Number of Cards
There’s a general rule of thumb with American Express when it comes to how many credit cards you can have in your name. The vast majority of reports in the last year indicate that you’re allowed to have a total of five Amex credit cards (like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express) open at any one time. This includes both personal cards and business cards but generally doesn’t apply to charge cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express or The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Now, I use the term “general rule of thumb” because I’ve read isolated reports of readers having more than five American Express credit cards at any one time, especially after the Hilton conversion from Citi to Amex. However, that appears to be much more the exception than the norm, so I’m sticking with the number above. If you currently have five Amex credit cards, I wouldn’t encourage you to apply for another.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between credit and charge cards, it’s relatively simple: Charge cards don’t have a fixed spending limit but must be paid in full every month, while credit cards do have a fixed credit limit but also allow you to carry a balance from month to month. That being said, I strongly discourage you from ever carrying a balance — it actually tops my ten commandments for travel rewards credit cards. Carrying a balance and accruing interest will more than negate any points or miles you earn on the card, and will also have a negative impact on your credit score.
Number and Timing of Applications
When it comes to American Express’ rules for how many applications you can have and how frequently you can submit them, again, there aren’t any published, hard-and-fast requirements. However, I did find a number of data points that may help you decide how to apply:
- You can apply for two cards in a single day — one credit and one charge card, or two charge cards. However, many reports indicate that at least one application will likely be put on hold as a fraud prevention mechanism, especially if you’re applying for two charge cards (though some have been instantly approved for a credit and charge card on the same day). In addition, there’s no guarantee that those applications will be combined into a single hard inquiry on your credit report, though it does happen.
- You may be able to get approved for more than two cards in a 90-day period. However, most of these reports were a combination of credit and charge cards, so the general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t apply for three or more Amex credit cards within three months.
In the past, American Express would allow you to earn welcome bonuses on the exact same card multiple times. However, this hasn’t been the case since 2014, when the issuer began restricting customers to one bonus per card per lifetime, no matter how long it’s been since you applied.
For example, here’s the specific language from the offer terms page for the Premier Rewards Gold Card:
“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”
The sentence is crystal clear; if you currently have (or have had) this particular card, you are not eligible to earn the welcome bonus (currently 25,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership). There’s similar language on the application pages across Amex’s entire portfolio of cards, including the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express. It even extends to previous versions of cards in certain instances, like the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card:
“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card.”
Even though the Hilton Surpass card is no longer available, you’ll likely be ineligible for the welcome bonus on the Ascend card if you held the Surpass in the past.
When these restrictions were initially launched, they didn’t apply to small business cards like The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, but you’ll now find the exact same verbiage on those application pages as well. However, note that the personal and business versions of the same card are treated as separate, so you should be eligible to earn the welcome bonus on both once during your life.
For example, let’s say that you’re a current holder of the Amex Platinum (the personal version). You’ve received some great value out of it but now want to get The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN for your small business, perhaps to take advantage of the new limited-time offer on the business version. Even though these are both Platinum cards, you’re eligible to earn the welcome bonus on each of them once in your lifetime.
But what if you can’t remember whether or not you’ve had a specific card before? Fortunately, American Express just launched a new tool that allows you to double-check your eligibility for a welcome bonus. This check actually takes place during the application process but before you officially submit your application, and allows you to withdraw the application if you’re not eligible for the bonus before Amex performs a hard inquiry on your credit report. While most readers probably can recall their Amex card history, it’s nice to have an insurance policy to make sure you’re eligible before incurring a hard inquiry.
Given this restriction, you want to time your applications very well to make sure you’re getting the highest possible welcome bonus. And don’t forget to check the CardMatch tool to identify a possible 100,000-point targeted offer on the personal version of the Amex Platinum.
One final note: American Express also recently added some new (and vague) language regarding welcome bonuses to the offer terms section:
“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.”
Clearly American Express may begin cracking down even further on applicants who have open or closed many cards in their lifetimes, much like Chase has done (see below). Only time will tell just how broadly this is enforced, but it’s certainly something to be aware of as you plan your application strategy with Amex.
Here are two offers by AMEX now and you can take advantage of these bonuses.
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