I remember the year that I started going hardcore collecting miles and points for travel, people spoke in fear of the term “Amex FR” (Financial Review) and how it could lead to slashed credit lines or even worse, complete shutdown. I was scared, and treaded very carefully with my large portfolio of Amex cards, never having huge spikes in spending, never cycling, etc. As I learned more about this dreaded Amex FR, I discovered that slashed credit lines and shutdowns had a lot to do with your reported income on your application.*
On 1/30/17, I applied for the American Express Platinum for Business card (lol yes, I did just put my 75k referral link in a post about FRs!!) with a 150k signup bonus (for $20k spend in 3 months). I had a lot of business spend coming up, so it made sense for me to get it. Unsurprisingly, as with all my applications nowadays, the application went pending, and I had to submit letters of address verification from my bank (thanks, First Republic Bank!). My banker submitted the letter on 2/21 and I was approved on 2/23, receiving the shiny new card on 2/27.
By this time, I had talked to several people who had undergone FRs before and got a better understanding of what triggered FRs (e.g. large spikes of spend on a new card), and what the process was. This post by Miles Per Day (aka Shutdowns Per Day) was very helpful. I decided to induce the FR and get it over with.
*Regarding my income stated on my applications, I have to admit I never actually knew what my combined household income was. I always estimated to the nearest $50k. When I decided to induce an FR, I checked my tax returns and found out that I had under-reported our household income. With that knowledge, I felt safe inducing the FR. Even if you accidentally over-reported, I think the worst I’ve heard happen is that your credit lines all get slashed severely. I might be wrong on that though, so don’t take my word for it. Try to report your income accurately if possible.
The beginning of the Financial Review
I induced my FR on 3/6/17 (card was barely a week old) with approximately $10k in purchases, and immediately found all of my Amex accounts suspended with instructions to call in. I called in, was transferred to the Financial Review Team, and was assigned a representative. The lady I had asked me questions about what I was buying, sounded very skeptical about my business, asked for my website and/or eBay username, and finally said that they would need me to complete a Form 4506T to review my tax returns. I expected all of this thanks to MPD’s great post, although I did not expect to be grilled at first.
My representative said she’d email me the Form 4506T, and to please complete it within 2 weeks or else all my Amex accounts would be permanently closed. I received the email:
I completed the Cover Sheet and carefully filled out the 4506T form according to the detailed instructions on the Cover Sheet, and faxed them both back using HelloFax’s free faxing services (get 5 free faxes with my referral link).
Do NOT include your business POSITION ON THE FORM
My rep called me the next morning to say that the form looked good BUT I should not have filled out the “Title” under my Signature, since they were pulling my personal tax return, NOT my business tax return. She asked that I complete a brand new form (do not fix the old form, no whiteout or mistakes allowed), leaving that line blank, and fax it back in. She said Amex FR only allows two chances to complete this form properly, so if I messed up again, all my accounts would be closed. So you can bet I combed over my form painstakingly this time, and faxed it back in on 3/10.
If you got FR’ed on your Amex Business card, do NOT fill out your position on the form! Do NOT write “Owner” or “CEO” or “President” etc. LEAVE IT BLANK.
I picked a terrible time to induce an FR. For Mrs. MPD, according to the post, the whole process took 4 business days (as you can tell, I referred back to this post frequently :P). After 4 business days and no sign of anything happening, I was getting worried because my statement period for my Everyday Preferred card was coming to an end and I still needed to make 4 more purchases to reach the 30 purchases needed to get an extra 50% points on my purchases. I also missed a lot of other reselling opportunities I wanted to use my Amex cards or Amex Offers on, which was highly inconvenient.
I gave my rep a call and she said that my form was perfect, it was with the IRS, and since it was the month before April 15, the IRS was probably swamped and hadn’t been able to send my tax return to Amex yet. She said that once her team receives the return, it would usually be reviewed and processed the same day, and she was checking on it every single day she was in office.
Only Charging Suspended, Everything Else Still Works
I got asked this question a couple times – “can you still enter the Centurion Lounge when your card is suspended?”
The answer is YES. I entered the Centurion Lounge at least 4 times during my suspension. Everything about my cards worked normally EXCEPT I was unable to charge anything to them. But I could pay my bill, transfer Membership Points out to partners (which I did, since I needed to book some OZ J space that had just opened up), consolidate balances, etc.
Finally, on 3/21 (today), I got a voicemail from my rep stating that everything was completed and I was good to go! Woohoo! I immediately went and made $20k of purchases, and all my cards worked.
I hope that by writing up my experience, and by reading MPD’s experience, it will help assuage any fears about this spooky event. Although it definitely sucked to be frozen and not be able to use my cards, I did not panic at all and did not feel doomed at any time during this process, thanks to setting my expectations ahead of time. I am a long-time customer of American Express and I love their products and customer service, and hope to continue a strong and healthy relationship with them going forward. 🙂