Banks Are Keeping Closer Tabs on Your Reputation Than Ever Before

This is a fascinating cautionary tale.

Over the past year, stories have started piling up in online communities of credit-card super users suddenly having their accounts shut down by JPMorgan Chase, one of the country's largest card issuers.

It opened up fervent analysis among the growing community of credit-card enthusiasts over the calculus used by card companies to sever ties with customers.

A seemingly similar tale of woe surfaced in the Facebook group Chase Sapphire Reserve Cardholders, a closed group of more than 10,000 members that is unaffiliated with Chase.

But upon closer inspection, the case of Bryan Sequeira proved particularly unusual and confounding.

“I received a letter that all my Chase cards are being closed. Has anyone else had that happen to them?” Sequeira, a 32-year-old product manager in healthcare IT based outside Boston, posted on the forum toward the end of June.

“The letter didn't state a reason. Just that it was closing in 2 months. Waiting for someone from the executive office to call me back,” he added in a follow-up comment.

As other puzzled group members prodded and probed for information, Sequeira revealed nitty-gritty personal details: He kept his credit utilization low, had normal spending patterns, and had no credit blemishes since applying for the card in January. He applied and was approved for two other non-Chase cards in subsequent months, and he'd applied for but not yet closed on a mortgage. Otherwise, he had no other lines of credit opened in the past two years.

The Sapphire Reserve was a top-of-wallet card for Sequeira, an Indian citizen and US green-card holder who moved to New York for college in 2003 and has been steadily building credit since. And unlike many of the people who have had accounts shut down by Chase over the past year, he wasn't churning credit cards or gaming the system to maximize rewards.

In short, he appeared to be a model customer — which is why he was so perplexed when Chase sent him letters saying his accounts would be shuttered in two months. Certain there must have been a mistake or misunderstanding, he tried to appeal the decision.

But when he pressed, the representatives he spoke with at Chase declined to reinstate him. Even more vexing, beyond a vague line in the initial letter saying the “relationship creates possible reputational risk,” the company refused to disclose the reasoning behind why his account was being closed in the first place.

When Business Insider reached out to Sequeira, he confirmed what he wrote in the Facebook group: He'd been unable to change the company's mind, and he hadn't gotten representatives to tell him what had happened.

“I even asked her: ‘So you know the reason but won't share it with me.' She said yes,” he told Business Insider. “And it's within their rights. We just live in their world.”

Sequeira was informed his cards would be shut down in mid-August, right around the time he was scheduled to get married and close on a mortgage. He worried that the card closures — which included a Chase Marriott card that was one of his largest and longest-standing credit lines — would foul up the mortgage-lending process.

Moreover, he said Chase refused to refund any of the more than $500 he paid in annual fees on the cards.

A Chase spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the bank doesn't speak publicly about individual clients.

Business Insider spoke with credit-card experts, including a card executive and industry consultants with compliance and regulatory expertise, about the circumstances of Sequeira's experience and possible explanations.

His case illustrates the broad power that credit-card companies have to cut ties with customers, as well as how banks, amid steep fines and intense scrutiny from regulators, are keeping closer tabs on customers' reputations than ever before — and investing heavily in technology to facilitate their monitoring.

For Sequeira, the most likely possibility for his falling out with Chase and the bank's refusal to disclose why has to do with money laundering…

Full story at Business Insider

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