The Basic Rules Of Applying For American Express Cards

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Cards
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For the past few years Amex has generally been pretty conservative with their credit card welcome bonuses. They’ve been more focused on retaining customers than on offering big bonuses with which to incentivize people to sign up for one of their cards, so this post is about the general restrictions on applying for Amex cards.

The great Amex card offers we’re seeing

Here are some great American Express welcome bonuses we’re seeing at the moment:

American Express Cards

Now let’s talk about the basic restrictions in terms of being approved for Amex cards, earning the bonuses, etc.

Amex bonuses are once in a lifetime

Nowadays American Express welcome bonuses are once in a lifetime, meaning you can only earn the bonus on a particular card if you’ve never had it before. However, keep in mind that this is specific to each product. In other words, if you have the business version of a card you can still earn the welcome bonus on the personal version of a card (and vice versa), and if you have the Gold version of a card you can still earn the welcome bonus on the Platinum version of a card (and vice versa).

You can have four Amex charge cards and four Amex credit cards

All issuers have some sort of limit on how many cards you can have. In the case of American Express, any person can typically have up to four credit cards and four charge cards. It doesn’t matter how many of those cards are personal cards or business cards, but rather just whether they’re charge or credit.

It’s worth noting that some people have reported being able to have five credit cards at once, though that seems to be on a “your mileage may vary” case, as I haven’t had such luck.

Amex charge cards vs. credit cards

Continuing on the above, what’s the difference between an Amex charge card and an Amex credit card?

  • A credit card has a credit limit, and you can finance charges over time if you want to (though you should avoid doing so, given the high interest rates charged)
  • A charge card doesn’t have a pre-set spending limit, but you can’t finance charges over time

In general charge cards are lower risk for the issuer, as there’s a lower risk of people not paying their bills, since they have to pay them off at the end of each statement.

So, which cards are credit and which are charge?

The following are some popular American Express credit cards:

Amex Credit Cards

Meanwhile the following are American Express charge cards:

Amex Charge Cards

You can apply for multiple Amex cards in one day

Some issuers have specific restrictions on how often you can apply for cards. In the case of Amex, there’s not a specific limit in my experience. Really the biggest limit is the total number of cards you can have.

In general you can apply for two Amex cards in a day, though one application will often be delayed by a few days. That’s totally fine, as they simply delay the application on their end by a few days, and it’s not like you have to apply again or they pull your credit again.

So if you are going to apply for two Amex cards, there’s no reason to space out the applications. I’d recommend applying for one card, and assuming you get instant approval (or get approved after calling), you might as well apply for the second card, even though the application will likely be delayed a couple of days.

Amex cards are anecdotally fairly easy to be approved for

This is entirely anecdotal, but I find that Amex cards are the easiest to be approved for of any major issuer, assuming you have good credit. I almost always get instant approval, and when I don’t, I typically just have to call to verify some basic information. In my experience:

  • Amex charge cards are even easier to be approved for than Amex credit cards
  • Amex is the best when it comes to approving small business credit cards, even if your business is still fairly new
  • The first card I ever applied for was an Amex, and I got instantly approved

Bottom line

There are a lot of great American Express welcome bonuses at the moment, so hopefully the above is helpful for anyone considering applying for an Amex card. Amex is among the most straightforward issuers when it comes to approving applicants, so assuming you have good credit, you should have no problems getting approved for Amex cards, whether they’re personal or business.

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  1. I think there’s an important distinction worth making: bonuses aren’t once-per-lifetime, but rather you are only eligible if you’ve never had the card before (regardless of whether or not you got a bonus the first time).

    I got the business platinum years ago with no sign-up bonus, and am not eligible for the 100k points promotion as a result (but did get the 50k upgrade offer).

  2. Great post so I have the following cards:
    1. Amex Platinum Personal
    2. SPG Personal
    3. SPG Biz
    4. Amex Every Day

    But I am thinking getting the following to my wallet.
    5. Amex Biz Platinum
    6. Amex Hilton or Delta Platinum

    So I can have a total of 8 Amex ( 4 charge and 4 credit cards) products between
    business and personal.

  3. hey Lucky — great post! If i apply for 2 cards in 1 day, confirm with me again, does that count as 2 (or 1) in Chase’ 5/24 rule.

  4. Interesting… in the UK that’s totally different… you can sign up for a Amex Gold Card, get the bonus, wait 6 months… then sign up again!

  5. Hi Lucky, Thanks for this post. Even for me The first card I ever applied for was an Amex, and I got approved after asked for proofs of my employment. This was just a month after I came to US and started working here.
    However AMEX was not the option (only Visa, Master and Discover) listed in my aparmtent with which I can pay my rent every month. Would you be able to tell me which of the Visa/Master/Discover cards are easy to get the way I got my AMEX.

  6. One AmEx trick I’ve discovered: clear your browser cookies or use an incognito window to find the best deal from Amex, they change them by the minute when they know who you are. I signed up for the Delta 70,000 miles offer for $3,000 in spend a month ago, and saw recently that it was $5,000 in spend from all of the blogs. I wanted to get the card for my husband and went to Amex, but it wouldn’t let me see the deal because it knew I already had it, so I cleared my cookies and it gave me the 70,000 skymiles for only $3,000 in spend option, and hubby was approved. While I was browsing it showed the Platinum Amex for 75,000 Amex points offer but as soon as I applied for the Delta Skymiles card for hubby it had his cookies now and when I went back later it only showed an offer for the Amex Platinum at 40,000 points. I’ve never seen that before with any other issuer so I’m glad I know the trick now, I’d be pissed to get one of their cards and have to get extra spend to meet the goal or to only get 40,000 points instead of 75,000.

  7. Question. I had the business platinum amex and got a big sign up bonus 2 years ago. I have since cancelled that card and opened the business gold(also good bonus). One of my offers on the gold is “upgrade to platinum and get 50k MR points after 10k spend in 5months.” I will gladly do this if I will actually get the points. Any advice?

  8. What about multiple businesses and the “once per lifetime” rule. Can I get the Enhanced Amex Platinum (and bonus) for two different businesses I own? Currently have it for an existing business, but might consider applying for a new business.

  9. I think “5 credit cards per person” is pretty common knowledge by now? I was approved for a fifth back in may and I’ve seen it talked about on several blogs since then.

  10. @Geoff read the offer terms but mine allowed it. As long as I hadn’t taken the upgrade offer before.

  11. I’ve held the Skymiles Plat AMEX since 1998, no signup bonus back then, just a lot of company travel. I got a hard NO from AMEX on any sort of signup or retention bonus on the card…no love there. Too bad, too, I had been pretty loyal to that point…

  12. I have a Personal Gold Rewards card which also comes with a free Platinum Optima. I also have a Personal SPG. I just got an offer to upgrade to Personal Platinum with a 25,000 point bonus, but that seems pretty anemic. Any suggestions on getting a better offer?

  13. Ever since American Express shuttered that Paris office where Ernest Hemingway and Spanish bullfighters sparred bare-knuckled while picking up their mail, it’s been one damned thing after another. If AmEx is to remain a going concern, pretty soon we’ll to need to put on a show or have a bake sale.

  14. When people are looking to bulk up their award wallets, I have just thinned mine to just 4 cards:
    1. The CSR for 3x in Travel and Dining
    2. The United Club card for Everything Else to “mop up” my chump change and convert it to UA miles at 1.5/$.
    3. The AMEX Biz Plat for “status symbol”
    4. The Chase ATM/visa debit for quick cash

    The rest are hotel loyalty co-brand cards, which remain in my travel organizer…

  15. I did not find this to be true. I had a Gold Amex before (no bonus ever received) and applied for Platinum card last year when they had 100k bonus. The application cleared right away with confirmation about the points offer. A few months after I completed the required purchases, I asked why the points hadn’t shown up and was told I was ineligible because I’d had a gold card before! I sent the PDF of the confirmation I had saved that said I would get points and they didn’t care. After threatening to cancel I got 25k points and another $400 credit after going through several levels of supervisors over a couple of weeks. Bah humbug

  16. Actually, you can now have 5 Amex CCs. It changed recently. I have SPG, HH Surpass, old Blue Cash, SimplyCash Preferred and Everyday Preferred.

    There is no limit to how many charge cards you can have overall. For personal, you can have one of each and business you can have multiples. I’ve seen people with 10+ business charge cards.

  17. I was just approved for a 5th. I have SPG personal, SPG business, HH Honors, Everyday Preferred and Surpass (most recent). Read somewhere that it seems that folks getting a 5th card all had an Everyday card – no idea if that is true.

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