If you’re like us, when you a great welcome bonus on an American Express card, you perk up a bit. Similarly, when Amex launches a new card with a great benefit such as top-tier elite status or annual free night certificates, it catches your attention.
However, before we dive head first into applying without giving it a second thought, you’ll want to make sure you know the rules for getting a new Amex card, the differences between credit and charge cards, and how many Amex cards you’re allowed to have.
We’ll cover all of that and even touch on how the rules around targeted offers can be a bit different. Once all your bases are covered, we can look at a strategy for you going forward.
Now, let’s dive in!
Three Major Amex Rules
American Express has three major rules that you’ll want to know before you run out and apply for the first card you see. Fortunately, they’re pretty straightforward so it won’t be a big deal.
One Bonus Per Card Per Lifetime
The rule with the biggest long-term impact is what we commonly refer to as the “Once Per Lifetime” rule. While you can get the welcome bonus on Chase and Citi cards a second time if you choose to give a card another chance after a specified timeframe, Amex does not allow this.
Once you’ve opened a particular card, that’s your one shot at the welcome bonus. You won’t be eligible four years later if you’ve closed the card but decide you want it again. Now, there are plenty of other reasons you might want the card again but you won’t be able to get the bonus a second time.
This rule applies to all personal and business cards issued by American Express.
One Credit Card Per 5 Days
This is one is as simple as it sounds, you may only open one credit card within a five day period. If you apply for two on the same day, you can get approved from one of them but the other application won’t get reviewed until you hit that 5-day threshold.
This rule applies to personal and business credit cards.
Two Credit Cards Per 90 Days
Similarly, you may only open two credit cards within a 90-day timeframe. If you submit an application for a third card within that 90 day period, it will be rejected.
This rule applies to personal and business credit cards.
Credit Vs. Charge Cards: What’s The Difference?
Perhaps you noticed that we specifically mentioned the last two rules apply to “credit cards” rather than call cards. That’s because American Express offers both credit cards and charge cards.
So, what makes charge cards different?
Well, for starters, you are required to pay the full balance of a charge card by the payment due date each month. Honestly, if you want to use credit cards to earn miles and points, you should be doing this anyway. Even if they allow you to be late with payments as interest charges wreck the value of the points you earn.
American Express does offer a “Pay Over Time” feature to some cardholders which allows you to carry a balance on a charge card, but you really should try to avoid this if at all possible.
Another difference between charge and credit cards is that charge cards do not have a set spending limit. This can be particularly useful for businesses that need to make large purchases but would otherwise be restricted by a credit limit.
Here’s a list of the charge cards offered by Amex:
|Personal Charge Cards||Business Charge Cards|
|The Platinum Card from American Express (Learn More)||The Business Platinum Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|American Express Gold Card (Learn More)||American Express Business Gold Card (Learn More)|
|American Express Green Card (Learn More)||Business Green Rewards Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|The Plum Card from American Express (Learn More)|
How Many Amex Credit Cards Can You Have?
This one has evolved a bit. Previously, it seemed Amex would cap you at four credit cards. However, it seems many people are able to hold five credit cards these days. Occasionally, you’ll hear about someone with six but, at this point, we’d say five is more likely.
This specifically relates to credit cards — both business and personal. Charge cards are not included in this count of five. In theory, you could have five credit cards as well as a charge card or two.
Here’s a list of credit cards issued by Amex:
|Hilton Honors Aspire (Learn More)||Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
|Hilton Honors Ascend (Learn More)||Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|Hilton Honors (Learn More)||Delta Reserve Business Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|Hilton Honors Business (Learn More)||Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|Amex EveryDay Credit Card (Learn More)||Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card (Learn More)|
|Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card (Learn More)||Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (Learn More)|
|The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)||Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)||Blue Cash EveryDay Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)||SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (Learn More)||American Express Cash Magnet Card|
What About Targeted Offers?
Remember, that once per lifetime rule? Well, if you get an offer in the mail or via email, check the terms. You might find that some of these offers don’t have the restrictive “once per lifetime” language.
If that’s the case, count yourself lucky that Amex wants you back as a customer enough to offer you a welcome bonus.
Watch For The Application Pop-Up
When you apply for a card from Amex, keep an eye out for a kind of warning pop-up box. You’ll receive the warning for one of two reasons.
First, you might find out that you aren’t eligible for a welcome bonus based on your history with American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of cards you’ve opened/closed. Second, you could find out that you aren’t eligible for the welcome bonus because you’ve previously had the same card.
At this point, Amex has not run a credit check and you can decide whether you want to apply with the knowledge that you won’t receive a welcome bonus.
This is just another reason to make sure you track what cards you have opened.
Business Cards And The Chase 5/24 Rule
Remember, if you’re new to credit card rewards or haven’t opened five cards in the last 24 months, you’re still eligible for Chase cards. Specifically, if you’ve opened fewer than five personal cards plus business cards from Capital One and Discover, you’re still eligible.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s wise to focus on Chase cards, especially cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. However, you can open business cards from Amex without impacting your 5/24 status.
Make sure you’ve read our guide to the Chase 5/24 rule before you get started.
Amex Card Strategy
Now, if you’ve already hit the 5/24 mark, you’re pretty much an unrestricted free agent. You just have to figure out which combo of Amex cards will help you achieve your travel goals.
Since flights are very often involved, we like to start with cards that earn Membership Rewards points as you can transfer them 18 airline partners. You can also transfer them to 3 hotel partners but Choice Privileges is really the only option worth it — and only in specific circumstances. Fortunately, there are several charge cards and credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points.
After that, you can figure out whether Marriott cards or Hilton cards could help you with an elite status bump and annual free night certificates. Additionally, most Delta cards provide a free checked bag benefit that can come in handy if you fly Delta regularly but don’t have elite status.
When you think about it, the rules for getting a welcome bonus with American Express aren’t too difficult. While we’re not a huge fan of the once per lifetime thing, it shouldn’t really be a hurdle for you.
The most important thing is to have a simple strategy so you can earn the points that will be most useful to you. Once that’s set, you’ll be ready to move forward without worry.