In my recent post “Planning my Amex Offers portfolio,” I described my plans of ensuring that I had at least one of each type of Amex card (Membership Rewards vs. Other; Personal vs. Business) and that I would add a handful of authorized users cards to each of these so that I’d be well positioned for Amex Offers.
In response, a number of readers declared that adding a bunch of authorized users would lead to Amex shutting down accounts (presumably by way of an Amex Financial Review which, in turn, could lead to accounts being shut down).
The last thing I want is for readers to get shut down by Amex due to things I’ve written. And, of course, I don’t want to get shut down myself. I had never before heard of Amex shutting down accounts due to adding authorized users. And, of course, I wouldn’t have planned to do so (nor written about it!) if I thought that was likely.
I followed up by Googling for examples of financial reviews or shutdowns caused by adding authorized users. I found quite a few blogs and forum posts where people declared that adding many authorized users was a financial review trigger, but it was harder to find examples in which it actually happened.
The best example I could find was posted in 2010 (found here on Dan’s Deals Forums):
Woohooo! The wife got FR’d today.
From speaking to others who got FR’d recently, it is quite clear that adding additional cardholders is one of the triggers. We had recently added some to take advantage of the 1k spg point promo. Some friends who did the same also got FR’d.
Even though the above data point is old, when combined with the collective advice of many who caution against this, I believe it is wise to take their advice.
I know people who have dozens of authorized user cards and have never had any problems with American Express, but just because they haven’t been reviewed yet does not mean that they won’t be. It is also likely that a combination of factors are taken into account. It’s possible, for example, that those who were reviewed due to adding many users were new Amex account holders. And maybe those who have done so without trouble have been account holders for many years. That’s just one made-up example of a secondary factor that could influence the risk of adding authorized users.
The safest way to proceed is to assume that adding many authorized users to your Amex accounts may lead to a financial review. If you want to avoid a financial review, then the safest approach is to only add “real” authorized users who may actually use the card. And, it may help to add just one or two at a time instead of adding many at once.
As a side note, while searching for evidence of shutdowns, I found a number of people who seem to have been reviewed because their authorized user spent far more on the card then the primary user. That’s another thing to watch out for.
Dan’s Deals Forum has a wiki (found here) with more information about Amex Financial Reviews, including a long list of probable triggers.
I’ve updated my original post with a warning about this. And with my own plans, I will proceed forward cautiously.
I still intend to add a consumer Membership Rewards card to my portfolio of Amex cards, and I still want the new Blue Business Plus card. And I’d like to add a handful of authorized users cards to each. But, I’ll go slow. I’ll add one authorized user to each card, wait a couple of months, then add another.