Is American Express rejecting more welcome bonuses?

May 3, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

American Express recently added new language to its terms and conditions regarding the eligibility of a welcome offer. At least in the minds of TPG staff and readers, there are some thoughts — based on anecdotal indicators from applicants — that Amex has tightened up its belts on welcome bonus eligibility.

TPG has heard from numerous applicants denied welcome bonuses without receiving much of an explanation that clarifies the company’s recent legal language change.

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Some rejections seem to have been made for obvious reasons:

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Meanwhile, the rationale behind other rejections appears unclear:

  • “Got approved this weekend for the American Express® Gold Card. However, I was told I would not receive a welcome bonus and was declined (got a pop-up message saying I’m ineligible),” reader Gino wrote on the TPG Lounge.

And some readers are enjoying success, even after applying for multiple cards:

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.

Related: Here’s a tip to prevent your Amex welcome bonus from being taken back

Go figure.

For its part, American Express won’t say whether it is denying more bonuses, acknowledging only that welcome bonuses are specifically designed to attract new customers. “We regularly refine our policies to ensure that our welcome bonuses are being provided to eligible new cardmembers, as they are intended for,” a spokeswoman said.

Further, the issuer takes into account whether applicants “have or have had the product they are applying for, their history with American Express, the number of American Express Cards they have opened and closed, and more.”

That essentially echoes the language Amex added to its applications last year. Here’s the new language:

“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.”

The lifetime limit on welcome bonuses was not new, but the second sentence more clearly spelled out that Amex can deny you for any reason. It followed that new language up within a week by launching a tool that lets potential cardholders know before a hard credit inquiry is initiated whether or not the cardholder is eligible for the welcome bonus.

Related: A complete guide to Amex one-bonus-per-lifetime restrictions

A while back, Summer Hull, a director at TPG, was herself denied a welcome bonus when she recently applied for a new Amex card.

“I do not open an aggressively large number of cards each year, and in fact probably have averaged two new personal credit cards each year the last couple years. I’ve never been turned down a card outside of having to wait out Chase 5/24 when it was first introduced,” Hull says. “In terms of Amex specific cards, my newest Amex account was the [Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card] that was opened over a year ago.

“However, despite not being a major hitter when it comes to opening new cards, I received the dreaded pop-up box that I was not eligible for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card based on my history with Amex,” Hull says. “I called and tried to apply over the phone, but the result was the same and I was told there was nothing the agent could do.”

Related: Your guide to calling a credit card reconsideration line

Featured image by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy

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