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The new language American Express added this summer to its terms and conditions about welcome bonus eligibility seems to be having an effect, at least in the minds of TPG staff and readers who have made recent applications.

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

Some rejections seem to have been made for obvious reasons:

  • “I was rejected for the sign-up bonus,” reader Paul wrote. “In the past year I signed up for the Delta Platinum card and got the bonus, then stopped spending on it, upgraded my Blue Cash to the preferred for a sign-up bonus, then stopped using it except for groceries, and I closed my SPG card before the first annual fee was due after having gotten the SPG points. So yeah, AMEX, you caught me churnin’.”

Meanwhile, the rationale behind other rejections appears unclear:

  • “Got approved this weekend for the (American Express® Gold Card), however sign-up bonus was declined (got a pop-up message saying I’m ineligible),” reader Gino wrote on the TPG Lounge. “Recently opened a Platinum last August (sign-up bonus received).”

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

  • “In the last year I have opened Platinum, Ascend, Aspire, and as of yesterday, Gold. All are still open, received bonuses on all of them,” reader Philip wrote.

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 card members, 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 earlier this year. Here’s the new language added in June:

“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.

Summer Hull, the head of TPG Family content, 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 Platinum Delta Card that was opened over a year ago. I also have the Amex Everyday Preferred and SPG Business Card, all of which get used and have been open for at least four years.

“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 SPG Luxury 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.”

Featured image by NurPhoto / Getty Images

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