American Express Tightening Sign-Up Bonuses – No Past Cardholders Allowed Starting In May (And Maybe Sooner)

Mar 26, 2014

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There’s been a lot of buzz lately that American Express was going to change its welcome bonus policy in the coming months (it looked likely to be May 1, 2014). Whereas the policy to this point has usually been that if you had a particular consumer card in the past, but no longer had it and did not have it open for at least 12 months, you could apply for it again and get the current welcome bonus. The terms usually stated something like: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months or any other Consumer ____ Credit Card account within the last 90 days.” That blank space I left would just be the name of the specific product, like the Platinum Card or a Delta SkyMiles card.

Has Amex changed its entire welcome bonus policy?
Has Amex changed its entire welcome bonus policy?

However, American Express has indicated that that would no longer be the case, and that if you ever had a particular card, you could only ever get the welcome bonus once, no matter how long it had been between canceling it and applying for it again.

The official statement from American Express is: “In order to ensure fairness and clarity with our Card Members, we will be making a change to our acquisition incentive control rules for American Express Consumer Cards. Beginning May 2, 2014, welcome bonus offers will not be available to applicants who have or have had the Card they’re applying for. For example, if a Card Member once had or has a Platinum Card, they will not be eligible to receive a welcome bonus offer on a new Platinum Card application.”

That’s terrible news for folks – the majority of whom are legitimately applying for new cards with great current bonuses that they might not have had for years at this point. What’s even worse is that, looking at the benefits terms and conditions of several major consumer cards including the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express – it appears as though the terms have already changed. All three of those cards have the following language in the official terms and conditions:

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.32.26 AM

As you can see, they say: “This offer is offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” No mention of a specific time frame, let alone 12 months. I talked to sources at Amex for clarification and they said that though they have been changing the terms of the benefits on applications already, that May 2 is still the date where if you have ever had a specific consumer credit card open, no matter how long the account has been closed, you will not be able to get the bonus again.

This is also why it’s going to be more important than ever to pay attention to the bonuses out there and to get in on especially good ones while they are around (sometimes just for a matter of days or even hours) because they might not come around again, and once you have a card, you’ll only have one shot at getting that bonus. Check out my tips on Maximizing Targeted Credit Card Offers on the Card Match Tool for more strategies and tips.

Amex already did something like this with its family of Platinum Cards, where if you had, say, the personal Platinum Card, you could not then receive a welcome bonus for applying for the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card. I’m not really surprised by this change, but I am sad because it will limit the welcome bonus potential in the long run. That being said, I can see more changes from other issuers focusing on consumers to focus less on welcome bonuses and more on everyday usage. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Amex’s cards are called EveryDay!

My information is taken specifically from the credit card terms currently available on Amex’s line of major consumer credit cards, but I’d be curious to hear any reader experiences applying for bonuses recently. Have you applied for a new offer on a card you might have had previously? Were you eligible? Share your experiences below!

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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