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American Express Credit Card Application Rules and Tips


Application Rules and Tips

Application Limits

  • You are limited to one approved credit card every five days and two approved credit cards every 90 days. This rule does not apply to charge cards (A credit card has a credit limit, a charge card does not have a pre-set limit, but you need to pay off the entire balance each month.)

Card Limits

  • You can have up to five credit cards plus four charge cards.

Lifetime Bonuses

American Express follows a once per lifetime bonus per exact card. This means that you cannot get two bonuses from the same (standard personal) American Express Platinum card. But you can get the first bonus from the Platinum Card, then get one for the Schwab Platinum, Business Platinum, Morgan Stanley Platinum, etc. (American Express may change this rule at some point, so always start with the standard personal Platinum).

  • In practice, this “lifetime” language is actually only about 7 or more years, since the record of that card would drop from your credit report about 7 years after canceling. Because of the “lifetime” language, you should only open a card at the highest bonus level. Additionally, if you fail to meet the minimum spend and obtain the bonus, you forfeit that bonus for your “lifetime.”
  • American Express has now created a tool that will determine if you are eligible for a sign-up bonus. If you are ineligible, you will get a message that states “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.” 

Anti-Churning Rule

  • American Express also added language to their credit card offers which states: “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.”

Application Tip: Due to Lifetime bonus rule, only apply for American Express cards when they are at or near the targets we recommend. 

Combining Credit Inquiries

  • If you apply for multiple cards on the same day, the hard inquiries will be combined. Therefore, apply for one credit card, and one or more charge cards on the same day. You could also apply for two credit cards, but the later application will automatically go to pending and would be considered five days later.

Annual Fee Refunds- You must close or downgrade your card within 30 days of the statement closing date to receive a full refund of the annual fee. Thereafter, you would need to downgrade to receive a prorated refund.

Retention Offers– Before you cancel your card, ask if they have any retention offers.

Reconsideration phone number: 1-877-399-3083;

Checking Application Status: Online Status Checker

Points Pooling– You cannot transfer Membership Rewards to anyone else. However, you can transfer the points to another person’s loyalty program.

Multiple Applications: If you apply for multiple cards on the same day, the hard inquiries are combined.

Reallocating Credit- You can reallocate your available credit between cards online. You can transfer from a personal card to a personal card, a business card to a business card, and a personal card to a business card. You cannot transfer from a business card to personal card. Additionally, there is no hard or soft credit pull for transferring your credit lines. Reallocating does not apply to charge cards since those do not have a credit limit. Plus, the cards need to be in the same online profile for the reallocation of credit to work. 

Anti-Manufactured Spending– American Express has started to crack down on manufactured spending, especially when it comes to sign-up bonuses. Amex’s terms now include “If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome bonus offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome bonus offer (s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit the welcome bonus to, we may freeze the welcome bonus credited to, or we may take away the welcome bonus from your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.”

  • Additionally, Amex now excludes Person to Person Payments (e.g. Venmo) from earning Membership Rewards in addition to buying Visa Gift Cards. 

Chase and American Express Bonus Rules for Marriott and SPG Cards

Chase, American Express, and Marriott teamed up to limit the sign-up bonuses of Marriott and SPG credit cards. Below is a chart to determine if you are eligible for a sign-up bonus. 

Current/Past Cards vs. New Cards You WantSPG ($95)SPG Business ($95)SPG Luxury ($450)Marriott Premier Plus ($95)Marriott Premier/Premier Plus Business ($99)
SPG ($95)Lifetime RuleEligibleEligibleWait 30 daysWait 30 days
SPG Business ($95)EligibleLifetime RuleEligible90 days/24 months90 days/24 months
SPG Luxury ($450) EligibleEligibleLifetime Rule90 days/24 months90 days/24 months
Marriott Rewards Premier ($85)Wait 30 Days90 days/24 months90 days/24 monthsWait 24 monthsEligible
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus ($95)Wait 30 days90 days/24 months90 days/24 monthsWait 24 monthsEligible
Marriott Rewards ($45)Wait 30 daysEligibleEligibleEligibleEligible
Marriott Rewards Premier Business ($99)EligibleWait 30 Days90 days/24 monthsEligibleWait 24 months
Marriott Rewards Business ($45)EligibleWait 30 daysEligibleEligibleEligible
Ritz ($450)Wait 30 DaysEligibleWait 30 daysEligibleEligible

Eligible= You are eligible for a sign-up bonus. 

Lifetime Rule= You are ineligible for a bonus during your lifetime, but in reality, that’s about 7 years.

Wait 30 Days= You need to wait 30 days from canceling or product changing the card that you have or previously had.

24 Months= You need to wait 24 months from receiving a sign-up bonus and must no longer have the card.

90 days/24 months=  If you currently have this card, you need to wait 90 days from approval plus 24 months since a receiving a sign-up or upgrade bonus, to receive the sign-up bonus on the other card. 

Financial Review

American Express will sometimes temporarily freeze or limit a customer’s account if a customer triggers one of their risk management factors. You will then will likely be required to verify your income, address, and/or employment. Unfortunately, sometimes American Express will not notify you of the financial review and instead you will only discover this fact when your card is declined or a prompt when you log in to their website. Generally, keep your credit balances low and your spending at a normal rate and you should avoid a financial review. 

Reasons for Financial Review: 

  • Large Purchases– If you normally only spend $250 a week on the card, but then make 2-3 large purchases for $2,000+ within a few days, that may trigger a financial review. If you do need to make a large purchase outside of your normal spending habits, send a live chat message to them on their website or give them a call to let them know. 
  • Several New Cards– If American Express sees that you have opened several new accounts with them or other issuers over the past 2-3 months, they may wonder if you are a higher risk of default. Keep your reported credit balances low and you will be a lower risk to Amex. 
  • Quickly Meeting Minimum Spend– If you spend $3,000 in a week to meet the minimum spend requirement for a bonus, that could trigger a financial review since your spending a large amount in a short time period. Try to spread out your spending and keep your balances low. 
  • Returned Payment– If a payment is rejected due to insufficient balance, that can be a red flag for Amex.
  • High Credit Limits– If your credit limit is high relative to your income, consider lowering the credit limit on your American Express credit cards (you can’t lower on charge cards). For the average customer, try to stay under $35,000 for your credit limit for all of your American Express credit cards. 
  • Manufactured Spending– American Express has taken a harder stance against manufactured spending. It is okay to do some manufactured spending, preferably after you met the minimum spend requirement, but a $5,000+ purchase at a Simon Mall for Visa gift cards may trigger a financial review. 

Passing a Financial Review: American Express will likely require your previous tax return and may request your pay stub, address verification, or bank statements.

Results from Financial Review: American Express will either (1) fully reinstate your account, (2) reduce your credit limit, or (3) cancel all of your accounts. American Express will typically only cancel your account if you lied on your application form (don’t do this) or failed to submit the required documents. 

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