Full guide to Amex one-bonus-per-lifetime restrictions

Mar 23, 2020

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American Express offers an array of rewards credit cards with generous sign-up bonuses and worthwhile benefits. Although Amex doesn’t impose a hard rule like Chase’s 5/24, the issuer is fairly restrictive when it comes to application rules and lifetime limitations on their credit and charge cards.

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Not only does American Express limit the number of cards you can have and how often you can apply, it also tries to ensure that applicants are only eligible for one welcome bonus per “lifetime” on each of their card offerings. Here’s what you need to know about Amex’s one-welcome-bonus-per-lifetime rule.

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What is the Amex once-per-lifetime rule?

American Express restricts eligibility for a card’s welcome bonus to “once per lifetime.” In other words, you can apply for The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express and earn the welcome bonus once and only once. In the past, American Express would allow you to earn welcome bonuses on the exact same card multiple times. However, since 2014 Amex has clamped down on applications and begun limiting customers to one bonus per card per lifetime, regardless how much time had passed since they last applied for that card.

The information for the Amex Everyday Preferred has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

There have been reports of people getting approved and earning the welcome offer again several years later but this seldom happens. Amex’s one-bonus-per-lifetime rule was put into effect in order to discourage applicants from applying for Amex cards solely for the bonuses.

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

What credit cards are affected by this rule?

All cards — personal, business and charge cards — are covered by this rule. Regardless of the family of cards (cobranded hotel and airline cards, business cards, cash-back cards, rewards cards), American Express maintains a strict rule of of one bonus per card for life. Although all Amex cards are covered by this rule, you can earn the welcome offer on personal and business cards of the same type.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

For example, the American Express® Gold Card and American Express® Business Gold Card are from the same card family but one is a personal card and the other a business card. Amex allows you to earn the welcome bonus bonus for each card as long as you have never been a cardholder of that card in the past.

How many Amex cards can I have?

Officially, American Express does not have a cap on the number of cards you can have. However, the issuer typically limits customers to a total of five Amex credit cards open at a time. This limit applies to both personal credit cards and business credit cards but does not apply to their charge cards such as the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

For example, you can have three personal credit cards, two business credit cards and the Amex Platinum. Since five of the six are credit cards, you have reached your cap on credit cards with Amex, but can still have an additional charge card or two.  Although five credit cards with American Express is the limit, sometimes exceptions exist, but they’re rare.

Related reading: Chase’s 5/24 rule: Everything you need to know

How can I still qualify for an Amex welcome offer? What are the exceptions?

Tracking which Amex cards you have applied for in the past will obviously give you a better idea if you are eligible for a certain card’s welcome bonus or not. If your organizational skills aren’t up to par, don’t fret. In 2018, American Express introduced a welcome bonus qualification tool to forewarn applicants if they are ineligible for a welcome bonus.

Here’s how it works. When you apply for an American Express credit card that you’ve already had in the past, you’ll receive the following message before your credit is pulled:

Because you have or have had The Platinum Card, you are not eligible to receive the welcome offer.

We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?

In essence, if you’re not sure you’re eligible for the welcome offer on a card because you think you have had it before, Amex will alert you with a pop-up message at the time you apply.

A possible exception to the rule for Amex welcome offers is embedded in the language on an a card’s application terms and conditions. Amex usualy includes the following wording on the landing page of an application:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. 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. 

 

If your card application does not include this restrictive language but you have had the card in the past, you may be targeted for the card by American Express. Check your email for targeted offers or log into your American Express account and look for preapproved offers with no lifetime language. Just make sure to look again before submitting your application for the pop-up message by Amex alerting you if are ineligible for the welcome bonus.

Other Amex Welcome bonus restrictions

Although American Express has restricted welcome offers to one bonus per lifetime per card, cardholders can still apply and get approved for a card without the welcome offer. Normally the language on the terms and conditions highlights the ineligibility of the welcome offer, but doesn’t restrict approval.

There have been reports of people getting approved for a sixth or even seventh card, with or without the welcome bonus, because Amex offers a strong portfolio of cards that earn valuable points and miles.

Given the wide range of American Express card offerings and once-per-lifetime restrictions, you should time your applications strategically to ensure you’re getting the highest possible welcome bonus. And don’t forget to check the CardMatch tool to know if you qualify for a possible 100,000-point targeted offer on the personal version of the Amex Platinum a 75,000-point targeted offer on the Amex Gold. Offers subject to change at anytime.

Bottom line

American Express has an impressive portfolio of cards with generous welcome offers for first-time applicants. Their once-per-lifetime rule, although restrictive, has certain exceptions that may allow customers to earn the welcome bonus again after a period of time. Along with the welcome bonus qualification tool, Amex makes it easy for applicants to track and understand their eligibility for welcome bonuses on American Express cards.

Featured Image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy

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WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
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Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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