Will AMEX Welcome Bonuses Be Once Per Card Starting May 1st?

Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

This morning over at Dan’s Deals, he reported that starting May 1, 2014 American Express will no longer award welcome bonuses to anyone who has had the same card and cancelled it in the past. Keep in mind that as of now this is a rumor until Amex officially releases the information.

For anyone who’s been in the miles and points game long enough, earning a welcome bonus multiple times was a key way to earning millions of points per year. Some banks don't have firm rules set in place, but up until this point each banks policy about earning the same bonus twice has looked like this:

Chase: You can earn one bonus per unique card product.

American Express: You can earn the bonus if it’s been 12 months since you had the same card.

Citi: Generally you can earn the bonus for a card every couple years.

Barclays: No firm rule, but will likely not approve you if they feel you are just signing up to get the bonus.

Bank of America: You can get multiple bonuses and multiple cards at the same time.

With that said there have been many reports of people slipping under the radar and receiving the bonus even if the terms state differently.

Starting May 1st, AMEX Welcome Bonuses Will Be Only Once Per Lifetime

Up until this point American Express has had the policy that you cannot earn the welcome bonus for the same card that you’ve had within the last 12 months. In their terms they even specify that several cards are considered the same within a product family, and further complicated things by adding that you cannot earn a bonus if you’ve had a ZYNC, Green, Gold card, or Platinum card within the last 90 days.

“Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months or any other Consumer ZYNC®, Green or Gold Card or Platinum Card® account within the last 90 days.”

Per Dan’s Deals, he heard from a reader of the upcoming changes and later confirmed with Amex rep that starting May 1, 2014 the rules for consumer cards will change. Essentially Amex is enacting a rule similar to Chase, and making it so a person can only earn the bonus once per card.

This is not a huge surprise considering Amex already offered lower welcome bonuses to existing card holders, which essentially tried to limit the bonus opportunities for anyone who has already earned. Now they are just going a step further and adding this rule to their terms.

There is no firm information about whether or not this will be taking place on business cards as well, but the changes will affect all consumer cards as of May 1st.

Possible Higher Bonuses?

An interesting perspective on this is that American Express may offer higher welcome bonuses if they know a person can only earn the bonus once. This could be a much more sustainable strategy for earning a loyal customer base and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility if we see offers around the ~100,000 point range. We might also see more valuable anniversary bonuses to help keep a valuable customer base. It would be hard to imagine that this is the only change Amex has in the works, but we will have to see how things unfold after the new rules go into effect.

Should You Apply Now Or Later?

Until American Express releases the official news there isn’t much else to rely on. With that some general strategies might be to apply now if you're wanting to get a welcome bonus for a card you’ve had in the past, but to wait on applying for a new card if you haven’t had it in the past.

If you want to earn the bonus again on an Amex card you have had more than 12 months ago, now might be a good time to go for the bonus again. The best Amex offers right now are the SPG cards with the 25,000 point bonuses.

If you haven’t had some of the Amex cards, you may want to wait and see how things unfold after May 1st. In hopes that Amex will release some higher offers this year, the changes are likely to take place after the new rule goes into effect. Again, this is purely on speculation, but it makes sense.

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