Shop until you’re dropped: Chase Financial Review freezes account

Update: See Chase Financial Review: Results are in for the conclusion to this story.

Recently, my wife opened a couple of new Chase credit cards; among them was a Chase Marriott Rewards card. A couple of days ago, she went to make a purchase online and received an error message that the purchase could not be completed — her card was declined. With the holidays coming, she had done some recent shopping and figured this was likely due to a security alert on her account….

Chase Financial Review

No email, no call

She expected she would receive an email/call from Chase asking her to confirm the activity and the security hold would be lifted, so she didn’t think much of it and used a different card (from a different issuer) to complete her purchase.

Later, when she realized that she had never received a call, email, or text message, she decided to call the number on the back of her card before trying to use the card again. The rep she spoke with asked her to verify basic identity info. After completing verification, the rep explained that the account is under review and customer service could not even access the account during that process. The Chase rep provided my wife with a phone number to call for more information.

Chase Financial Review

My wife then hung up with customer service and called this other 800 number. While she was on the phone, I Googled the number she was given and found this guest post from Doctor of Credit outlining something about which I had completely forgotten: Chase Financial Review.

It’s funny that I forgot about that post…..because I included it in our Week in Review Around the Web the week it was published, titling the review post “Financial Review: It isn’t just an Amex thing“. In fact, in my recap of the post, I said this much: “Read about both the process and potential triggers. It’s a good read with cautions for those opening new Chase accounts.” What’s the saying?…..do as I say, not as I……

My wife proceeded to verify herself again and then received exactly as much information as you’d expect if you’d read the Doctor of Credit post: absolutely none. The rep told her that the account was under review and that process had just begun, so they wouldn’t have any additional information for her until next week. She pressed for any more detail about why or what it all means but got nowhere fast.

While it is under review, the account can not be used. Unlike with an Amex Financial Review, a Chase account freeze is individual — the rest of her accounts should not be frozen (though truth be told she has not made test purchases on all of them for fear of creating any further ill will, and I don’t blame her for that). Based on what I’ve read, there’s not much to do but wait and see what happens. My wife said she would try calling them back early next week and the call ended.

What caused it?

Chase Financial Review

Of course it’s hard to say for sure since Chase is completely tight-lipped about it, but let me quote the Doctor of Credit post on Chase Financial Review for a moment:

What Causes It?

The common indicators seem to be:

  • Brand new Chase accounts (regardless of how long you’ve been with Chase)

  • Lots of recent hard pulls

  • Suspicious usage of the new account such as high amount transactions, gift card purchases

Now let’s review that and mark what she may have done “wrong” (and I use that word loosely as I don’t think she’s done anything actually wrong in terms of her use of her credit card account):

  1. Brand new Chase accounts: Yup
  2. Lots of recent hard pulls: Sort of. (The only new accounts Chase would see would be the 3 Chase accounts she has recently opened. She is now at exactly 5/24. I don’t think that’s lots, but I’ve read in other places — like here and here — that several new Chase accounts in a short time frame can trigger this. More on this below)
  3. Suspicious usage of the new account such as high amount transactions, gift card purchases: This might be it.

If we say that #2 isn’t lots, we’re down to two out of three. While the old adage may be that two out of three ain’t bad…….it probably isn’t good, either. I imagine that the third point is what triggered the review. There have been a lot of gift card sales lately with various holiday deals (many of which we’ve written about here in Quick Deals). Since my wife is working on meeting the minimum spending requirement on her Marriott card, she has taken advantage of a number of those.

Gift card deals like these can sometimes be a good way to knock out some spend while saving a few bucks…hopefully that didn’t knock out her Chase portfolio at the same time.

Still, she was only about halfway to meeting the $3,000 minimum spend and she’s had the card for a couple of weeks. I’ve met the minimum spend on a Chase card in a day or two before, though usually buying merchandise (whereas she did mostly buy gift cards). I think what likely got her tripped up was that her card got declined after a gift card purchase last week. She called in shortly after and explained that there had been a sale and she was just trying to take advantage of it. They reactivated her account. Then, her next purchase was for an online gift card a few days ago — and that’s when her card appears to have gotten shut down.

Were three approvals too many?

Of course, maybe #2 does constitute “lots”. it probably doesn’t help that she had just opened the three Chase cards. In fact, she had applied for all three on the same day. She was instantly approved for both a personal and a business card before the Marriott application. Conventional wisdom is that two Chase personal or two Chase business cards in the same day will result in one hard pull, whereas a personal card and a business card would be two hard pulls. In other words, she was already going to receive two pulls, and a third application the same day probably wouldn’t result in a third pull.

She didn’t expect a third instant approval: the commonly accepted belief is that Chase won’t approve more than 2 cards in 30 days, but there are some data points of success with a third card. She expected that she would have to move some credit around to get approved for three, but didn’t see much harm in applying for the third after the two instant approvals. The third application (for the Marriott card) went pending and was denied. After receiving a letter, she called recon and it was less than ten minutes start to finish for a rep to answer, look over her file, offer to take credit from another card, and get the Marriott card opened. Overall, the process of opening the three cards wasn’t hard…..but in hindsight, spending on all three cards in the first month (she spent much less on the other two, but did use them some) probably wasn’t the wisest move.

What to expect

I’m not completely sure what to expect next. According to Doctor of Credit and the other reports I’ve read, there are basically three options:

  1. All of her accounts could be shut down
  2. She could completely clear the Chase Financial Review with no adverse action
  3. Chase could give her a mixed result, cutting some of her credit lines

Honestly, I’m a little surprised by all this. Some readers will say I shouldn’t be — after all, she did open three Chase accounts at the same time and proceed to buy a bunch of gift cards. On the other hand, my wife has excellent credit (~800), has never missed a payment, and earns a better-than-average (though far from huge) income. It’s worth noting that her gift card purchases were only for merchant gift cards – no Visa/Mastercards – and we’re talking about what feels like a relatively small amount (around $1500 – doesn’t seem completely outlandish at Christmastime). That amount does reflect a decent chunk of her credit limit on that particular card, though she opened the Marriott card by shifting $5,000 in credit from another card that had a credit line that is still several times larger. In other words, $1500 isn’t a significant percentage of her overall available credit with Chase and the spending she did on all three cards combined is less than half of her monthly income (so no red flag on spending beyond her means).

Based on those factors, I would be very surprised if Chase takes option #1. At the same time, it isn’t an impossible scenario, and it would certainly be a major bummer on a lot of levels (losing out on great Chase rewards, an uncertain future in terms of getting a Chase product again someday, etc). On a small level, we had hoped to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in her name for 2019 in order to be sure that we had secured a pass for when Southwest begins flying to Hawaii (and to be able to take advantage of a free lap infant while we can!).

On the other hand, some data points indicate that even a complete shutdown isn’t always permanent, with some people getting back in within a few months. But with her 5/24 count now blown, that would not be an ideal situation.

More to come

At the end of the day, there’s nothing to do but wait. If there’s one thing my wife absolutely hates, it’s waiting. Thirty-five weeks into pregnancy, I don’t think it’s the aches or pains or stuffy nose or being woken in the middle of the night by a swift kick that bothers her….it’s knowing she’s got to wait 5 more weeks. So maybe I should thank Chase — at least she’ll be focusing on a closer carrot for a few days. I’ll be sure to post again when we get the results.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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Comments

  1. Wondering what Chase knows about your wife’s GC purchases. We’re they obvious purchases at places like GC.com or GCM.com? Or less obvious like at Rite Aid or other “regular” vendors, where I thought that Chase may not have look through capability to see what she is actually buying (like Amex does).

    • I obviously can’t argue that you’re wrong — it was likely a contributing factor at the very least — though it’s not as though she had to push hard to get the third account opened. The rep didn’t ask her any questions other than, “Would you be willing to move some of credit line A? How much?” I half expected her to get grilled about why she wanted this card and why she wanted the others and why three now, etc….but there had been none of that. Of course, I it was a human looking at her report that day (on recon) and realizing it wasn’t a problem and I imagine it was a computer that put this through to review — so maybe it is the 3. I’m sure we’ll never know for sure, but we’ll at least find out what happens.

  2. Thanks for this extraordinary write-up, Nick. Given the theme of this venerable blog, your readers are keen to parse the circumstances to take for our own situations, to discern which way the FR winds are blowing. Your wife’s spending on a new card doesn’t seem THAT out-of-the ordinary, as we often do focus our spending on new cards, to meet promotional minimum spends, etc. (and certainly nothing like that 40K spend on an Amazon card first month — as per that referenced guest Doc post)

    Yet apart from all “that” stuff, sincere best wishes for you and your wife and the new one soon to join you….. Don’t let this Chase stress take away from the joy in the journey ahead.

  3. I had one. It was a disaster.

    When your credit line with Chase reaches a certain amount they do a pull with ARS and/or the other small credit company. These companies are not too high class. They usually do credit for storefront cell service providers, etc. Mine with ARS had a “negative neighbor report” from when I was in law school. It caused Chase to demand 100% proof of all income and assets (I refused). They canceled all my cards and I had to fight for my points.

    These two small bureaus are a royal PITA and everyone should write and freeze them.

  4. That’s an interesting theory regarding ARS. I froze my account some years back while I was actively building an extensive collection of Barclay Aviator US Airways and American Airlines models. Wonder if your wife can check creditkarma for insight on recent pulls?

  5. You confuse the front line rep’s approval to the team which works behind the scene when things trip wire that send the accounts their ways.
    There is also a time lag in almost all the cases – from account approval to account suspended / shut down.

    2 cards with Chase on same day are pushing it, because if they are not instant approvals, it would mean some flags are triggered.
    3 cards in same day? You have to believe you are super lucky not to trip any wire in Chase system.

    The spend by itself might be small, but Chase these days is nervous on NEW CLs extended in rapid fashion, especially if the existing cards have not seen enough payment history (i.e. regular usages with regular payments in pretty much a “normal” cardmember’s pattern).

    Fortunately, unlike other banks, Chase works in AMEX format, in that they do reinstate accounts once they are satisfied with their reviews and conclude the customer is not a risk factor.

    My bet is she would get her accounts reinstated, but might have some credit lines cut on some less used cards.

    Still, if you are pushing the envelope to the max, the least thing you should do is NOT to draw human eye to your accounts – the recon by itself already violates such cardinal rule. Again, the team reviewing accounts do not have anything to do with approvals, even thru the Lending / underwriting. Different teams, and that makes sense as to the cliche of “Check and Balance”…

  6. “she did open three Chase accounts at the same time and proceed to buy a bunch of gift cards.” Ding ding ding ding ding!

    Who the heck cares about FICOs? People with 800+ get denied all the time. Creditworthiness is more than a 3 digit number.

    Also, HPs /= new accts.

  7. I wonder if Chase looks at things like points/spend overall. In my case, I’ve a CSR (dining, travel), Freedom (categories), Freedom Unlimited (for stuff that doesn’t fall into categories where other cards earn more), Ink Plus (business related bills like internet, phone, plus gift cards), United MileagePlus. I do a lot of spending on gift cards (like for WholeFoods or gas) to get the 5x via Ink. I’m under 5/24 and just applied for the Southwest Card (we live in Calif and did so to get the companion pass for 2018) and got back a ‘we’ll let you know’ email, whereas my wife got approved immediately. I’m not doing any manufactured spend kind of things, just trying hard to maximize return by using the right card and buying those gift cards for places we shop. Not counting signup bonuses, I get about 2.3 chase points per dollar spent (as opposed to the 1.5 i’d get if i simply used the freedom unlimited for everything). Is 2.3 even a high number? I have cancelled a couple of cards in the past (like the Marriott) after getting the sign up bonus but not finding it worthwhile to keep long term. Does Chase note that i only use the CSR for travel/dining, the Freedom only for the current category, etc? Does that put me at risk? Right now, we’re pretty much only using our Chase cards (also have a BofA Alaska, but no AmEx or Citi yet because i’m trying to keep things simple and stay under 5/24). Should I regret applying for the SW card?
    There’s many things I haven’t done, say like cancel a card that i’ve had for more than 2 years and then reapply to get another bonus, so i don’t think I’m abusing the system, but maybe Chase feels otherwise. We have high income, good credit, spend a lot on our cards, always pay in full on time (could be a strike against us as they’re not getting those fees).

    • You need to manage your overall CL with a particular bank.
      After a while in the game you should have developed a good sense of the “ceiling” of the TOTAL CL a particular bank is willing to extend to your profile (many factors in their system, not just the FICO, payment history, etc).
      Once you start not getting instant approvals, you know you are up to the ceiling if everything else is quite kosher.
      LOWER the CL on a card BEFORE you cancel the card – lowered CL releases the reduction part quickly back to your profile. A canceled card takes months before the whole CL at the time of the cancellation to return to the system.
      It really is a common sense when you think about this in a more logical way – a Canceled card may still have recurring charges that could go thru, or some preauthorized items to go thru (yes, they would go thru, even on a card changed number due to previous fraudulent charges). Hence the CL would still stay there for a few months. Learned this from years ago long before the proliferation of the credit card bonus business and the “game” touted by all bloggers in the arena – Chase rep called me 2 months later to ask me why I canceled a Priority Club card (the previous life of the IHG card) because “it has such a high CL” (25K at the time of cancellation.) She offered to “move” the CL to another Chase card – despite the Priority Club card was canceled 2 months before! She said it was still showing in her system as “Available CL” to my profile…

      So there, learn how to manage your total CL exposure (to any bank) in hope that you would get instant approval versus a deferred, or worse, needed a recon call.

      • Turns out that i wasn’t instantly approved because i had put a credit freeze on at equifax. I need to remove it before Chase can consider the application…

  8. 35 weeks into pregnancy. Congrats to Nick +1. Trusting all goes smoothly over the next weeks – and den’t fret over what Chase may or may not do – too many more important things going on in your lives! All the best from all of us FrequentMiler fans out here!

  9. I was just approved for the Ritz-Carlton last month (7th) and was also approved for the CSP (10th). Would I be able transfer the credit line from the Ritz to the CSP, then close my Ritz-Carlton account?

    I’m upset that my Ritz-Carlton received an APR of 23.99% (highest). But my CSP was approved with an APR of 15.99%, which is lower than the lowest public APR.

    I pay my bills in full every month, but my pride was hurt by that 23.99% APR

    Thank You,

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