Amex is implementing stricter limits on how many of its cards you can have

May 19, 2020

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There are a lot of attractive rewards credit cards available. But, wary of customers looking to earn and burn welcome bonuses, issuers have slowly found ways to decrease the number of customers that open a card, earn the bonus and then move spending to a different card. After all, issuers want to attract long-term customers who will use their cards regularly — and not just to earn the welcome bonus.

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Now, Amex is implementing new rules regarding how many Amex cards you can hold at once. Let’s dig into what is happening.

Related reading: Yes, I have 19 credit cards; here’s why

What is happening?

(Photo by Orli Friedman / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy)

Doctor of Credit recently reported that some consumers who applied for American Express cards and were denied were subsequently told during reconsideration calls that Amex has a limit of four lending products per customer. This didn’t jive with previous data points which indicated that you could have up to five Amex credit cards and five to 10 Amex charge cards open at any given time. Enrollment required for select benefits.

As data points piled up on the Doctor of Credit post, we reached out to American Express to see if the issuer had a comment. An Amex spokesperson confirmed the new rule by saying:

Yes, we made that change, because, in general, we see very few of our customers actively using four or more cards at the same time. If a Card Member has four or more cards already with American Express and some of them are inactive, we will recommend they consider consolidating.

Of course, this led us to wonder whether charge cards would be included in this newly decreased limit or still be counted separately. Enrollment required for select benefits. We asked the Amex spokesperson for clarification. As of publishing, we hadn’t received a response, but a user on Twitter did:

It seems that most Amex cardholders will be restricted to at most four Amex consumer or business credit cards and, at most, 10 Amex charge cards going forward. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Related reading: What’s the difference between a charge card and a credit card?

What does this mean for Amex cardholders?

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Previously, data points led us to believe that Amex had a five-card limit for credit cards and a five- to 10-card limit for charge cards — but there seemed to be many exceptions. Now, Amex seems to be tightening and formalizing its rules on how many credit cards and charge cards it will allow its customers to hold at once. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Luckily, most Amex customers won’t need to choose between their favorite Amex membership cards and the cards they use for everyday spending. Indeed, Amex offers some excellent cards that some cardholders keep mainly for their travel benefits. For example, The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is useful for its benefits and earning at Hilton properties. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is valuable for many Delta frequent flyers due to Delta Sky Club access, while The Platinum Card® from American Express is useful for travel benefits including lounge access, hotel elite status, access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts program and emergency medical evacuation insurance. You may get a lot of benefit from having these cards even if you don’t spend on them all that frequently.

However, these limits may force cardholders with four or more Amex credit cards to make some difficult decisions regarding under-used credit cards that they’ve had open for many years. Closing old accounts to open new accounts could also hurt your credit score, since the length of your credit history will decrease.

You may be able to have more Amex cards than this new policy states if you actively use all of your lending products from Amex, but it’s unclear how much use of each card would be required to get an exception.

Related reading: Choosing the best American Express credit card for you

Do other issuers have similar restrictions?

Amex isn’t the only issuer that officially or unofficially limits its customers to a specific number of card products. For example, Chase has an unofficial 5/24 rule that means you cannot have opened five or more personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months to be approved for most Chase credit cards. Capital One generally restricts the number of cards you have in your wallet to two, although cobranded and small business cards aren’t included.

Likewise, Bank of America has used a 2/3/4 rule since 2017. This rule means you can only get approved for two new Bank of America cards in a two-month period, three new Bank of America cards in a 12-month period and four new Bank of America cards in a 24-month period.

However, in 2019 Bank of America reportedly began denying customers who have opened what it feels are too many credit cards across all issuers in the past 12 months. Bank of America has been unwilling to state how many new accounts it considers too many.

Related reading: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

Featured image by John Gribben/The Points Guy.

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