How To Know If You’re Eligible For The SPG Amex 35K Sign-Up Bonus

Update: The below links for the Starwood Preferred Guest cards are expired, but you can learn more about the best current offers here!

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?

You’ll see that the application pages of both the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex say the following regarding eligibility for the sign-up bonus:

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.


Bottom line

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.”


  1. If assurances provided by the AMEX chat reps in regard to eligibility for a bonus are any guide, you absolutely cannot rely on them to confirm whether you have had a card or not. I confirmed with chat reps twice, and printed out the chat logs, that I was eligible for a second business platinum bonus for a separate company and was assured that I was. After six months of fighting, not receiving promised phone calls and outright lies, I gave up. They were very clear with me that anything a chat rep says does not bind AMEX.

  2. @farnorthtrader

    Little different — you currently have a Plat card and wanted another for a second business? Not like you cancelled and wanted a new card. Still, disconcerting the chat record wasn’t good enough. Did they quote a specific policy?

  3. trader is right…when it comes time to fight for a bonus with Amex anything their phone or chat reps say (in writing or verbally) is worthless…they can say that the rep was mistaken and deny the bonus…they don’t match offers and the “once in a lifetime” bonus policy is the worst of any credit card company…get their best offer for each card, cancel after getting bonus, and you never have to worry about crappy Amex cards again.

  4. @Potreroflyr, the terms and conditions were ambiguous, that is why I requested confirmation, once when I received the card and a second time when I was ready to meet the $10,000 spend requirement. I don’t have the exact wording, but something along the lines of “customers who have had this card before cannot receive the bonus”. I specifically noted that I already had the card for another business in the chats and they specifically replied that I was eligible for the bonus. After I made the spend, AMEX decided that “customer” meant me as the principle of the businesses, not my businesses and denied the bonus.
    I have seen another report of someone who called to check if they had had a card before and was told by the telephone rep that they had never had the card. They applied, completed the spend and were denied the bonus by AMEX because they had had the card 5 or 6 years before. They got them to pull the telephone recordings and were still denied the bonus because the telephone rep had made a mistake. Can’t vouch for it personally, but it sounded an awful lot like what happened to me.

  5. Good post Lucky
    Chat would be quicker but I called got a 60K AA card SUPER HAPPY . I’m sure I canceled the card like last year or so ??? But they said GOOD . EU here I come .

    I CHECKED with BC/BS they didn’t have the BILL for something they paid 4 like 4 years ago so said GO !! Hugh $$$$$$$ .


  6. I’m a regulatory compliance auditor for a competitor bank. Bank’s are required by law to keep personal account records for a minimum of five years. Most banks use a retention period of seven years because that matches the reporting time for most of the consumer reporting companies (the credit bureaus in the case of credit cards, ChexSystems and Early Warning Services for deposit accounts). So while Amex may only retain your history for seven years, they may keep your history well beyond that… it all depends on the most common internal systems used by credit reviewers when you apply.

    Good luck!

  7. Lucky: I have the SPG Business but never received the original sign-up bonus (didn’t reach the spending limit). If I cancel the card and reapply, will I be eligible for the sign-up bonus? Thank you.

  8. @ Kris — Unfortunately I believe technically not, since you’ve had the card before, even if you didn’t get the bonus. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  9. i no longer have an AmEx card so can’t log in to chat. Is there another way to check if I have had a card before? Just to be clear, I had a SPG card that I closed in 2007 or 2008. But want to make sure I am still eligible.

  10. If I have the personal card and got the bonus on that, can I apply for the business card and get the bonus on that?

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