A little while back, I wrote a post about Morgan Stanley's new investment product, Access Investing. Unlike a normal Morgan Stanley brokerage account, which requires many thousands of dollars to open and comes with perks like a real, live financial advisor, Access is open to anyone willing to invest $5000. You can even sign up online (in fact, that's what they want you to do -- the whole point of Access investing is that you never interface with a real person). Read my original post for more information on what Access is and how it fits into Morgan Stanley's ecosystem. I got to wondering if Access would be considered an "eligible brokerage account" in terms of Amex's co-branded Morgan Stanley cards, and even after someone from Morgan Stanley told me that it wouldn't, I wasn't convinced. After all, this hobby thrives in the vicissitudes between one person's policy and an automated system's ability to misread that policy for my benefit.
However, I wasn't about to put up real money just to try to get a fancy credit card, so I spent a while researching the funds Morgan's algorithm proposed and gaming out the negative compounding of the management fees I would need to pay before I jumped in. Ultimately, I felt that my investment mix was a little stock-heavy already, and I saw an upside to taking $5000 and moving it onto a platform that would track the market with a more muted daily swing (that's the goal, at least).
Once I started messing around in the account, I realized that it runs on the same online platform as any other Morgan Stanley account, which only bolstered my hunch that the Access account could conceivably pass for one of their standard accounts. I still had to wait a little while to apply for the Platinum card, given other minimum spending requirements I was working on, but I finally got around to it today... and much to my surprise, I was instantly approved.
From reading this post by Frequent Miler, I was expecting my application at least to go to pending while Amex verified if I actually did have a Morgan Stanley account. On the application page, you only have to check a box promising that you do actually have an account -- you aren't required to provide an account number or any other details, so clearly there's a verification step that needs to happen at some point.
Given the instant approval, I'm worried that the secondary audit is going to lead to an account shutdown, which is why I qualified my excitement a little bit in the title of this post. After all, I was told specifically that Access accounts don't qualify for the full suite of Morgan Stanley services, which includes the credit cards. And how would Amex know if I even had a Morgan Stanley account at all, unless they contact Morgan Stanley and ask them?
In any case, the bottom line is that for now, my Access account is enough to get me a Morgan Stanley Platinum card. I sure hope it sticks, since there doesn't seem to be any other way (at least that I can find out in the open) to backdoor your way into a Morgan Stanley account with a fairly small amount of money. I've been interested in this card for a long time due to the free authorized user, so I've done some pretty significant digging trying to figure out how to get one without being mr. moneybags. That's why I was so excited when I found out about the Access platform, and it's why I'm cautiously optimistic that I've finally uncovered a way to get the card without having to win the lottery first.
Here's one other wrinkle I'll put out there, in case you really want to push the limits... You can create your Access account without actually funding it. You'll get an email every couple days reminding you to fund your account, but it exists (with an account number and everything) even without any money in it. You have 60 days to fund your account before it closes automatically, so if you were really averse to giving any money to Morgan Stanley, you could always try to open an account this way, get the Amex card, hit the spending target within 60 days, pocket the bonus, and wait for them to close the card the next time they do an audit and realize you no longer have a brokerage account. I don't recommend this, given Amex's penchant for clawing back bonuses when they feel you've obtained them wrongly, but you may have a higher risk tolerance than I do.
Finally, for anyone who's wondering if I'm worried about getting in trouble with Amex for this... I'm not. The terms on the application page are general enough to apply to any brokerage account, and Access investing is a brokerage account. I don't think they can claim I was trying to defraud them, so the worst that happens is that they update their terms (which they're allowed to do) and then cancel my account. After all, it's not as if I'm faking an account or anything, and I do plan to keep my account open as long as I have the card.
Has anyone else tried this? Are you going to? I'd love to get some other data points to see if my instant approval just happened to be good luck (possibly followed by the bad luck of having my account shut down). I'm also curious if anyone is interested in the other Morgan Stanley card (which Frequent Miler has covered in detail as well). And of course, I'd love to be responsible for breaking useful information for a change, instead of just rambling on semi-coherently!
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