American Express Rules You Need to Know

American Express, as well as most credit card issuers and banks, have a slew of anti-churning rules to deter consumers from taking advantage of their generous and lucrative welcome bonuses and rewards. Some of these rules can be found in the fine print of the terms and conditions, but most are unpublished rules found by data points of our followers, by contacting American Express representatives, personal experience, and through numerous qualitative experiences posted online.

Once in a Lifetime Welcome Bonus Rule

The first American Express rule pertains to the welcome bonus. American Express has a hard rule that if you have earned a welcome bonus for a specific product, you are now forever ineligible for the welcome bonus on that product. For example, if you apply and receive the welcome bonus for the Platinum Card from American Express in 2015, then cancel in 2016, but want to re-apply in 2020, you will not be eligible for another welcome bonus with your 2020 application, even though you’ll probably still be approved for the Platinum Card from American Express. Simply put, you can only get one welcome bonus per product in your lifetime. That said, there may be several variations of a card type, and each variation is technically its own product. Overall, American Express is pretty rigid and clear about this rule. In our experience, there is no way to get around it.

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Per the terms and conditions for the Platinum Card from American Express, the welcome bonus is not available if you have or have had the card in the past. American Express writes these terms in such a restrictive way that they don’t leave language referencing if you have actually received the bonus or not. For example, if you have had the Platinum Card, but we’re not able to reach the $5,000 minimum spend and receive the welcome bonus, you still may not be eligible for a welcome bonus if you were to apply for the card again.

Regardless of how long you have been using credit cards for their plethora of benefits, it’s unlikely you will forget if you’ve had a card. Fortunately, if you do forget, and apply for a card you have already had in the past, American Express will notify you during your online browser submissions. For example, if you apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, but have had it in the past, American Express will let you know that you are not eligible for the welcome offer and verify you want to proceed with your application without being eligible for the welcome bonus.

CardMatch™

What if you are offered a bonus to upgrade your American Express Gold Card to a Platinum Card? Based on the terms and conditions we mentioned above, if you have or have had the card in the past you will be ineligible for a bonus in the future. For example, if you accept a bonus to upgrade your Gold Card to a Platinum Card, you will likely be ineligible to receive a Platinum Card bonus in the future if you ever close and reapply. If you do receive this type of upgrade offer it does not hurt to call American Express (phone number on the back of your card) just to verify the rules surrounding each specific one. Each card may have slightly different wording and rules. Also, keep in mind when upgrading, make sure you’re getting a bonus that is equal to or better than a standard, targeted, or referral welcome bonus offer. To do this you can use the CardMatch Tool which will verify if you have any specific target offers available. 

The CardMatch Tool is very handy to use due to another American Express welcome bonus rule. American Express will not match your Welcome Bonus to other offers. For example, if you apply to the Platinum Card from American Express and receive a 60,000 Membership Rewards Welcome Bonus offer, then see a 100,000 Membership Rewards Welcome Bonus offer next week, American Express will not match you. When you complete your application for the card you are agreeing to the offer in the terms and conditions. That being said, it’s not totally unheard of to call and ask if American Express can offer you anything else such as a statement credit or Membership Rewards points.

Product Change Rules and Bonuses

Speaking of product changes, American Express allows consumers to upgrade or downgrade your current product if applicable. There are certain common-sense guidelines to remember when deciding if you can, or should product change. The main thing to remember is that you can only product change within the same family of cards.

For example, you CAN product change between charge cards such as the American Express Gold Card and Platinum Card from American Express. You CANNOT product change between the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card since they are not in the same family. All Delta Cards CAN be product changed between, as well as all Hilton cards. Cash Back cards CAN ONLY be changed between other Cash Back Cards. Membership Rewards earning cards such as the American Express EveryDay Credit Card, CAN ONLY be product changed to other Membership Rewards earning cards such as the American Express Everyday Preferred Card. American Express Credit Cards CAN ONLY be product changed to other American Express credit cards, NOT American Express charge cards. For example, the American Express EveryDay Credit Card CANNOT be product changed to the American Express Gold Card despite both earning Membership Rewards due to the Gold Card being a charge card, NOT a credit card. The same guidelines apply for American Express business cards. Personal cards CANNOT be product changed to Business cards. As well as Business charge cards, such as the Business Platinum Card from American Express, CANNOT be product changed to a Business credit card, such as the American Express Blue Business Plus Card.  If you have a specific question about a product change, feel free to email us at hello@thepointspassport.com, DM us on Instagram, or message us on Facebook. We’re here to help you navigate these nuanced complexities.

If you are looking to product change up to a more premium card, make sure you keep an eye out for product change upgrade offers and emails. You could even call American Express to see if they see any offers on their end. Unlike the once in a lifetime welcome bonus rule, just because you have gotten a product change upgrade in the past does not mean you are disqualified for the same exact product change in the future.

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 What if you do a product change in the middle of a card year? For example, if you want to product change your Platinum Card from American Express to an American Express Gold Card midyear, your Platinum Card’s annual fee will be prorated for the months you held it and the rest of the fee will be reimbursed to your new Gold Card’s account. Then you will be charged the annual fee to your Gold Card. So, for 6 months of The Platinum Card membership, you would pay $275 total ($45.83 per month for 6 months), and have $275 reimbursed back onto your new product changed Gold Card account. Then, you would be charged the Gold Card annual fee of $250 within the first billing cycle. If you do end up wanting to do a product change, you will need to wait till your first cardmember year is up, otherwise, there is a possibility of American Express clawing back your welcome bonus. I will explain more about this in the next section below.

Abuse, Misuse, Cancellation, Blacklisting, and Claw Backs

We do not often recommend canceling any of your credit cards, because the longer you keep your credit history age alive the higher your credit score will be! The fewer lines of credit you have the higher your utilization percentage will be which will drop your score! With that being said, sometimes you need to cancel, but American Express has a few rules to follow before you make that decision.

There is a list of terms and conditions you agree to when applying for an American Express card. If you do not adhere to them, American Express has the right to claw back your welcome bonus, close your card account, or all your American Express accounts, and even blacklist you from ever getting any American Express cards in the future. To avoid this catastrophic blacklisting we highly recommend you play by the American Express rules!

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American Express makes it very clear that you should not engage in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer. This means American Express does not want members conducting manufactured spending, such as purchasing any cash equivalents, like gift cards or traveler’s checks, or sending money peer to peer using their credit. There is a no-tolerance attitude with American Express regarding this and the decision to blacklist you is based on their sole discretion. Remember they don’t have to lend money to anyone they don’t want to, or who they feel are churning or trying to cheat the system.

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If you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it, or cancel or return purchases you made to meet your welcome bonus minimum spending requirement, American Express has the right to claw back your welcome bonus, freeze all of your membership rewards points, or remove the Membership Rewards from that single card account or ALL of your accounts. American Express may also cancel that specific card account or other card accounts you may have with them. Usually, if this occurs, you will be considered blacklisted and may never be able to get an American Express card ever again.

The American Express 1/5 and 2/90 Rules

In another effort to deter churning, American Express has a rule similar to the Chase 5/24 rule, although, unlike Chase’s rule which pertains to all credit card approvals, from all banks, on your credit report, the American Express rules only pertain to American Express credit card approvals. While on the topic of Chase 5/24, keep in mind that American Express Business cards do not affect your Chase 5/24 score. Personal and Business American Express charge cards DO NOT count against your American Express 1/5 or 2/90 score, but both business and personal American Express credit cards do.

As the numbers portray, you can only be approved for ONE (1) American Express CREDIT CARD every FIVE (5) days, and only TWO (2) American Express CREDIT CARDS every NINETY (90) days. For example, if you apply for an American Express EveryDay Credit Card on Monday, then want to apply for the American Express Blue Business Plus Card on Tuesday, you will likely be denied because you are in violation of the 1/5 rule. If you just wait 6 days until Saturday, you can apply to the Blue Business Plus Card and likely be approved. That being said, if you wanted to apply for any other American Express credit card you would have to wait 90 days past the Monday you applied for the American Express EveryDay Credit Card.

Remember, these rules do not apply to American Express charge cards such as the Platinum Card from American Express, American Express Gold Card, or American Express Green Card. You can apply for all of those in a single day and as long as you are creditworthy this rule will not affect you.

The 4 Credit Card and 10 Charge Card Limit

American Express has had a soft 5 or 6 credit card limit in the past, which could be circumvented by calling into the reconsideration line if your creditworthiness, income, and risk factors made sense for American Express’ approval tolerance. As of May 19, 2020, the Ask Amex Twitter account advised that American Express does in fact have a credit card limit including business and personal cards of only FOUR (4) credit cards. For example, if you have two business cards and two personal cards (or any combination for 4 total), you will likely not be approved for a 5th anymore. As for charge cards, the limit is TEN (10), presumably including business and personal combined like for the credit card totals.

American Express Twitter Post 4 Card 10 Charge Card Rule

This rule should only apply to people who are currently applying to cards. If you have 5 or 6 American Express credit cards, do not worry they won’t close your existing cards based on this rule alone. Although you may have a tough time getting approved for any more without closing some. Again, this still may be a pretty “soft” rule, and worth trying to circumvent if you are in need of a new American Express Card. The only thing that could happen is you get denied and have to call in and provide your income and other details.

Final Point

We hope this American Express application rules breakdown helps you in determining your potential eligibility for your next American Express credit or charge card. Keep in mind that despite the official-sounding names of some of these “rules”, they are not all set in stone. Luckily there are data points that prove there is a wiggle room depending on factors such as your creditworthiness, length, and strength of your relationship with American Express, and the number of accounts open. Remember that you do not have to take an online denial as the conclusion to your application attempts. The Points Passport highly recommends if you are denied for any reason, you dig deeper and call the American Express Reconsideration Line at 1-800-567-1083. This way American Express can explain, in greater detail, as to why you have been denied. This also gives you the opportunity to convince them otherwise. Let us know if you have any comments about this process or any other questions about the rules above! We are here and happy to help.

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