’t always control the outcome.

    @Jo, possible, but very unlikely. Several of them emailed back to say that they were approved and to thank her for referring, so I think it unlikely that they didn’t actually get approved.

    @PanAm, that might be what I would do, but she has a different regard for privacy and protecting financial information. It’s a pretty personal decision. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    @gpapadop, there are some valid reasons for complying. I’m not sure what she is going to do yet, but I hear what you are saying. I would hate to be cut off from Amex and their points!

    @Jo, she reported a modest income on the application that was accurate. She does still have the original mailer she received in the mail for the referrals as well as the names and dates of all referrals. The hard part is getting that info to someone at Amex who is willing and able to get involved.

    @Michael W, maybe so. The November purchase was Small Biz Saturday. I think she used it shortly before that for a few real purchases.

    @Nancy, I don’t think anything that I did or said would impact Amex, but I personally still have three Amex cards, I do enjoy the benefits of those cards. I don’t want to lose my Amex cards, so I continue to support the positive aspects of those accounts – I am just also honest about some of the downsides.

    @HikerT, ha ha. Good point. 😉

    @Evan, that might be true if I didn’t have personal accounts with Amex myself. There are still some real positives for Amex and I would hate to not have some of my Amex cards, so I still support Amex for those reasons….but I am honest about some of the downsides as well.

    @wijomas, ha ha. If banks did this up front, it may be received differently, but even in the US this “after the fact” inquisition doesn’t go over too well. 😉

    @mommylover, yes that is true. However, some of the people have emailed to say they were approved and to thank her for the referral, so it is a pretty safe bet that some were approved.

    @thrashsoundly, I actually agree with the not making too many waves sentiment. That is why I don’t go chasing every point that may be owed to me – don’t want to make too many waves. However, asking for a promo that Amex solicited you for to be honored seems reasonable.

    @HansGolden, thanks for your thoughts!

    @lb, I have many cards that I haven’t used in a couple months, but who knows. Could be.

    @Gary, I’m glad you and Amex have worked out a FR arrangement that works for you! You have to go through FR, and they give you more credit. 😉

    @Msp2Msy, ha ha. Congrats on being one of the least profitable customers. Also congrats on taking advantage of the 5x telecom with Chase. That is an awesome deal.

    @purplnrpl, I don’t agree personally with that mentality either, and I do agree that the less people poking around in financial information the better.

    @CodeAdam10, if this was something they required up front, I think she (and I) would totally understand. However, seemingly arbitrarily cutting off cards after being a responsible customer for months is very strange.

    @Daninstl, I’m not sure that Amex is doing anything “against the rules” (except perhaps not being so good about honoring promotions), but it is strange treatment for a responsible customer for sure.

    @Maine1332, she has had her card since May. That is a harsh cut on the Delta card!

    @cook, thanks for sharing your thoughts, however questioning whether or not there has been something close to fraud seems a little off base. Would she have applied for the card if there were no points/rewards involved….no. However, Amex markets cards in large part with the rewards, so that can hardly be an unusual decision. She doesn’t have a son, but as her daughter, I do not use her card as a simple conduit for my own use. The card is hers. I did help her send out referrals, but that is hardly fraud in my book. She had referrals that people wanted, and I helped her get those to the people who wanted them. I would have done that with or without her receiving bonus points (and did continue to do it long after she reached the max number of points she could theoretically earn).

  25. I am sooo over AMEX, they denied me the bonus on the GLD travel card, their stupid FX charges (plus the cards are so rarely accepted outside of the USA why would they care?), all the outsourced cheap phone operators, the fuel surcharges on the MR redemptions and the now so few MR partners.

    I pay over 600.00 in membership fees for 6 different cards, and I am over it

  26. Wow. Thanks for the heads up on this. I think I’m just gonna hold on to whatever AmEx I’ve got, and if ever get hit by a FR, just bid sayonara.

  27. Nobody is telling you to close your personal accounts. But if you really have a beef with AMEX, take down your affiliate marketing links. Or are those affiliate referral fees just too enticing?

  28. Same thing happened to me and many others when we added AU’s during the 10K per new AU promo. Took my points out and closed all my accounts since I’d gone through every AmEx worthwhile for maximum bonuses already. AU’s will do it.

    Whether you close or they close after a FR notice, I believe it’s hard/impossible to get another AmEx for 2 years or so.

    Chase also does FR’s, though not as often as AmEx.

  29. @hello, sounds like you have had a bad experience. It’s a good thing that there are multiple banks out there so we can choose which ones to have dealings with.

    @MJL, you’re welcome. I hope that you stay on the “lucky” side of Amex. 😉

    @Joe, as I said, I do not like this action by Amex at all. However, I have not liked actions with various airlines, hotels, banks, etc… in the past, and that does not usually mean that I cut all ties with them, whether those ties are personal or professional. Affiliate links or not, there are still some very good card products put out by Amex that I personally have, and would still recommend due to the benefits associated with those cards. However, I just want everyone to have all information available to them when they decide what cards are best for them – that is why I made this post. It’s intent was not to start a war against Amex, or for me to ditch all cards and links associated with Amex. I still like their products both for myself and for others, but I just do not like this decision. Hopefully that makes sense.

    @tassojunior, certainly could be the AU’s. It seems weird that it would take six months for them to decide that the authorized users were a concern, but it is possible for sure.

  30. It’s one thing if their actions were justified, ie. overstating income, lots of questionable large charges, etc. but they should a)appreciate any and all referrals, b) evaluate at the time of the request any additional cards granted. If your mom had a history of running charges and balances up to the limits, reviewing the finances might be in order. To ask for proof of income at the time of the application is justified. American Expresses actions just seem unjustified. Seems they are displeased with the issue they are not making money off your mom’s account, thus no longer want her as a customer, not that she is not credit worthy.
    It’s clear they are not “providing a service”, they are interested in what each and every account does for them. I would hope your mom relays the bad experience with each and every referral, as well as all other card holders.
    Just doesn’t seem ethical.

  31. Yikes! I’ve been through this twice so I know how tempting it is to just close the accounts. But why shut yourself out of future points? I did that the 1st time, and I wouldn’t do it again.

    Interesting to note that they wanted access to only the transcript (4506 T) and not a copy of the entire return (4506).

  32. I was pretty upset when this happened to me. Did not understand how AmEx could unilaterally just cut off ALL my cards.

    And they were very persnickety about how the 4506T had to be filled in. The rep I worked with was efficient and was cleared up in a week. In hindsight, very glad I hung in there but I was not a happy camper at the time.

  33. I am mommypoints’ mom who is currently undergoing a Financial Review by American Express. In my opinion, ethical business practices are a two way street referring to both the business being patronized and to the behavior of the customer. I am the customer of American Express. It is my responsibility to meet the requirements of card membership which have been established by Amex to ensure that they can successfully run their company and earn a profit. This is a great concept and one that I applaud. Checking the financial solvency of potential card holders is also an excellent idea, but it would seem that it would be a prerequisite to obtaining a card and not an afterthought. Checking and validating card member information periodically is also an understandable procedure, but it is at this point that I start to question the process used by Amex. Why conduct a financial review before a year’s membership has passed? Why do it via online notification? Why ask for my email address when I call them based upon reading their message sent via email? It makes me question that they know who I am. Are we not taught that giving out personal information via email and phone is a risky decision? Bank of America, not always a people friendly institution, repeatedly states that they will send the customer sensitive communications through the mail only. While I do not enjoy the financial review request of me made by American Express, I can respect the business logic of it. My questions and hesitancy come from the timing and the online process. Financial information deserves a paper trail.

  34. My thoughs:–

    1) Everything is done by computer. Something must have happened that made the computer FLAGGED her account. In “millionmilesecrets” case, it was the mint coin. I’m sure in your mom’s case it’s the referrals.

    2) Some of her referr-ee or the majority may be bad apples and that could have triggered the audit all the way to the source.

    3) If I were Amex employee, and if there’s a red flag, I would audit the whole chain. That’s my job.

    4) All we hear is mommypoints’ story. She could have missed out certain details, and without the full picture, I tend to side with AMEX because I dont think they will try to pick a fight unless they are justified.

    5) Mommypoints said in her post that she accessed her mom’s account. Also, in her replies, she mentioned that her mother has a modest income, and that her mother bought her house with cash. She also “taught” her mother to do these credit card applying. After reading that, I got the impression that her mother is not financial savy. Therefore, she might have MIS-HANDLED or mis-informed her refer-ee (even unintentionally). Who knows, may be some refer-ee never paid the bill, some could have used fake SS number, or some could have mis-understood the whole promotion when calling AMEX. In short, there is something wrong in the referral process that triggered the whole audit.

  35. Good to know that this happens-I was not aware of it.

    Isn’t it interesting to see that there are always people out to get you with their holier-than-thou judgement (including myself as I write this)?

    @purplnurpl, really? where are your manners/class?

  36. @Nancy, I very much agree. As to sharing her experience with each referral – well her referrals were Mommy Points’ readers, so we are indeed sharing her experience here.

    @MMS, I’m not sure what she is going to decide. I know I would go through with the FR, but my relationship to points is a bit different than hers.

    @Eric P, glad you made it through!

    @Grandma, I agree totally that the way it all happened was just strange and crummy.

    @Jo, of course keep in mind that Amex says they have no record of the referrals. 😉 Honestly, I would absolutely be skeptical of this story if I read it, too. As I said, it seems there is usually a nugget of logic when someone gets a FR. Perhaps that nugget of logic is the referrals (that there is no record of) or perhaps it was the four authorized users added six months ago. I can say that I have no motivation in leaving out some key element of the story. I like Amex, and have every reason for wanting others to like them too, so I certainly wouldn’t leave out some key element that would make this all make sense. I’m just telling it like it is.

    Not sure how you would come to the conclusion that she is not financially savvy. Most people in the world do not play the miles and points game – that does not mean they are not financially savvy. I am happy to do miles and points for her. My family does not like debt, so they avoid it when possible. Neither of those things makes people not financially savvy. I don’t recall saying I taught my mother to apply for credit cards – she managed that quite nicely for decades without my help. However, I do advise her about different cards available and their miles and points benefits. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    @BBL, thanks. 😉

  37. I don’t understand the purpose of your post. You ask several questions in your statement, but then when people answer the questions you defend why this should not have happened to your mom. Amex retains the right to do a financial review of any client they choose for whatever reason. Surely they profile and primarily select those that they feel are more risky than others, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. It’s plain to me that the reason would be adding 4 AU’s to an account that get’s very little (almost no) activity. That alone seems a bit suspicious. Especially when the spending occurs only around special promotion times and/or bonuses are involved (ex. adding AU’s). Your anger with AMEX is centered around the fact that you didn’t get bonus points for something that you were trying to take advantage of (referrals) and now you’ve earned a financial review. If you want to play in this game you have to realize that sometimes you lose. So you can whine about it and take your ball and go home or you can give them the information that they are entitled too and fight for what you believe is right (the points).

  38. None one who reads this blog pays to do it, and I think the posts are very useful and have helped most of us at some point or another. Criticizing MP for making money off the links on her site is pretty pathetic. She does all the legwork so we can all benefit from it for free and if I can help her earn a commission by going through her site I’m happy to do it. That being said, it’s pretty annoying to read some of the comments of people judging and borderline insulting without even knowing all the facts. Just because some readers own a computer and a phone line doesn’t mean they should be allowed to use them. Use a little better judgment. No one is forcing you to read this blog. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
    Keep up the great work MP, and thank you for all you do for those who are thankful enough to appreciate it.

  39. A) You will get confirmation of the financial review in writing, by snail mail. e-Mail obviously arrives faster than snail mail, but I assure you – AmEx already sent out their request to you by mail.

    B) However unpleasant, or unexpected; it is within their rights. I hated it as much as the next person – but then I thought about it and realized that AmEx is the one taking all the risk, giving me a “no spending limit” charge card without any tangible proof of my assets. If I wanted to terminate that relationship, I could have, but I didn’t.

    C) Contrary to what most may think, their FR representatives are quite nice about it. As nice as they can be under the circumstance.

    D) It’s only a tax transcript, and for the last (one) year only. It will not show a break-down of your earnings, nor how much money you donated to such and such, or which family member passed on leaving you a fortune. It’s just a transcript, listing the total earnings the IRS has on record for you for the past year. Nothing more, nothing less.

  40. @ Mommypoints

    1) May I ask if your mom has Amex business or personal?
    2) Did she get bonus points for adding 4 people? (husband, 2 daughters, son in law)
    3) I dont think it’s that difficult to prove she made referrals. All she has to do is to email a copy of her invitation, then ask all those “referred” cardholders for their card numbers.
    4) In your post, you mentioned your mother referred “dozens and dozens of people”. Can you honestly say she knew those people are cardworthy? Who knows, may be some bad apples among the group doing some questionable things which triggered an alert in the computer system. Just like if I cant type my password correctly, my account is frozen until I call in. I dont blame AMEX. If I were the supervisor, whenever the computer trigger an alert, I will audit ALL THE WAY to the SOURCE. Who knows, may be I can find the ringleader.

  41. @Brad, the point of the post was to share our experience and to talk about FR because they are a potential reality for those who bank with Amex. I’m actually not angry with Amex nor with the FR process. I think it is strange my mom would be targeted, but I’m not angry (takes way more than this to get me angry). I do think it is a bad move when a company does not honor a promo that they solicited someone for. We didn’t take advantage of anything that they didn’t ask us to take advantage of with the referrals. I do agree you win some, you lose some, but the referrals seem to be a silly one to “lose”. Thanks for sharing.

    @wijomas, we like the mail carriers around here. Ha ha.

    @Michael, thank you.

    @CodeAdam10, there is no question it is within their rights to do it. I wish it did show what relative passed away leaving us an inheritance. That is info I would like to review as well. 😉

    @Jo, personal card, she did not receive the points for adding the users, she is working on providing the letter and the names of the referred persons to AMEX. I am not going to ask people for their card numbers, that does not seem worth it for points. She referred readers of this blog, so I can’t answer the bad apple question. 😉 Seriously though, it would be interesting to know what triggered so that we could all learn more from her experience, but we will probably never know exactly what caused it.

  42. I think the FR is a good opportunity for Amex to gather more financially-sensitive information about their clients. The 4506T still allows them to see quite a bit about one’s personal and business finances. The 5 day response time is absurd. It is bullying on Amex’s part to require that type of response. Makes me think they just want to get at your financial information without asking too many questions.

    If you want the points or are a trusting person, you give them the info. If you’re a conspiracy theorist or a libertarian (like me), you close your accounts.

  43. .
    To post? Not to post? Sigh, sucked in again. 🙂
    .
    To those suggesting that AmEx do an FR upfront, that is not realistic. Would you apply for AmEx cards if they required a signed 4506 with every application (and yearly ones thereafter)? Do you have any idea how cost-prohibitive and time-intensive that would be for AmEx? Not only would every card take a month or two to process but they probably would not offer any bonuses because issuing cards would be too expensive.
    .
    For the most part a credit check will provide sufficient information in order to get the card initially. They do FRs when suspicious or abnormal activity occurs, on a very limited basis. Is it normal for someone with somewhat limited credit history (from what I can tell) to get a card they barely use and get four authorized users and refer dozens of people? I don’t think that is normal. This makes good business sense and I am hopeful that it reduces fraud.
    .
    No idea on the missing referrals except to say I thought this was a long-standing problem with AmEx. I tried to find the FT thread about it but couldn’t. From what I can tell, none of the three people who referred me and my wife for SPG cards in July/August got their referrals.
    .
    Ike

  44. @MP Thank you for posting this information and spawning the mostly thoughtful discussion that has followed in the comments. I had heard about FR’s as this almost mythical beast that could potentially come out and bite my financial head off and it’s good to have more information about them.

    I would also like to say that I enjoy reading all the information that you put out on your free blog. You put it out in a very informative, easy to understand manner and make it easier for me to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

    I am a responsible adult and I fully realize that signing up for a credit card is my decision and that neither you, nor anyone else, has put a gun to my head and forced me to use a specific link or sign-up method.

    I appreciate all that you and MMS and TPG and others do so I will sign-up for a credit card via one of your links (or the links of your compatriots) if I feel that the credit card product discussed is right for me.

    I will continue to read any blog post that interests me, I will not read any blog post that doesn’t interest me b/c, again, I am a responsible adult that makes my own choices.

    Thank you again and I look forward to seeing you at an affiliate referral link soon.

  45. Grandma, good luck with the FR and getting the referral points!
    .
    MP, good luck getting your own referral points!
    .
    I think I’m still owed another 5k from the 2nd referral I did, but I’ll give them the full 8 weeks before I start demanding them.
    .
    Thanks for providing the information so we can all be a bit wiser in our own dealings with banks.

  46. to Mommypoints & Grandma:

    I’ve been through the AMEX FR, and my best advice is to just comply, be professional, and polite. Be thorough in your questions over the phone as to what they need and how fast they need it. There is absolutely no leeway in their FR process. If you mess it up – they don’t care, and they will close all of your accounts instantly. Since they have millions of customers, they hardly blink an eye when one who has been flagged for potential risky activity is removed from their business. It seems harsh, but from a business perspective I can see their logic.

    Like I said – if you’re going to comply, you need to do it asap. I faxed in the 4506 T form the day I found out about it, and then I got a call 2 days later that my fax actually cut off my zip code, and since it was an IRS document, there’s no way for them to fill it in and I would have to re-send the form. There was no time extension or anything. They are pretty anal about it all, b/c for all that the person reviewing your account knows – you could be engaged in illegal activity and be a liability for the company. They can’t give you the benefit of the doubt, even though as American’s, we always would like that 🙂

    It took about 2 weeks all in for me to get the notice of the review, fax in the forms, and get a decision.
    All of my cards were fine. While I thought it was weird letting a credit card company see my whole tax return, it was worth it. I have 6 open Amex cards (4 personal, 2 business), and it would have been devastating to lose them and future opportunities with them.

    For me it was 5 AU’s on the gold card, and I had some unusually high charges for my account one month – they were paid in full, but it threw up red flags. I also had referrals and was sending messages about all sorts of things for bump the bonuses, and getting referral points, and AU’s.

    I would imagine for you it’s the 4 AU’s and all the referrals. Here’s your issue – if Grandma does not comply, and cancels her account, she’ll never have a chance at receiving the referral points, and it sounds like you’re saying it could be 200,000+ points… If that’s the case, I highly recommend sticking it out, b/c you and I both know that the value of those points is HIGH. They just want to check their liabilities and make sure there’s no scheme running for the referrals probably and that the person issuing them has the same steady income that she put on her application.

    If you submit the 4506 T form, you can win.
    If you don’t submit it – you can only lose.
    Just my 2 cents.
    – David

  47. Haha. What a lark this has turned into.
    From “giving the family the world… ”
    to “Goodie Grammy and Evil Institution in SMACKDOWN 2012”! (Advertising Amex can’t buy.)
    Your mom is right. She is the customer.
    And Amex is right. It’s their business.
    And it looks like in this instance the twain just ain’t meant to meet.
    🙂

  48. @mp & @grandma, thanks for the posts and follow-up responses. I’m in sort of the opposite position with Amex – I think they should put me through an FR and so far they haven’t. I didn’t exaggerate anything on my apps, but have been pretty aggressive in pursuing every MR point legitimately available to me. Over the past 2.5 years, Amex has approved me for 3 personal and 2 business cards.

    Like you, I’m fighting with them over some referral bonuses from last fall. To those of you who say “the people you referred must not have been approved for the cards”, you’re wrong. I referred my wife and parents and I can assure you that they have the cards in their wallets and use them frequently. To those of you who say, “you should have taken screen shots so that you could email them in and prove that you qualify for the bonus points”, you obviously haven’t been through the same process as me (and presumably mp & grandma). I DID take screen shots and have repeatedly offered to email/fax/send them to Amex. However, Amex is totally uninterested in getting them. Not only that, but they provide absolutely no method of sending it to them or presenting my side. Once they investigated my “case” (without input from me other than an initial phone call) and made a decision, I was notified (denied) by letter. I was told I could write (snail mail)to the Sr. VP of MR or something like that.

    So if Amex would initiate an FR, it would give me the motivation to get off my rear end and cancel my cards. As it stands now, I’ll just wait until the annual fee is charged for each card and cancel it then. As it is, I’m moving my spending over to Chase Sapphire an Ink Bold where I don’t worry that they’ll give me the bonus points that they’ve solicited me for.

  49. @Steve – why in the heck would you ever WANT a FR?
    Your accounts are all frozen pending the review. So while I think the FR’s are a responsible business practice, they’re a major pain in the butt for the consumer b/c you can’t use the cards.

    @Steve/Mommypoints/Grandma – That is really interesting and bizarre that AMEX is giving you such a hard time for the referral points. I referred 5 people for the Amex Gold last year when it was 10k per referral and they all got approved. The points posted kind of randomly. Like at first I only got 2 referrals posted, and then I messaged them about it and they said it is an all automated thing in the system, but I noticed that not long after that, the other’s posted. I’d just wait it out. It definitely took a solid 8 weeks minimum.

  50. IIRC these referrals were an opportunity for the referred people to receive HIGHER sign-on bonuses than were available at the time? And that after she maxed out on HER bonus end, she was continuing to do these referrals as a favor to your readers? Geez Louise people are getting cranky.

  51. Get your pts out, and then sue for the amount owed. If they are using FR to get out of paying for what they promised, well then if you can deduct a pattern of this behavior towards others even better … for you and others

  52. I have had my disputes with AmEx in the distant past. I have 6 of their cards now, have had 8 but most co-branded. They tend to be an elitest company; not really caring to much about the little guy or even the middle class. That corporate arrogance has really never disappeared, Now all of the card companies are scrambling for new business. This recession has cost them all a lot of business and the available “pie” of new users is smaller for all of them to split. But AmEx apparently feels it has given to much for the smaller accounts. Just as the company reneged on several of their promos last year where card holders added Additional Users or used the Gold Premier card 15x from August through December and were denied 10k point for each of those new users and months of “spends”, I think AmEx simply doesn’t want to pay an infrequent, non-elite card holder for all those referrals and they are simply bullying your mom. Great ethics, huh?

  53. No surprise here that the Spanish Inquisition would go after an innocent grandmother. Fully in line with their motto “No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition.” In fact the Spanish Inquisition terrified at least one quite elderly grandmother when Monty Python still ran the show. You can still see what happened to this poor lady when she was tortured with the comfy cusions on YouTube.

    Grandma MommiePoints should stand up to the Spanish Inquisition and make peace with the cardinals by baking them a batch of cookies and offering them some sweet tea. And then go viral and do to AMEX what was done to Bank of America in the notorius You Greedy Bastards video! A little free publicity for AMEX after the value of their Gold and Platinum cards has fallen would certainly be in order here.

  54. I had a Amex Financial Review in 2010 — I sent them my prior year tax information showing income almost double what I reported when I opened the cards — always paid on time and always charged roughly the same amount per month (about 20k, mostly 90% business). I had 2 authorized users with additional cards. I had Platinum personal and Rewards Plus Gold business. They closed my account without warning and I forfeited about 450k points. I just chalked it up to one of those things out of my control. Its the main reason I never really store points anymore because you don’t own them and they can be gone at any point (no pun intended). Since then my spend has approximately doubled and I give almost all of it to Chase who really seem to love my business which I appreciate. They offer a nice mix of cards and my limits have increased steadily to handle the spend. Again, anyone who gets put through this nonsense, give Chase a try.

  55. Just to add to this, I PM’s Amex because I do know of at least one or two people (one for sure) who got approved and I never received the points for. Since I have heard so many reports of Amex not paying up on their promise, I got somewhat nasty with them on my email. I immediately received an email from them asking them to submit the user’s full name and city and state (not their credit card account numbers). I contacted the handful of users who I referred and two of them (so far) replied with their city and state, so I submitted the info to Amex and now I’m waiting on a response. Will post here if I have any success in getting the points.

  56. I had been put under Amex financial review after looking to add the blue card in addition to the gold premium which I have carried for about 6 months. No immediate decision made on my application, was told it was pending review. Called, spoke to a nice gentleman who informed me what documents they would like, I remained very nice and courteous. He made sure my current gold card remained open during the review. Later the same day, before submitting any documents, I checked their card application status page, and I was approved. No word on the limit yet.
    I did a LOT of digging when I found out I was under their “dreaded” financial review, and it seems like most people that have issues are the ones that blow up at Amex. But do further digging, you’ll find Chase and Citi both have similar processes. I have the Sapphire Preferred from Chase, but no other accounts with them. They’ve requested income verification both upon my application, and then about a year later again.
    So word of advice, from my experience, remain calm with them and polite. After all, you clicked the “Yes, I agree” to their terms which do state your account is subject to this.

    • @Nick, did you have to fax in forms so they can review your tax info? I’ve never heard of a FR where you can keep using any of your cards. FR’s also seem to take more than a day, so perhaps yours wasn’t a true FR. It just sounds very different than most people’s experiences. However, I do very much agree that staying polite is important. 😉

  57. I just got FR’ed but I will be declining and will be closing the account. It’s a credt card not a mortgage! so they can stuff their card as I just got a Chase card with better benefits and no AF. There are plenty cards out there that don’t need your tax info, infact Amex appears to be the only one that does. Bye Amex!

    • @Marc, sorry to hear of your FR. Would you mind sharing what type of application/spending pattern that you had with Amex?

  58. Give me a brake. Amex financial review. Who they think they are? IRS? FBI? They just want to peep into customers tax papers without no reason. Who needs such credit/charge card? Just switch to VISA or MC. They also accepted almost everywhere. Pathetic Amex.

  59. I was placed under financial review a week ago after 20 years of what one Amex rep called “a flawless account”. I refused to release my tax info and closed both the platinum card (that they issued..never asked for) and the blue card (they issued..never used). I refuse to have my account summarily frozen, given a deadline and treated like a criminal with a bad credit history after being a loyal customer for 2 decades with a 700+ credit rating. When I spoke to a supervisor he indicated that “a third party relationship” was the trigger but he could disclose no specifics. I replied, “so, you cannot disclose to me who this third party is, but you want my IRS records!”. Turns out I could assume it was a large purchase made to my husband’s amex card, paid in full at the time of review mind you, but nonethless the apparent trigger. When I closed the accounts I told them they could now put my husband under financial review. He has a visa black card, doesn’t need amex and they will lose both loyal/ credit worthy accounts due to stupidity. If you need amex so bad that you are willing to be treated like crap for no reason to have it, good luck. There’s a line that good customers need to draw. Amex knows our spending habits better than we know them ourselves. I couldn’t charge over my normal habits without getting an immediate call and hold on the charge and everyone who holds a platinum card knows this. Amex crying that they are afraid of the risk is baloney and the manner in which this whole process in conducted is simply a very poor way to treat its’ best held customers. Goodbye Amex!

  60. I have no problem with Amex asking for a financial review. That is good business. However, to not give any of the cardholders any sort of lead time or duedate before suspending their card is just wrong. I have been a loyal customer for 20 years, charge huge amounts each month and pay it off. I have never…once…been late. I asked for the account to remain open until I could make other plans since my family and business only have this one credit card and they said no. I told them my daughter is out of town and will be stranded and they said no. I told them I needed to use if for my chemo treatment on Tuesday and they said no. So this is the thanks I get for always being loyal and fulfilling my agreement? This is what they proclaim as appreciating their customers? There is no such thing as “by such and such date if you don’t have these documents submitted we will suspend your account?”

  61. I just can’t understand being afraid of Amex when there are other card issuers. Take your business elsewhere if you get this “financial review” (or even if you don’t get reviewed, if you don’t like the specter of this kind of thing.)

    I understand feeling vested in the “points” or “rewards”…which is why I look at these sorts of inducements as gifts. If they vanished tomorrow I wouldn’t care.

  62. All this feigned indignation over Amex conducting a FR over what appears to be shady dealings from the most cursory review. It’s even more sickening when everyone who reads these boards knows they are willfully (and often, gleefully) gaming the system. Same “thinking” was used that created the Housing/mortgage debacle – Liar Loans getting 110% mortgages and then never paying a single mortgage payment.

    If you are “afraid” of a FR from any financial institution, you probably shouldn’t be a customer – and should be booted – and prosecuted for fraud.

    Imagine how much better off we’d all be had people and banks shown similar restraint before The Crash…

    But the banks are complicity – could easily stop the problems by denying credit to more than one card a year. Churning would stop almost immediately. But so would CC processing fees from all the transactions by people trying to game the system (gift card, prepaid, eBay, PayPal, Amazon, Mint scams etc etc etc)

  63. Received my bluecash everyday on 11/1 , charged $27 and the account was suspended for FR…. I already submitted paystubs during application process but AMEX rep stated they really need IRS transcripts to support my level of spending. Problem is i only spent $27 out of 5k!!! That’s crap and they can keep the card!!

  64. I too just got my card suspended without warning for a financial review. Called me on a Saturday while i was in the middle of moving (no they did not know of my move at that point). I can not think of anything out of the ordinary that i charged or did that might give them reason for this. As i said previously i was moving when they contacted me so i had many other things on my mind….. i figured i would fax back the form and it would quickly be revolved. Wrong. Its now been a week and it slipped my mind that i had arranged for recurring o ayment

  65. Does anyone has problem getting a new Amex card after all your cards suspended by Amex FR?
    If so, how long do you have to wait?
    TIA

  66. Amex is now getting info directly from the IRS and they do not need a form. I recently lost my card because I am exempt from paying tax and have a 824 credit rating. My payments were approx 12k a month. I am now with discover and love them and love knowing I don’t have to get outsourced to some other country and try to listen to someone who doesn’t speak english!

  67. Same situation as your mom, I received a suspension only realizing it when I logged on to my account. The worst part is, I am travelling and use my AMEX as my primary credit card. It’s a saturday now, and their credit review department is not opened. I have a car rental that I need to charge it on my AMEX to have car rental insurance. Now what can I do?

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