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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. However, before you switch all your attention from Chase to American Express, you should understand its bonus and application rules. Knowledge is power, and it can save you from applying for a card only to earn no points in return.
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When it comes to earning welcome offers, American Express has the most conservative rules. Cardmembers can receive a sign-up bonus on any single card once per lifetime only.
For example, let’s say you received a 30,000-mile offer by signing up for the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business American Express Card and meeting the spending requirements. Two months later, the public offer went up to 60,000 miles, but, unfortunately, you wouldn’t be eligible for the bonus on this card ever again. For this reason, it’s best to apply for Amex cards when the offers are at their highest.
60,000 SkyMiles after $3,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
However, the rule doesn’t keep you from receiving a welcome bonus on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express or the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card as they’re considered different card products. Keep this in mind when thinking about product switching to another card—you might be eligible for a new bonus by submitting a new application.
70,000 SkyMiles & (5,000 MQMs) after $4,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the history of each card product actually 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 sign-up bonus on the same card product.
Although 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 and no more than five Amex charge cards at once.
Charge cards and credit cards have a slight distinction. Amex charge cards, such as the Platinum Card, the Gold Card or the Green Card don’t have limits. You can charge purchases on these cards without worrying about maxing them out (within reason as your annual income is taken into account for purchase approvals). You must pay off these cards in full every month.
Credit cards, such as the co-branded Gold Delta SkyMiles Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card, work as regular credit cards with fixed lines of credit. These cards don’t have to be paid in full, but we recommend that you still do to avoid paying interest.
As far as the five-card rule goes, remember that 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.
Remember that the number of cards can be lower in your particular case, and approvals are at the bank’s discretion.
Amex limits you to two personal credit or charge 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, it’s possible to apply for one credit and one charge card back to back, but know that it’s 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.
Although business cards add to your total count of American Express cards, they don’t show up on your personal credit report. This piece of information is useful when you’re trying to stay under 5/24 to qualify for more Chase cards but want to keep earning valuable sign-on offers from other banks, such as Amex.
Spacing out Chase applications by mixing in some Amex cards can help you maximize your earning capabilities without being too aggressive with one particular bank and risking a shutdown.
If you’re unsure whether you qualify for a bonus, American Express will notify you online via its pop-up eligibility checker whether you make the cut for a welcome offer before you apply and take a hit to your credit score, which is a nice touch. You can still be approved for a card, just not the bonus that comes with it. Knowing this in advance can eliminate a lot of anguish associated with earning a welcome offer on an Amex card.
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.
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Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.