American Express Introduces New Welcome Bonus Restrictions

Jun 16, 2018

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To The Point

Recently, American Express introduced new language that further restricts who is and is not eligible to receive a credit card’s welcome bonus of miles or points. While further restrictions on who can get a welcome bonus are a bad thing, a new tool they released to go along with those restrictions isn’t all bad…

There is a way to coexist with the banks and card issuers in a way that is rewarding for us as point-a-holics but that keeps us in the good graces of the banks, too. For example, I obtain several new cards a year, but I usually don’t just hit the spending requirement and then dump the cards completely. I keep many cards for years, and the other cards that I might only keep a year or two still get periodic use beyond the initial spending requirement. However, not everyone plays by those unwritten rules. Some folks like to just take the welcome bonus and run. Not once or twice, but over and over and over again.

Presumably to deal with customers that they feel are gaming the system and are not profitable, American Express recently added some language to their card applications that gives them wiggle room to not only deny you the welcome bonus if you have already had that specific card before, but also for more nebulous reasons. The new term states that “We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

At first, we didn’t know if this was something that was going to be regularly used in deciding who is or is not eligible for welcome bonuses, but we didn’t have to wait long to learn one of the ways it is being enforced.

This week, American Express started displaying a pop-up if you apply for a card and they do not wish to provide you with that card’s welcome bonus. This may be because you have already had that particular card before, but it may also be based on your behavior with other American Express card and offers.

The pop-up language reads:

“Based on your history with American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive this welcome offer. We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?”

If you receive that dreaded pop-up when applying for an Amex card, you can proceed with applying knowing you probably won’t receive the welcome bonus, or cancel out of your application before they run a credit check.

I view this as a good news/bad news situation. Obviously, when a bank further clamps down on who they will award welcome bonuses to it is bad news for those heavy into the world of rewards credit cards. However, being very upfront about whether or not someone is eligible for a welcome bonus is infinitely better than getting an ugly surprise down the road. I’d rather know from the beginning that I wasn’t going to get a welcome bonus than hit the spending the requirement and get into a messy dispute when the bonus doesn’t arrive.

Have you seen the new Amex pop-up or welcome bonus restrictions on any of your recent Amex applications?

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