Perhaps one of the most “dreaded” things in the frequent traveler community seems to be an American Express Financial Review, and having recently gone through such a process, I wanted to let you know about my experiences, and what you should expect.
How did I know I was being financial reviewed?
Unfortunately, the biggest way people seem to find out that they are getting reviewed is their card getting declined at a merchant, such as was the case with me. I was at a local gas station filling up my car when my credit card failed to work in the pump. Not thinking much of it, I went inside to pay thinking somehow the pump was broken. Unfortunately, I was told by the clerk that my card had declined. Odd, I called American Express to find out that a suspension had been placed on all of my accounts. Soon after, I had received a call on my phone from an unknown number with an agent saying that I needed to call in immediately because of my account status. I was being financial reviewed.
Why was I getting reviewed?
Let me be the first to say that I have not done anything “suspicious” with my American Express accounts. I value my relationship with Amex, and I find their customer service to be well above par. So, in the interest of not wanting to ruin any relationship I have with them, I don’t do anything other than normal spending on my cards there. However, a certain transaction above my normal spending habits had “triggered” the review.
What happened next?
After speaking with the agent on the phone, it was very clear that Amex takes a no-nonsense approach to financial reviews. Not only did I find the agent assigned to my “case” very brash and to-the-point, but I also found out that general customer service agents are advised not to speak with you regarding any matter during the review, and the only person that you’re allowed to speak with is the financial review agent himself/herself – that’s it. I was given the working hours of my specific agent, and anything outside of those hours simply wouldn’t be dealt with – I’d have to speak to my agent himself. During the call, I was informed of the financial review, and that the review was to ensure I could successfully pay off the outstanding balances on my American Express accounts.
The Review Itself
In order to verify my information, I was asked to verify some logistical biographical information such as my address, phone number email and employment status. All of this was done verbally over the phone. Next, I was asked to verify the financial source used to pay my American Express accounts (the linked bank account). Since I use a specific bank account to pay these amounts, I informed the representative that it wasn’t a true representation of my income or wealth, however they said that was okay and needed to be verified anyways. While on the phone, the agent conference-called in a representative from my bank to verify the running balance in my account for the last three months. At the end of the call, I was asked by the Amex agent if I wanted to provide any other bank account information, to which I declined. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable disclosing any additional financial information (not that I have anything to hide), including additional bank accounts and any money that may be in them. For me, that’s too far for disclosure, so I decided to only provide the information in my linked bank account, which I thought was fair. It’s worth noting that I was not required to provide additional information, but simply suggested to.
After my information was verified with my bank, I was informed it would take 3-5 business days for a decision, however that since I cooperated in providing the information thus far, none of my cards would be closed, and that the only action that may be taken is a credit limit adjustment. 3 days later, I received a follow up phone call verifying that the review was complete, and that two of my cards had an adjusted credit limit, based on the fact that I was unwilling to provide additional financial information. While the credit limit adjustment was not a huge impact based on my spending, I was concerned it was adjusted at all, though I guess can appreciate how Amex wants to ensure their customers are willing and able to pay their bills. All of my American Express cards have since been released from the suspension and are now fully active as they were before.
Some notes on my experience with the financial review that you may find helpful:
- There seems to be a general trend amongst those getting reviewed that you won’t find out in advance if it’s coming — you’ll find out the hard way when your card is declined or not accepted in most cases. Personally, I’d wish for a more tactful way of conducting this review instead of it appearing like some sort of German blitz campaign.
- There’s only one person you can speak to about the review, which can be frustrating if they are busy, not in the office, or not working. In addition, the agents in the financial review team seem to be “no nonsense” and are not the most personably people in the world.
- During the time you are being reviewed, all of your Amex accounts – personal and business – will be suspended meaning that you can’t use them at all. If you have a recurring payment during this time, you’ll need to make sure you have a backup, non-Amex card. For day to day purchases you’ll need another card, too.
What if I don’t want to go through the review?
There’s a lot of you, including myself, that don’t want to go through the review – whether you don’t want to reveal bank account balances, send in tax statements, or just simply don’t want to put up with any of the nonsense. For those wonder, I do side with you in many respects. It’s an unnerving process, and one many people just want to let go of without going through.
There is an alternative. It’s called SELECT. SELECT is a membership that’s not a credit card, but gets you a ton of perks very similar to what you may have with your Amex Cards. While you won’t earn points, the perks of SELECT far outweigh the membership fee.
Think of the airline ticket discounts alone (and trust me, there are TONS of other benefits):
- 20% off Virgin Atlantic tickets to the UK, originating in the US or Canada, plus complimentary Flying Club Silver Elite status after just one flight.
- 5-25% off Cathay Pacific flights, plus complimentary Marco Polo Silver Tier status.
- 5-10% off most Virgin America fares.
- Up to 10% British Airways flights originating in the US, UK, or Canada.
- Save between 8-20% on Qantas flights from the US to either Australia or New Zealand.
- 5-10% off Emirates flights originating in the US.
- Up to 14% off Singapore Airlines flights, originating in the US.
- Up to 5% off JetBlue flights.
If you’ve had an American Express Financial Review before, what was your experience?
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