At the moment we’re seeing the biggest ever sign-up bonuses on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. The cards are offering sign-up bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints upon completing minimum spend, which is the biggest bonuses the cards have ever offered.
35,000 might not sound like a big number, but keep in mind that Starpoints are the most valuable points currency out there, as far as I’m concerned. So those points are worth significantly more than 35,000 airline miles.
The bonus on each of these cards is “once in a lifetime,” though there’s some confusion about what that means in practice, so I figured I’d address that in this post.
How does Amex’s “once in a lifetime” bonus rule really work?
Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.
So even though it’s a pretty absolute statement, in practice it might not be quite that straightforward. For example reader Mike asked the following question:
If I had the personal 7+ years ago (and closed 6+ years ago), is that info purged from AMEX for bonus points purposes?
There has been some debate as to what exactly “once in a lifetime” means. Does it really mean “once in a lifetime,” or just a really long time? Doctor of Credit has speculated that “once in a lifetime” means every seven years. Here’s the logic:
From the data points I’ve seen, if you haven’t held this card for seven years or more, you’ll be eligible for the bonus again.
Keep in mind that positive accounts can stay on your credit report for up to ten years, negative accounts can only stay on your credit report for up to seven years. This leads me to believe that American Express base their bonus eligibility on what is found in their own internal systems rather than what is found on your credit report.
So while that’s not a guarantee or published rule, it sounds right to me, and matches the data points I’ve heard from readers as well.
There’s an easy way to find out…
If you’re not sure if you’ve had a specific SPG Amex before, or how long ago you had it, there’s an easy way to find out. Log into your Amex account, and initiate a chat. You should see a “chat” button at the bottom right of the screen.
Just ask the representative if they have record of you having had the SPG Amex Business or Personal Card before (whichever you’re not sure about), and they should be able to tell you. Whatever they say should be correct, so if they don’t have record of it, you should be eligible for the bonus again.
The increased sign-up bonuses on the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex are extremely lucrative, and in my opinion most people should be taking advantage of these offers if they’re eligible. I assume most people are aware whether or not they’re eligible for the bonus. However, there are some people who aren’t as sure, like Mike above, who canceled the card 6-7 years ago. If you’re in that situation, start a chat with Amex through their website, and see if they have record of you having had the card before.
The same general principle applies for other Amex cards that are “once in a lifetime.”