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

Dec 17, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information. 

Each credit card issuer has its own unique policies to combat fraud and what it sees as churning practices.

Chase has its infamous 5/24 rule that prevents you from opening a new Chase card if you’ve opened five or more cards in the last 24 months. Amex has historically been laxer with card approvals but has been cracking down on welcome bonus eligibility by enforcing one of the lesser-known rules in its terms and conditions.

Here’s a word to the wise: Amex can take back your welcome bonus — or even close your account — if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months of opening.

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The Amex eligibility pop up

A couple of years ago, Amex added a pop-up screen that appears before you submit your application and warns you if you aren’t eligible for a welcome bonus. There was no hard and fast rule as to what caused this ineligibility, other than Amex’s long-standing policy that you can’t earn a welcome bonus on a card if you’ve already had it before.

Additionally, it seems that most Amex cardholders will be restricted to at most four Amex consumer or business credit cards.

Still, many people found themselves being denied welcome bonuses on products they’d never had or hadn’t hit these card limits.

Image courtesy of American Express.

The good news was that Amex gave this warning before you submitted your application, giving you a chance to exit out without having your credit report pulled, which can lead to a small dip in your credit score in the short term.

Related: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

Amex can take back already-earned welcome bonuses

Most people assume that once the bonus on a new card posts to your account, you’ve checked your boxes and there’s nothing else you need to do; the points or miles are yours.

However, we’ve received a number of tips from readers, in addition to more reports circulating on the internet, indicating that Amex could take back your welcome bonus — or worse, cancel your account — months after you’ve earned it if Amex believes that you’ve gamed or abused the system. The following text can be found in the terms and conditions for the welcome offer on nearly every Amex card:

“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome offer (s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit Membership Rewards points to, we may freeze Membership Rewards points credited to, or we may take away Membership Rewards points from your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.”

In both of the cases reported to us by TPG readers, the user canceled a new card within the first year after having already received the welcome bonus. In one case, a reader simply didn’t want to pay the annual fee, while in another the account was hacked and the reader thought that closing the card would prevent further fraud.

Related: How to cancel a credit card

Let this serve as a very important reminder to anyone considering applying for an Amex credit card: You may forfeit your bonus if you close or downgrade your account within a year.

While these specific instances of welcome bonuses being clawed back involve Amex, this is a good practice to follow with all of your cards. If you’re interested in opening a new credit card but hesitant about paying the annual fee, Amex gives you a 30-day grace period after the statement in which your annual fee posts. If you downgrade or cancel your card inside this window your annual fee will be refunded. If you product-change outside of this window, the annual fee will be prorated.

Related: Choosing the best American Express credit card for you

Bottom line

While Chase’s 5/24 rule is a royal pain for most points and miles enthusiasts, at least it’s clearly defined and you know exactly what you’re up against.

Amex’s language, specifically the statement that it has “sole discretion” to deny or take back your bonus, is much vaguer and harder to pre-empt. In order to steer clear of this and avoid any problems, including the closure of your accounts and forfeiture of your points, you should absolutely, unequivocally keep your cards open for at least one year.

This is especially true for taking advantage of generous welcome offers, such as on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Currently, that card is offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong. 

Featured photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 100,000 Points Terms Apply.


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber Cash annually (only for use in the U.S.)  (Enrollment required for select benefits)

*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
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. And if you fly, you can receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year after you select a qualifying airline and incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at select airports and stadiums.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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