Amex Financial Review
An Amex financial review is not an exciting thing to get. But hey, sweet honey is many times accompanied by a sting. You can sometimes get hit with an Amex FR while trying to accumulate lots of Amex points. In this post, we’ll discuss how to avoid being targeted for an Amex financial review. But if you’ve already been targeted (sorry to hear!), you’ll want to read on too, to see how to handle the FR properly, so your accounts don’t get shut down. The info in this post is based on my experience with helping HMBC’s readers through this process, and contains tips and tricks that I collected from reliable sources on the web.
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Why does Amex do financial reviews?
Because they’re bored (not!) Amex wants to protect itself from anyone they feel is likely to default on payments. They want to be sure that cardholders have the income available to cover their spending habits.
In the process of a financial review, Amex will request access to review specific documents that confirm your income, like your tax return. If Amex feels the income is not sufficient, they can either shut down your accounts or lower your credit limits to a limit that is more in line with your income.
What triggers an Amex financial review?
Amex does not disclose the factors that trigger an FR. The triggers can vary between different accounts, but here are some factors that are known to trigger a financial review.
Amex financial review triggers:
- Credit limit above $25,000 on a single card
Avoid having a $25,000 credit limit on a single card, as this is known to trigger a financial review.
Some also say that having a $35,000+ credit limit from all your cards combined, can trigger a FR.
- Checking your spending power a few times a day
Amex has an online option that allows you to check how much above the limit you can spend on your card while still having the transaction approved. People claim that if you check your spending power more than three times a day, then this can trigger an Amex FR.
- Returned payments
If you make a payment and the payment is returned by the bank due to insufficient funds, this can instantly trigger an Amex FR.
- Sudden dramatic change of income stated on applications
If you apply for two cards in a short period of time and use a significantly higher income number on the second application than the first, then a FR can be triggered.
- Sudden increase in spending
If you swipe, let’s say, $1,000 every month on your card, and then suddenly one month you start swiping $10,000 to $15,000, then this may trigger an Amex FR.
– Spending close to your stated income
Let’s say you wrote on your application that your yearly income is $50,000. Comes month one and two and you spend $20,000 each month- totaling $40,000 in just two months. That’s when you can expect Amex to come knocking on your door and asking “How in the world are you planning on affording your life?”
- Cycling payments
Cycling payments means to max out your card, and pay it back several times a month. This can cause a FR to take place.
For example, suppose someone has a credit limit of $5,000 but keeps on maxing out the card and paying it back several times – in one billing cycle. If they end up swiping $25,000 or more in a single month, then this can trigger a FR.
– Buying high ticket items or lots of gift cards
If you buy many luxury items (including large coin purchases), a lot of $1,000+ gift cards, or many expensive electronics in a short period of time then that can trigger an Amex FR. Avoid buying expensive items, multiple gift cards, or buying with a buying group expensive items in a short amount of time.
- If your spouse (or someone in the same house) is targeted with a FR
Bad neighbors (or spouses) were never a good thing! If your spouse, or anyone living at the same address as you, gets targeted for a FR then your account can possibly be targeted as well- even if you did nothing wrong.
- Random – no reason
Amex financial reviews can very often just be targeted randomly. I have seen many people that did absolutely nothing wrong, and then from one minute to the next their accounts have been flagged. It can sometimes even happen to new applicants, who have never had an Amex credit card before.
Your account has been targeted for a financial review. What happens next?
All these tips are very nice to know before your account is targeted. But what happens if your account was already targeted for a FR? It’s too late to move back the clock. Here is what you can expect:
When you log in to your account or mobile app, you will see a pop-up stating that your charging privileges are suspended. A phone number for the Amex FR team will be included.
If you call the Amex customer service line, you will immediately be transferred to the Amex FR team. You will only be able to speak to a representative during regular business hours.
You will also receive an email and letter notifying you that your accounts are under review. The email/letter will tell you to call the Amex FR department.
During the FR process, your accounts will be frozen and your reward points will not be available for redemption.
What do I need to know before I call the Amex FR team?
There are different levels when it comes to financial reviews. The FR process depends on what level your account has been flagged. One level will just ask you to verify some details over the phone, and will let you go once they’re satisfied. In most cases (when the account has been placed on a higher level), they will ask you to provide documents that verify your income amount.
Before you call, you should prepare explanations for the questions Amex may ask, such as:
*Why have you spent so much money in the last two months? A good answer for this is that you’ve recently gotten married. You can even show them your wedding invitation.
*Why was a recent check returned? A good answer for this is that you accidentally used the wrong bank account to make the payment etc
*Where is your income coming from? Employment etc.
If your portfolio of cards includes business cards (especially ones that are under sole proprietorship), then make sure to prepare solid answers on the nature of your business and spending habits.
What documents will I have to provide?
In most cases, the representative will ask you to sign IRS form 4506T, giving Amex access to your tax return. Amex cannot force you to release your tax return in the same way that the Democrats can’t force Trump to release his. But if you do not give them access, your account will most likely be shut down.
If your income on your tax return is in line with what you reported on your application, then you should pass the FR with flying colors. Your account will be up and running within 10-14 days.
If, however, the tax return is lower than what you wrote on the application, then one of two things can happen:
- Your accounts will remain open, but your credit limits will be reduced
- Your accounts, unfortunately, will be shut down.
Should I bother calling the Amex FR department?
Absolutely yes! Even if you believe that you have no chance of passing the review, you should always get in touch with them. If you do not call, then your account will definitely be shut down. On the other hand, never assume that you won’t pass the review. In the past, I’ve seen many people that had given up hope, pass their financial review! It’s true, their limits were lowered, but that’s still better than having your accounts closed!
Another reason why you should go through the process is that Amex will keep your accounts flagged as long as they don’t see your tax returns. If you apply for an Amex card in the future, they will either way request your tax returns. If you comply, however, and send it to them right when they ask, your accounts will no longer be flagged even if they end up closing them!
It’s worth it just to be able to get approved for a new card.
What should I do if I don’t have a tax return?
If you never filed taxes then you can try to explain to the rep that you have no returns to show. You can ask them to accept a bank statement that shows your income check/direct deposit etc. that comes in every month or so. In many cases, the representative will agree to that. Even if they don’t agree, you can try to upload it instead of the IRS 4506T form. I’ve seen Amex accepting it in the past,and reopening the accounts. It’s not guaranteed, but definitely worth a try.
What should I do if my accounts get shut down?
(Remember those tests? Shudder) The bad news is that you’ll have the same feeling as being kicked out of school. It’s not the best feeling, but swallow it and move on. (Take THAT, Amex!)
You can either try to re-establish your relationship with Amex by applying for a new card, where, as mentioned above, they won’t ask you for your tax return even if you’ve failed (they, Thank G-d, have a bad memory). Or you can go ahead and apply for new cards at different banks. In either case, you can use our Ultimate Credit Card Finder, to find a new best card that will fit your needs perfectly.
What happens with my reward points when my accounts are shut down?
If you fail the financial review, then Amex will not allow you to redeem your points the usual way. Many have reported that they were able to redeem award points up to 30 days later, by talking to a supervisor, or if that’s not successful, then HUCA (hang up, call again)
Will being shut down affect my credit score?
In my experience, having your cards shut down will not affect your credit score. The exceptions are:
- If the card that was closed is one of your three oldest, active accounts.
- If the account that was closed has an open balance. This will only affect your credit score until the balance is paid in full.
Other than these reasons, there is no reason to worry about it affecting your score.
If the account that was shut down is one of your oldest three accounts, then you might see a slight decrease due to the loss of credit history. However, there’s no use crying over spilled milk, so swallow it (not the milk!) and move on. (Once again, take THAT, Amex)
You can slowly start applying for new cards and get your history re-established, but this time, be smart and apply for credit cards at multiple banks. This is good so that if you get closed down again, you can still have your history from the other active credit cards.
Should I close my account before Amex closes it for me?
I’ve seen many on the web suggest that you close your account before Amex shuts it, in order to avoid your account from being marked as “closed at credit grantor’s request”. I do not recommend this- I have never seen such a mark affect anyone’s credit score. The majority of credit reports I’ve seen so far have at least one account that was closed by the credit grantor. Again, I have not seen any effect on their score.