Amex clamping down on repeat bonuses?

I first heard about this from TravelBloggerBuzz, and then read this Dan’s Deals post.  According to Dan’s post, starting May 1 American Express will no longer grant signup bonuses to people who have had the same card in the past.

Often, when I tell people about how easy it is to earn hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of points and miles each year through credit card signup bonuses, they ask why the banks allow it.  That’s a good question!  Chase was perhaps the first to change their stated policy: according to their rules, you can only earn a bonus once per product.  However, when a credit card changes enough to be considered a new product (such as when it changes from a MasterCard to a Visa card or vice versa), they’ll generally allow a new signup bonus if you no longer have the old card.  Barclaycard has a different approach: they simply make it very difficult to get approved for new cards if they think you’re signing up just for the bonuses.  And, Citibank is all over the place with different rules for different cards that seem to change regularly.  Sometimes the rules are enforced, and sometimes not.

American Express, for the past two years or so, has had a fairly simple rule: you can’t earn a signup bonus if you’ve had the same card within the past 12 months.  Where the rule was complicated was with cards in the same “product line”.  For example, Platinum and Gold cards are considered part of the same line.  Rules about getting a new card bonus were often based on whether or not you’ve had other cards in the same product line in the past 90 days or 1 year (rules vary by card).   You can see examples of these rules in the tables of the post “How to keep your Membership Rewards”.

According to Dan’s post, he received confirmation that the rules will change for all consumer American Express cards as of May 1.  He received conflicting information about whether this will be true of business cards as well.  So, we’ll have to wait to learn more about that.

Silver lining?

The one possible advantage of this change is that I can imagine Amex increasing their signup bonuses.  Once they’re pretty sure that each individual can only get the bonus once, they might be more willing to target customers with 75K, 100K, or even 150K offers.  Only time will tell!

What to do?

First, keep in mind that this is just a rumor at this point.  Even if an Amex rep tells you that it is true, that doesn’t mean that Amex will really roll out this change as expected, nor can you be sure that the Amex rep fully understands the planned changes.  And, even if the reps are 100% correct about American Express’ plans, it is still possible that plans will change, or deadlines will be missed, or technical implementations will falter.

With all of that said, though, it does seem reasonable for Amex to roll out these new rules, so its smart to plan accordingly…

If you’ve been hoping to get a signup bonus for a card you’ve held in the past, this is apparently the time to go for it.  For example, I’ve had both the personal and business SPG cards in the past, but currently have neither.  I was planning to wait until August to see if Amex would increase their signup bonus to 30K (as they’ve done every August for the past several years), but now I think I need to apply for one or both cards before May 1.

If you’ve been planning to get a new card that you haven’t had in the past, you may want to wait.  I think that there’s a reasonably good chance that Amex will surprise us with some nice new signup bonuses sometime after May 1, so wait for those if you can.  One exception to this suggestion is with respect to the Delta Platinum cards (business and personal).  Both currently offer 5K MQMs and 35K redeemable miles with a $150 annual fee (see “Best credit card offers”).  Starting in May, though, the annual fee goes up to $195 so applying now will save you $45 for the first year.

Last updated on November 13th, 2015

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Nic
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Nic

Your recommendations are assuming it is retroactive, maybe it is going forward.

FrequentMiler
Guest

That’s true, but I’d be very surprised if the new rule didn’t apply to previous account holders

Paul
Guest
Paul

With the relative ease of MS, this is only a change at the margins. But it is surprising Amex allowed this to go on for so long as it encouraged churning.

M
Guest
M

deltaamexcard.com showed targeted offers that expired 3/2/2014 for two Skymiles accounts that never had any delta cards as following: personal card: welcome bonus for people who never had the card, business card: welcome bonus for people who haven’t had the card in the last 12 months.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Does this rule apply for accounts may 1 and on? For example I cancel a card today and a year from now, since I didn’t have the account open when this rule went into effect, reapply, will I qualify for the bonus?

FrequentMiler
Guest

We can only speculate right now, but I expect that it will apply to all accounts.

stvr
Guest
stvr

Would an offer in the mail be transferrable to another person? Looking at a 100K MR offer on eBay…

FrequentMiler
Guest

I don’t know

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[…] ball time. The Frequent Miler speculates that this will lead to higher bonuses. I could see this happening. Maybe we’ll see more […]

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Understandable of course, but unfortunate. Certainly MS options FOR THE MOMENT make this less critical, but hey, 25K extra SPG points every year plus no annual fee ever is a nice perk you’ll be prevented from getting in the future. Also a lead-lining I could imagine is Amex might be less inclined to waive fees when you call to cancel an SPG card in the future since you’d be less likely to actually do it.

I guess we’ll see what happens. Seems unlikely there’s going to be a huge bonus offer for the PRG Gold by the end of April if this is true, meaning I’ll have to think about whether to take a shot at the current offer then or not.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Good point. I hadn’t thought of the retention offer angle. My guess, though, is that retention offers won’t be affected. Credit card companies work hard to get customers and hate to lose them

Lynda B
Guest
Lynda B

DL Plat card is going up to $195! serious? Damn, I may cancel that. Are they still giving the “free” companion ticket?

FrequentMiler
Guest

Yes, seriously. On the (slightly) positive side, they will no longer have foreign exchange fees. Yes, still have free companion ticket after first year of card membership

Jl100
Guest
Jl100

Is it 12 months since you had the card open, or 12 months from opening the card? I assume it would be tough for ones I just closed, but got the bonus 12 months ago…

FrequentMiler
Guest

12 months and a day from cancelling your card. It doesn’t matter when you opened it.

Mark
Guest
Mark

So here’s a somewhat silly question. I can’t recall if I had an Amex Biz gold card last year or not. Definitely don’t still have it. Is the best way to find out when I closed the account just to call Amex? I don’t see it listed in my online account.

I’m asking since I was just targeted for a 100K Amex Biz Plat card and I’m thinking about pulling the trigger if I meet the 12 month rule. Thanks!

FrequentMiler
Guest

Yes, no reason not to call Amex and ask

Card Beagle
Guest

Cancelled my MR Gold card on 5/9/13 (I keep good records). Just missed the year churn.

Sam
Guest
Sam

I just read this and it ruined my evening…I hope it’s only rumors…

TravelBloggerBuzz
Guest

Thanks for the mention.

If this plays out the way I think it will…I think it is a game changer which points to a less bright future of us all churners. And bloggers too I am thinking of starting a separate blog Travel Newbie Buzz 🙂

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

My favorite bank is starting to become Bank of America. I’ve heard from The Man of 1000 Places that even though Chase cards aren’t officially churnable, you can churn a card after waiting 3 years and earn the sign-up bonus again. Is there a chance that in practice, Amex cards will be that way too?

http://www.theman1000.com/travelcreditcards/churnable-cards/

JD
Guest
JD

AMEX Mercedes Plat application now states “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had a Platinum Card® account enrolled in the Membership Rewards® program.”

FrequentMiler
Guest

Yep, that’s been there for a while

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[…] American Express Ending Repeat Bonuses – The Frequent Miler gives us the news that AMEX is clamping down on repeat bonus offenders. […]

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[…] and at this point we can’t even confirm that this is fact and not rumor.  Frequent Miler suggests that clamping down on this may allow Amex to give larger signup […]

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[…] May 1, American Express will no longer offer signup bonuses for cards you’ve had before (see “Amex clamping down on repeat bonuses?”).  This new policy seems to be specific to personal cards, not business cards.  The […]

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[…] bonus per card per person per lifetime for new accounts starting May 1, 2014.  See the posts here: FrequentMiler, Milepoint, and Flyertalk, beginning May 1, 2014.  As far as I can tell, the terms and conditions […]

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[…] that Amex currently only allows one bonus per personal product per lifetime, so while you can be aggressive about multiple products, you don’t want to use up that […]

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[…] still a bountiful source for signup bonus points. Unlike the Amex personal cards which are now limited to just one signup bonus per lifetime, the business cards normally only require that you have not held the same card in the last 12 […]