More Hurdles for Those Applying for American Express Credit Cards

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American Express has instituted one more hurdle for those applying for Amex credit cards.

American Express had already implemented its “one-sign-up-bonus-per-applicant-lifetime” restriction, making it impossible to churn – get a card’s sign-up bonus multiple times – its credit cards.

Now it’s adding a new hurdle for those who try to grab the sign-up bonuses on “too many” American Express cards.

New American Express Restriction

Last week many blogs reported that American Express, without notice, added language to the sign-up portion of many, if not all, of its credit cards, stating that other American Express cards an applicant has opened or closed will be considered when eligibility for the sign-up bonus is being determined.  This is in addition to the “once-in-a-lifetime” language.

Below is the exact language American Express has added to its credit card Terms and Conditions.

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. 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.

The language is vague, giving American Express a lot of latitude when deciding if an applicant will actually receive the sign-up bonus he or she has applied for.

Technically, based on the new language, I could apply for a new Amex card for which I had never gotten the sign-up bonus, be approved by Amex, meet the multi-thousand dollar minimum spend to get the sign-up bonus and then notget the bonus based on some mysterious criteria Amex decided to implement.

Did I receive the sign-up bonus on too many American Express cards?  What is too many?  Have I closed too many Amex cards?  How many is too many to have closed?  Did I cross some other arbitrary line American Express has set up when deciding to give or not give a sign-up bonus?

There really was no way of knowing exactly how the new language would be implemented.

Luckily, American Express has added a little more certainty when applying for a new Amex card.

The New Amex Welcome Bonus Boxes

It appears that American Express has launched a new welcome bonus tool that will let an applicant know whether he or she is eligible to receive the welcome/sign-up bonus or not based on either having received the bonus in the past or based on Amex’s new, vague, approval criteria.

During the application process, when submitting your credit card application, you’ll see a pop-up box/message with one of two messages.

If you’ve received the sign-up bonus on the card for which you are applying, you should see:

[Your Name] because you have or have had [the specific card’s name] you are not eligible to receive the welcome offer.

We have not yet performed a credit check.  Would you still like to proceed?

If you haven’t gotten the sign-up bonus on the specific card for which you’re applying, but for whatever reason, fall under the new, vague, sign-up bonus language, you should see:

[Your Name] based on your history with American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive this welcome offer.

We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?

No matter which message you receive, you’ll have the option of selecting “Continue and Submit” or “Cancel Application.”  If you do nothing, the application will be considered withdrawn.

The positive aspect:  you’ll know beforehand that you won’t receive the sign-up bonus, saving a hard pull on your credit report.

No Message Box – You’re Good to Go

If you don’t see either message box, then, at least at this point with Amex’s new system, you are eligible for the sign-up bonus.

It would be nice if they provided some indication to that effect…a box with affirmative language, or language on the following page stating “once minimum spend requirements are met you will receive the [specific point/mile bonus] sign-up bonus associated with this offer.”  That way a screen-shot could be taken in case there is an issue later on.

Maybe that will be part of the process as American Express works through its new approval mechanism.

Until then, just cross your fingers.

Wrap Up

American Express’ new sign-up bonus restriction is but one more hurdle for those who play the Miles and Points game to its fullest.

It’s likely those who’ve opened/closed a moderate (undefined, unfortunately) number of American Express cards don’t really have to worry when going for one more card and its associated bonus.

Unfortunately, after a couple “one more” cards, you may hit that veiled wall with American Express.

What’s nice, at least, is that American Express has implemented an eligibility tool that will let you know your situation before wasting a hard-pull on your credit report and then not getting the anticipated sign-up bonus.

Still, it’s little consolation for those of us who remember the good ol’ days when the bonuses were plentiful and restrictions non-existent.


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