My Experience With Amex’s Financial Review

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It should not have come as a shock. I had read about it in FlyerTalk. I had opened up some new business and reward cards for the sign up bonuses. I had seen the stories of Amex’s financial problems.

It Was Still A Shock

One day I get a very garbled, almost innaudible recording on my home answering machine, claiming to from American Express. A short time later, I get a call on my cell phone, from the same person. Not only does this person speak with a thick foreign accent, Asian, I think, but it is like he is wispering though a tube. I immediately think that this is a fraudulent attempt to get me to turn over personal information. When the caller invites me to call the number on the back of my card, and ask for his extension, I do so. If that wasn’t enough to convince me this was for real, all of my American Express cards suddenly stopped working.

What Do They Want

In my case, they wanted me to fill out and fax to them an IRS form 4506-T. This would give them access to my tax returns for last year. Supposedly, there is a financial review clause somewhere in the fine print of your cardholder agreement that says that they may request such info.

Their Process Stinks

Once you realize that the barely discernable foreign speaker calling you actually does represent American Express, and your cards don’t work, you realize that this is a terrible possition to be in. Fortunately, I have backup Visa and Mastercards, but the rewards I earn there are not as valuable to me. Automatic payments can be disrupted, not to mention travel plans.

How Long Does It Take?

They claimed they would have this all resolved within a week, but it ended up taking three. First, I sent the form back with my wife’s social security number, but not her name. Amex, figuring that her name was top secret while her Social was not, called me back a few days later to tell me to fax the form in again, with her name, that they have in their records, printed on the form. From then, we patiently waited another two weeks. Finally, I called to follow up, and what a coincidence, they had made a decision.

The Verdict

As a customer of theirs for years, who has always paid his bill on time and in full, somehow they saw fit to retain me as customer. It only took them three weeks to reach that conclusion.

What’s Going On?

At some point in this process, I got a supervisor on the phone and gave him a piece of my mind. The supervisor was sympathetic, and explained that these Financial Reviews were completely computer driven and out of his control. All he could do was promise to process my paperwork quickly.

What’s The Problem

Some people object to the Financial Review on a matter of principal. They do not think that Amex has the right to such personal information. I disagree. When I applied for their card, I stated my income, and they are welcome to verify it. The part I object to is how they do it. First I applied for their Starwood Business card and their Delta Skymiles cards. Then they approved me and sent me the cards. Finally they cut off my account and sent me to the Financial Review team. If they didn’t want me to have the cards, they should not have approved them. If they had asked me for supporting documentation before extending me further credit, that would have been reasonable. Ironically, this whole time I am getting letters in the mail telling me to activate my cards and spend more money!

What To Do When It’s Your Turn

First, despite their rudeness and continued mailings encouraging you to use your now suspended account, don’t take it personally. Amex is suffering financially, not you. A computer is making the call on this, not a human. Like a bleak science fiction movie, the machines are in control, and there is nothing that the humans can do other than comply.

Next, fill out the form and send it in. Amex knows where I live, where I shop, and where I travel to. They also know what I claimed my income to be when I applied for the card. What is the problem with them knowing what I told the IRS when I paid my taxes?

Finally, reconsider your relationship with Amex. I don’t condone them treating their customers this way. I am expecting some very lucrative rewards from transfering my Starpoints to Delta as part of their major promotion that has since been withdrawn. Between my Starpoints transfers and my sign up bonuses, I should go from 0 to 300,000 SkyMiles in just a couple months. If it wasn’t for that, I might have just told them to get lost.

Tomorrow, I will share with you my letter of complaint to Amex’s executive customer service.

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14 Responses to “My Experience With Amex’s Financial Review”

  1. Funny about Money Says:

    There’s a limit. What’s between you and the tax man is between you and the tax man. Federal law exists to protect your privacy.

    If I get a call like this from AMEX, American Express will instantly lose a customer. There is not a CHANCE I would give them access to my income tax statements! The fact that I’ve done business with them for centuries is beside the point. They have no right to ask you for private information of that nature. If you have never defaulted on a bill, then they should continue to do business with you. If you have made a late payment or missed a payment, then they should cancel your card. That’s easy.

    Most vendors will take cash or checks. Many would prefer to do so, especially where American Express is concerned, since that company zings them with very high transaction fees. Because of this, more retailers accept Visa and MasterCard than will take American Express. The only serious problem dropping AMEX would cause is that it complicate buying gasoline at Costco, the cheapest in town–while you were shopping in the store, you’d have to buy a cash card to cover your purchase at the pump.

    I’d be sorry to lose the cash back from AMEX, but given a choice between that and letting them shove a probe up my rear end, the cash back would be go, right now.

    Matter of fact, the more I contemplate what you’re telling us, the more I feel inclined to start using cash again. You’re right: credit card companies gather enough information about us to deduce every detail of our personal lives. Who needs that?

  2. L.Willis Says:

    I think it is time for us, the customers of AMEX to shut it down. If any of us had a spouse that treated us like AMEX does, we would see them in divorce court and renew our life.
    I say, everyone should pay the minimum payments, forcing AMEX to dry up and go down, and then deal with resolving our debt with the government or whoever takes them over. It would be better than what we have now. The way AMEX is lowering our limits AND raising our rates, the damages are done. No one is going to recover from this soon,at least the way the “FICO game” is currently designed. If you are not having any complaints with AMEX, just wait, you will or you currently have issues that you are not aware of. An AMEX customer service person told me, AMEX is making changes across the board. They do not want to get sued for discrimination. So listen up ladies and gentlemen, it is time to act as a group and control who we do business with and how we should be treated. I say this with a bit of humor, but I am dead serious about minimum payments. If you pay more, it enables AMEX to raise your interest rate higher and less of your payment goes on the principal anyway. AMEX has already requested the government to take them over like a couple of the brokerage firms. We, the AMEX customers, would get a better and more reasonable resolution when that happens. The less money AMEX gets each month, the sooner they are out of our lives as the current company. Think about it.

  3. L. Burroughs Says:

    This happened to me today, same story as above…. i have never defauted or paid late. Spend around and pay off 5 to 10 k a month on my platinum business card….. I just don’t know what to do. Amex has the right to reduce credit, but tax returns and more for no reason….. i don’t understand. AMEX has literally ruined my life and credit. DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THEM

  4. Hud Says:

    I have had a VISA card for over 20 years and four months ago I decided to get an AMEX card from Costco. BIG mistake. First they lowered my limit after I did a balance transfer and then they cancelled my card after I complained about it. When I tried to resolve this issue, it was like a SNL skit because I was transferred to six different customer service idiots. My credit is perfect and this was uncall for.

    Stay with VISA!!!!

  5. Ryan Says:

    How does one “fail” a financial review? Aside of not providing them with the 4506T, can they get your tax information and decide they don’t want you, or do they just use it to verify you indeed have income? My issue is when I filled out their application, they asked for “Household income”, which I included my income and my (non-applicant) spouse. When they asked me to send in the 4506T, I was clear with them that my income on the tax transcript won’t match what I entered because they are only getting my income. I offered to provide my wife’s income information as well but they told me since she wasn’t on the card, they didn’t need it. I offered to provide bank statements as well as YTD paystubs (which they apparently don’t accept).

    So my question is this:

    How do they differentiate what you put on the application versus what the tax transcript says about you if they don’t match?

    Do they simply “update” their information (as they claim to do).

    Has anybody ever done a FR to find their accounts adversely affected as for the outcome (even after providing the information)?

    When they get the tax transcript, what would cause them to “not like what they see”?

    I am just seeing a lot of confusing stuff related to the AMEX Financial Review.

  6. Choxin Says:

    I too got hit with the finical review. Never late, 780 credit, 2 – 5k a month paid in full every month. When they called me for the financial review, I thought it was a fraudulent call. I could barely understand the idiot on the other line. I was told that I had 5 days to fill out and fax an IRS 4506t form. Yeah, I’ll get right on it. I went home, paid my balance online then called and cancelled my card before they did. It worked out for me because it reports on my credit as closed by consumer. If they would have cancelled me it would report as closed by issuer and adversely affected my credit. I think everyone should avoid doing business with Amex. They suck!

  7. Hany Says:

    i just got the same situation today guys i had 2 accounts with a total of $60.000 u know how much is my bill due ?? $35 for each , i only owe them a total of $4000 on the 2 accounts. i gave them a copy of my pay check, they still want that 4506T form, i said forget it, there’s no way after you ask for something like this that i will be a customer anymore, i’m gonna pay them off and close the account once and for all.
    one thing summarize it all ( IF YOU WANNA GET THE TAX INFO. STUFF, MAKE SURE YOU GET IT AT THE TIME OF APPLYING AMEX) its like getting in a taxi and after moving you start to negotiate a fare lol
    its sad to close Amex with that spending power that i had, but they’ve chosen that.

  8. M Says:

    I agree yes, I was asked for the 4506T about a month after my Platinum AMEX account was opened. I explained that most of my income comes from Trusts and won’t necessarily be reflected in my personal tax return. I offered to give them a W-2 instead, which would show more than enough income. No dice.

    So, in a couple of days I am going to pull the plug ON THEM and turn the tables. They need people like me. I don’t need them.

  9. MARIA Says:

    I HAD THE SAME SITUATION AS ABOVE I HAVE BEEN AMERICAN EXPRESS 19 YEARS NEVER LATE ALWAYS PAID . IN JANUARY OF THIS YEAR I WENT ON A TRIP AND ASKED TO USE MY SIGN IN TRAVEL BOY BIG MISTAKE . THEY CHARGED MY ACCOUNT TRIPLE FOR ALL PURCHASE WHETHER I HAD IT OR RETURN IT . THEY CHARGED 10 PLAIN FARES WHEN THERE WAS 4 TAKEN . MY ACCOUNT WAS A MESS IT TOOK ME 7 MONTHS TO FIX IT SPEAKING TO DIFFERENT REPS AND FAXING OVER PROFF THEY CHARGED ME $10,000. MORE THEN I SPEND AND EXPETED ME TO PAY FOR IT . WHILE IN THE PROCESS OF THIS THEY NOW ASK ME FOR MY FINANCIAL I REFUSE TO SEND IT TO THEM AND THEY CLOSED MY ACCOUNTS . I HAVE 4 CARDS AND MY AVERAGE SPENDING WITH THEM WAS 1O,000 A MONTH . ALWAYS PAID ON TIME . AND IN FULL . NOT ONLY ARE THEY RUNING A GREAT CUSTOMER THEY ARE LOSING A BIG SPENDER . THEY FINANCIALLY HURT MY CREDIT RATING AND SCORE NOW AS WELL . I AM SO UPSET WITH THEM . I THOUGHT THEY WERE THE BEST I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITH OUT IT. I AM CRUSHED.

  10. Angela Says:

    Just gor hit with FR today and i’m pissed!!!! Spend 5-10K a month pay in full never late and now this crap! I just paid it in full and am going to cancel my card…they sat your a valued customer but treat you like this been a memeber for almost 20 years the hell with them i just cut up my card before writing this! good luck everyone but close your accounts before your stuck 300 miles away from home with only your amex on you!!!!!!

  11. john Says:

    what is the amex fax number where they want the 4506T sent to? thanks for the help!

  12. Donald T Says:

    American Express is the sorriest financial institution one could ever do business with. I was a platinum card member for 15 years who paid $425 a year fee and then in the midst of the financial meltdown they decide to cut spendable limit to a paltry sum this business traveler could never use. Unbelievable. Customer service is horrible and you are always wondering what other crap they were planning to do next or what shoe would drop. And they make the American public believe they are the best thing since sliced bread. Never again a customer.

  13. Jennifer R Says:

    We just got the great credit line decrease,from an unlimited line!Huge balance of $1000! New line is 1200, which makes card look maxed out.Called & “appeal”process IS an FR.No thanks. We canceled before they do. (read too many stories of this happening next!)Looks better on your credit report if customer cancels, rather than the card issuer.Also have enough other cards (one that INCREASED line 1 week before Amex lowered theirs.Hmmmm.Not letting some credit company mess with my hard earned score of 765 because they are having business problems!

  14. Rick H. Says:

    I recieved an invitation from AMEX to apply for their AMEX green card and I decided to give it a try.Big mistake! After a few months of paying my entire balance in full and on time they suspended my account without any warnings.When I checked my e-mail, I saw the letter from AMEX suspending my account and telling me that if I dont comply with the income verification they would cancel my account. When I saw this I was very upset because they want me to provide my income tax form and sent a signed form 4506 T.Are you serious? I make more than 50k a year and pay all my bills in full every month.I don’t have time for this bs, so I decided to close the account before they put a mark on my credit reports.Be aware that AMEX can do this to you, after you apply for one of their cards. Actually I don’t see the benefit of having an AMEX card because beside of the high annual fee that you have to pay AMEX,this is not as popular as VISA and MasterCard(Some vendors and retailers don’t acceptAMEX).I have CHASE FREEDOM and CAPITAL ONE QUICKSILVER and they are great, and I dont have to pay that ridiculous annual fee of $ 95 dollars.Plus I have all the member’s benefits that VISA and MC Offer.Believe me if you can get a VISA or MC ,then you don’t need AMEX.

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