Is American Express changing their sign-up bonus terms?

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American Express seems to have in the past couple of weeks quietly changed the terms for earning the sign-up bonuses on some of their credit cards, as shown in the banners below:

So basically they seem to now be officially saying that the bonus offers are only available to applicants who haven’t had that exact product within the past 12 months. That part is actually good news, since previously American Express cards were only unofficially “churnable” every 24 months. So it would appear you can now earn the bonus on an American Express card once a year.

The bad, and confusing news, is that you can only earn a bonus if you haven’t had a similar American Express card within the past 90 days. So they seem to group together all co-branded cards (Delta, for example), and then all Membership Rewards earning cards (Platinum, Gold, Green, etc.). What’s not clear to me is whether they’re talking about 90 days from the last time you applied for a card or whether you just have one of those cards within 90 days. In other words, does this mean that if you’ve had an American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card for over 10 years, you’d have to cancel and wait 90 days before applying for the American Express Platinum card (and earning the bonus), or do you just have to wait 90 days between application cycles? The latter wouldn’t be a huge deal, though still an inconvenience, while the former would be a huge pain.

This is definitely an interesting development, so I’m curious to hear if any of you have had experiences with this new rule (or if it’s even enforced). It seems to be both good and bad news on the surface (you can earn the bonus on each card more often, but can’t apply for similar cards as often), though it all comes down to how it’s practically enforced.

Comments

  1. I hope the 90 days is just about applications, but the wording makes me think that it is about whether or not you had a card, not whether or not you applied for it. This is mixed news in my opinion. Good for people who only use one at a time, but bad for those considering getting a 2nd card to compliment the first (Gold & Platinum Amex, for example).

  2. Humm, don’t you lose all of your MR points when you no longer have a card that participates in the MR program? If there truly is a 90 day “cleansing” period, AMEX may have effectively killed accumulating MR points through multiple card signups. Am I wrong?

  3. It would appear that you can hold your MR points if you open a business gold or plat, and that you would not need to wait as long as one is personal and one is business.

  4. I noticed the same thing last week when I was about to apply for the Delta gold (already have delta platinum) and that wording scared me off from applying. Would love to hear any clarification from AMEX.

  5. The way I see it, you apply for Gold on Jan 1st, cancel it (ie. after 6 months) on July 1st, wait 90 days, apply for Plat on Oct 1st, cancel it (ie. after 6 months) on Apr 1st, wait 90 days, apply for Gold on July 1st, repeat…

  6. I’m on the ‘like’ team, spells out the game rules a little clearer… now we can see the third base line a little clearer.

  7. If you lose the MR points you better transfer them to another program before cancelling.

  8. wait, does this mean 12 months from date of last application of the same card or 12 months since cancellation of the same card? It does not seems to specify but “…who have had this product within the past 12 months” sounds like 12 months from account close.

  9. Had a long (30 minute) call today with an American Express rep yesterday. Basically, “one person, one product, one bonus”. They’ve killed the ability to churn the same product, and more importantly, they’re now having their fraud teams look into this. Amex not messing around any more. I’ll be keeping my day to day expense on my Plat Card, and will rotate some Chase cards instead.

  10. And also, it doesn’t make sense to me that fraud team would be looking into this. Amex is the one handing out the points, no one is taking it from them. If they want to stop it, all they gotta do is code it. It is a perfectly reasonable scenario where one person wants a Plat card when travel plans are heavy, then cancel when not, then obtain again if travel picks back up. Are they gonna stop that person from getting Plat card again?

    Sorry don’t mean to sound like I’m attacking anybody, just thinking out loud.

    Thoughts?

  11. So if you applied for an Amex Gold in February and waited past the 3 month period to sign up for the Amex SPG would you still be eligible for the bonus since this is a “different type”?

    Also if you signed up for the Amex Gold in February and cancelled at anniversary mark (transferred points to airline first) could you then wait 3 months and sign up for a Platinum for instance and receive the bonus?

    Sorry just a little confused on the policy here…Thanks to anyone who can clarify!

  12. @ Matt — The AmEx SPG is a completely different type of card, so there’s no waiting period for that best I can tell (you could even apply same day, it seems). Regarding your second scenario, that’s correct based on my understanding.

  13. I have a AmEx Blue card which is about 9 yrs old, no fee. I recently dropped my Delta Gold but have a Delta Plat and the AmEx Gold Priemier. I think that if I had to drop the Gold Premier card my MR would still register and be held in my Blue card and then after 90 days I could reapply for the Am Ex Gold or Platinum and the new MR bonus plus the MR in the Blue would again be transferable. ??

  14. @lucky, Did you ever get a more definitive answer from AmEx about the 90-day part of these new terms? I’d eventually like to get a PRG in addition to my Platinum and don’t want to do it without a signup bonus.

    If I have to cancel the Platinum and wait 90 days, I’ll have to time the Platinum cancellation with a good transfer bonus during which I’ll empty out my entire MR balance. Not ideal at all!

  15. @lucky Any updates on this? I’m in a similar situation to Autolycus, and so some clarity would be appreciated.

  16. I’d also be interested to know if anyone has recent experience with this. I am in an identical situation to Autolycus. The language definitely makes it seem that if you’ve held (not just applied for) a personal Amex charge card at any time in the last 90 days, you can’t get a sign-up bonus for a new personal Amex charge card. The wording is pretty unambiguous, at least IMO; the question is whether this is enforced.

    One way to preserve your MR balance after cancelling all your charge cards is to open a no-fee Amex Blue card (just the straight-up Blue card, not Blue Sky or Blue Cash). This card has MR Express (meaning you can’t transfer to airline/hotel partners), but the balance is preserved. After opening the Blue card (for which there is currently a 10K signup bonus), cancel your charge card(s) and wait 90 days, then apply for a PRG/Plat/whatever. When you get a “real” Amex charge card again (not Blue), your MR points will be restored to full MR (not MR Express) and you can transfer them to partners again.

    I think this way you’ll be able to get the signup bonus without forfeiting or dumping all your current MR points. Not ideal, as it means your MR points are basically unusable for those 90 days. And the Blue is pretty worthless except as a way to preserve your MR balance. But it’s what I’m planning to do, rather than risk not getting a signup bonus.

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