American Express is no stranger to credit card rewards, and, as a diverse award traveler, you don’t want to be a stranger to Amex, either. Before you switch all your attention from Chase to American Express, you should understand the card issuer’s bonus and application rules. Knowledge is power, and it can save you from applying for a card only to earn zero rewards in return.

One Bonus Per Card Per “Lifetime”

American Express has the most conservative rules for earning welcome offers. Cardmembers can receive an offer on one single card only once per lifetime.

For example, let’s say you earned a welcome offer by applying for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and meeting the spending requirements. Two months later, the public offer increases, but, unfortunately, you wouldn’t be eligible for the welcome bonus on this card ever again. For this reason, it’s best to apply for Amex cards when the offers are at their highest.

However, the rule doesn’t keep you from receiving a welcome offer on the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, as they’re considered different card products. Keep this in mind when considering product-changing to another card—you might be eligible for a new bonus by submitting a new application instead.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the history of each card product goes back as far as seven years. Still, in the world of credit card rewards where things change all the time, seven years might as well be a lifetime.

Another important nuance to remember is that being an authorized user on another person’s card doesn’t prevent you from receiving your own welcome offer on the same card product.

No More Than Five Credit Cards Per Member

In theory, you can have every American Express card at least once per lifetime. In reality, that’s not the case. The issuer allows having no more than five American Express credit cards at one time.

Personal and business cards count toward the limit. If you’re up to the five-card limit and want another Amex card, you might have to reevaluate your wallet and cancel a card to make room for another.

This rule doesn’t apply to American Express cards without preset spending limits, such as the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can hold an unlimited number of these types of Amex cards.

Remember that the number of cards you’re approved for can be lower in your case—approvals are at the bank’s discretion.

Wait 90 Days Between Personal Card Applications

Amex limits you to two personal credit card applications per 90-day period. If you’re looking to combine applications into a single day to avoid multiple pulls of your credit report, you can apply for two cards back to back but be aware that you’re unlikely to be approved for both on the spot.

You might be able to push one of the card’s status from pending to approved manually by speaking to a representative and answering a few security questions. We don’t recommend submitting multiple card applications per day to avoid drawing attention to your accounts.

There’s also a possibility of not having a hard pull at all if the American Express card you’re applying for isn’t your first Amex card.

Family Restrictions

Amex has recently begun adding family restrictions to some cards.

The first is on the American Express® Gold Card. Amex’s terms regarding the gold card are as follows:

You may not be eligible to receive a welcome offer if you have or have had this Card, the Premier Rewards Gold Card, the Platinum Card®, the Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Charles Schwab, the Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley or previous versions of these Cards.”

Similarly, Amex has added family restrictions on the personal Delta cards. The general rule is that you’re not eligible for a welcome offer on a lesser premium card if you’ve already earned it on a more premium card, or on that exact card before.

Take Advantage of Business Cards (When Possible)

Although business cards add to your total count of American Express cards, they don’t show up on your personal credit report. This is useful when you’re trying to stay under the 5/24 count to qualify for Chase cards but want to keep earning valuable welcome offers from other banks, such as Amex.

If you’re eligible, spacing out Chase applications by mixing in one or two Amex small-business cards can help you maximize your earning capabilities without being too aggressive with one particular bank and risking a shutdown.

See If Your Application Qualifies for a Welcome Offer

If you’re unsure whether you qualify for a welcome bonus, you can fill out an application online and watch for an eligibility tool. If a window pops up on your screen, you might not be eligible for a welcome offer on a particular American Express card. It’s nice knowing whether you make the cut before you formally apply and take a hit to your credit score.

Note that you can still be approved for a card, but not for the offer that comes with it. Knowing this in advance can eliminate a lot of anguish associated with earning a welcome bonus on an Amex card.

Final Thoughts

Every bank has come up with stricter and stricter rules to give away fewer rewards. American Express is especially sensitive to “gamers” and will only make your life miserable if you try to circumnavigate its bonus or application rules. As long as you color within the lines, you should have no problem earning a rainbow of welcome offers on most Amex cards that interest you.