I have been in the points game for a very long time. I have had just about every card ever produced by all the major banks — and am now even working on round after round of cards you may never have ever considered.
The point (no pun intended) is I still, now years later, each year go for many many* cards to harvest either the new card bonus offer or because I can maximize whatever “X” monthly points spending offer the card provides (*if you are wanting Chase cards you will want to avoid this for 2 years to be approved for most of their travel cards).
Early on in my points life, I did a few things that triggered the Amex Financial Review (AFR). For those who are not aware what this process is, you know you are impacted when you log-in to your Amex accounts and find they are all frozen (or you go to use any of your cards and they all decline at the point of purchase is also a way you find out).
There are a number of “flavors” if you will of the AFR. The benign one just has a few questions and possibly income verification and you are on your way. The nasty one requires you give full access to YEARS of your tax returns to the card company (i.e. not you send them tax returns but you give them access to pull them from the IRS).
You can choose to comply or not. If not, most times, you are done with Amex for a very, very long time as the AFR will follow you whenever you try for a new card (there are workarounds but I only share those at locations like the Chicago Seminars).
With all of the above out of the way, it is news to me that other banks have instituted similar type AFRs – mostly when you apply for cards. Notice what a reader, we will call him BOB, told me the other day when he applied for a Discover card:
“Discover Financial Services requires your consent to receive tax information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify information on your account. Within 5 days, please click the ‘Review Documents’ link below to provide consent via IRS Form 4506-T. Until this verification is complete, a temporary hold has been placed on your Discover card account. Your account will be closed in 14 days if you are unable to provide the requested consent.
Please follow the steps below: Upon clicking the link, you will be prompted to enter an Access Code. The Access Code is the 5-digit zip code on file with your Discover card account, followed by the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). If you use an Employer Identification number (EIN) for your Discover card account, the Access Code is the entity’s 5-digit zip code on file with your Discover card account, followed by the last 4 digits of the EIN. To complete the form, you must provide your e-signature. If applicable, complete line item 4. Please allow 5-7 days for Discover to receive and process the IRS documentation. Discover will contact you in writing to advise of completion of review of your account.
For questions or if any information on your 4506-T is incorrect, please contact Discover Customer Protection Services directly at 1-800-203-4969, or call the phone number on the back of your card. The team is available Monday through Friday, from 8:00AM-9:00PM Eastern Time, and Saturday 8:00AM-4:30PM Eastern Time.” – (BOLD MINE)
Ugh. Not fun. Not only that — but notice all of BOB’s other Discover cards were also frozen until he completed the forms Discover required i.e. giving them full access to years of his IRS records. Oh, and then it was up to them what happens next.
For a credit card?
It was shocking to me to find there is an over six month old REDDIT thread on this very Discover AFR and that this is not as new as it was to me. Also, other points friends of mine have said they once had Citibank do a similar type AFR request when applying for a card, and Capital One just recently as well.
Are there workarounds if Discover or other bank pulls this on you? I have no idea — but would love data points if you have experienced this with other banks other than Amex. Did you play along or tell them to go pound sand? If the latter were you able to get your remaining points out and has it impacted your ability to get other cards from the bank down the road i.e. did it follow you for years as a mark on your account? I would love to know.
Bottom line for those of us going for large numbers of cards each year: be alert that AFR type events could be triggered with a new card app even if you have been with the bank for a very long time. Should you be concerned if you are only going for / applying for say 5 to 10 new cards per year? Doubtful and especially so if your new card requests are spread out over a number of banks.
Even with airline and hotel programs suffering devaluations cuts and “enhancements” year after year there are still great points values to be had. For me, it is still both fun and worth it to play the game and travel the world at 10-20 percent of retail and I am willing to face whatever new (or old) roadblocks that may come along to accomplish that goal. – René
Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.