Amex Reportedly Denying More People Welcome Bonuses

Credit card issuers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to segmenting the market and predicting consumer behavior. The way I see it, maximizing credit card rewards can be a win-win proposition for consumers and the banks.

Restrictions we’ve seen card issuers add

Over the past several years we’ve seen credit card companies largely crack down on those applying for cards primarily for the welcome bonuses. Credit card companies often offer huge welcome bonuses to lure in customers, but of course they do so with the hope of customers being loyal in return.

American Express, Chase, and Citi, have all added new restrictions the past few years to encourage profitable behavior, or at a minimum, restrict some common ways that they saw people take advantage of welcome bonuses. Just to give a few examples from the three biggest issuers:

  • American Express has “once in a lifetime” language, where they typically won’t give you the welcome bonus on a card if you’ve had that card before
  • Chase has the “5/24 rule,” where they won’t approve you for many of their cards if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24-48 months; furthermore, they’ve started to restrict welcome bonuses in the same “family” of cards, like how you can’t get the Sapphire Reserve if you have the Sapphire Preferred, and vice versa
  • Citi typically won’t offer a welcome bonus if someone has opened or closed a card in the past 24 months, and this now also applies to many “families” of cards

American Express’ new language and bonus eligibility check

The latest addition from American Express was this June, when they added new language to the welcome bonus eligibility when applying for credit cards (bolding mine):

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

As you can see, this language gives them carte blanche to deny bonuses for whatever reason they’d like. Then again, they already had that power before, but with this they were just putting it down in writing.

Shortly after implementing this new restriction, they added a new eligibility check when you apply for credit cards. When you apply for a card, American Express now has a pop-up that will tell you if you’re not eligible for the bonus on the card, either because you’ve had the card before, or due to other factors. If you’re being denied based on other factors, the message looks something like this:

Based on your history with American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive this welcome offer.

We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?

Is American Express denying more people bonuses than in the past?

My general approach to most of these things is that as long as you’re being reasonable, these restrictions shouldn’t concern you. Generally when people share stories of having issues, I can totally make sense of why it’s happening. “I opened 12 cards in two weeks and shut down six of them and tried to get all the annual fees waived and…”

I can totally see why they wouldn’t want to give someone a bonus in a case like that!

But I’m increasingly getting reports of people getting the message saying they won’t be eligible for a bonus under much more reasonable circumstances. For example, let me share some of the data points I’ve gotten regarding applying for the new Amex Gold Card. Like this one:

Amex denied me the welcome bonus for this card, so I didn’t sign up. I have only ever had 3 Amex cards, and only two of them ever had a bonus.

Or this one:

I was told I was not eligible for the welcome bonus even though I never had PRG. I did recently cancel a couple of amex cards that I wasn’t using anymore. Apparently, that has ruled me out from the bonus. Would have been good to know that.

Or this one:

My spouse and i were rejected for the bonus on 2 different Amex cards (this one included. The little popup box says your welcome to submit your application but due to past opening and closing of accounts we will not get the bonus. I paid the fee on my Starwood card for 4-5 yrs in a row. We have never had the card.

Or this one:

I got the warning that I wouldn’t get approval for the 100K personal AMEX Platinum due to past history of opening and closing accounts. I have 4 Amex credit cards all opened 4 or more years ago, and 1 older charge card. They involuntarily closed an old AMEX Hilton when I applied for an Everyday Preferred and I closed a Starwood AMEX. Both closures at least one year ago. Seems like these denials are becoming a trend.

Bottom line

Personally I find this to be strange, so I’m not sure if there’s a glitch, if not everyone is telling the full extent of their credit card history, or what. But I can’t make sense of many of the data points that I’ve received.

The good news here is that people are receiving these messages before submitting their application, so there’s no credit check. It’s not like they’re getting the card, paying the annual fee, completing the minimum spend, etc., and then being told of this issue.

Still, something doesn’t quite add up here. Either there’s a glitch, or American Express has gotten really strict. So if you guys have any data points to share regarding this, please do so in the comments section, so we can hopefully draw some conclusions. The more detailed, the better.

Comments

  1. Wife only have an everyday card, used sparingly last year. Also she got a targeted mailer for the gold reward last year for 50k but never applied. Tried to apply last week online for the new gold card and got the Popup. Amex is really bad now with this stuff.

  2. Isn’t Amex’s once in a lifetime language about not giving you a bonus if you’ve had the card before, rather than not approving you for a card at all?

  3. I wonder is the amount of spend you put on your Amex cards has anything to do with it. They might not deem you a profitable customer if all you do is spend enough to get the bonus and don’t put anything on the card afterwards.

  4. @ Ben — Well, I guess our AMEX door will shut soon. We’ve both gotten bonuses in the past year for Hilton Aspire (new), Platinum AMEX (repeat), PRG (repeat), and DL Platinum (repeat), and we will likely close all or most of them after a year. They are generally just not worth the annual fees. There will always be a good bonus to pick up somewhere if we go slow and steady and spread our business to all banks.

  5. @Lucky, this s been reported on other blogs a few days ago, so it’s definitely not a glitch. Apparently, Amex had figured out who the profitable card members are and is denying bonus to all who it deems to be not profitable no matter how many cards you have with them.

  6. I was denied the signups bonus. The only other card I applied for in the last two years was the BBP which didn’t come with a signups bonus.

  7. @The nice Paul, absolutely! Makes perfect business sense. Leaves more points for the rest of us who actually use their cards even if we never pay interest.

  8. Currently hold 1 Amex product – Gold card. Recently opened and closed Delta Gold and Delta Platinum with bonuses over the last 2 years. I held each account open for a full year and closed at the renewals. Only other Amex card that I opened in the last 2 years was the SPG product. I was denied last week for new Delta Reserve bonus – never held the card before. So this is more proof that eligibility for a bonus for never holding a card previously no longer holds.

  9. I had a similar issue with Amex recently. Applied for Merc Benz Plat met the minimum spend organically and bonus did not get posted for 50 days after the 1st statement closed.
    Filed a case with Amex had to go back & forth few times as Amex claims I have an existing Personal plat and I am not eligible for bonus on new plat since they are the same product. I mentioned if its the same product why are you charging me annual fee again and after a lot of hiatus finally said I will go the CFPB route as I have all the supporting documentation. I was ready to file a CFPB but a week after the last call with Amex, my bonus points posted.
    With this experience, I will be more cautious with screenshots, supporting documentation and stuff.

  10. This happened to me last week. I was looking on the Amex website and found an offer for 25,000 MR points for signing up with the Amex Everyday Card (no annual fee) and spending $2,000.

    The only Amex card I currently have is the Hilton Ascend card and I recently cancelled my Hilton Card. After filling out the application I got the note saying I was not eligible for the bonus, with no reason given.

    The only thing I can think of is that I have gotten 3 new Chase cards in the last year and no other cards, with the last sign up about 2 months ago.

  11. Lucky – it seems pretty easy to figure out the common thread in all of the examples you posted. All of those commenters seemed to have closed American Express cards recently. Basically, closing a card seems to raise large red flags when it comes to sign up bonuses. Especially if you close a card a year after you open it. Also, making minimum spend to meet a sign up bonus and not spending on the card also seems to raise red flags.

    Some of these cards (Gold Card, Aspire) make sense to get even without signup bonuses…

  12. @ Lukas @ The nice Paul — Maybe our continuing to receive signup bonuses isn’t a fluke, as we probably spend $100,000 per year between us on our AMEX cards…maybe we are considered “profitable customers”?

  13. My suspicion is that Amex has started to go after people who get a bonus and then never use the card again at all—in other words, customers who haven’t been profitable in the past shouldn’t receive large portions of the marketing budget.

  14. @Lucky

    I’ve only ever had the Delta Gold and Delta Platinum AMEX cards, and closed the Delta Gold when I received my Delta Platinum.

    When I signed up for the new PRG card last week online, it said I was not eligible for the welcome offer despite never having had a PRG card prior.

    Talking to AmEx online customer service, they found it strange, and referred me to call in to ask about my welcome offer eligibility.

    I called in and they said I WAS indeed eligible and helped me with my sign-up over the phone, letting me know that I will receive my MR points after the spend is reached. I guess I’ll see whether I receive the bonus or not in about $1,500~ more spend!

  15. I have 3 personal Amex cards and have spent a total of just over $194,000 across the 3 cards over the last 12 months. I have never had the a Gold card, so I thought I would apply. Having a pretty good credit score (826) and no other credit card applications in the past 14 months, I thought I would have no problem getting approved. However, I also received the message from Amex that I would not be entitled to the bonus based on my history with AMERICAN EXPREESS. I really don’t know what they are talking about, because I pay my bills on time and in full each month. Maybe that’s the problem. I really don’t need Amex, and I think it’s about time to end my relationship and move to Chase.

  16. I’ve been denied bonuses on AMEX everytime I’ve tried to apply for new cards. History with them is current AMEX platinum authorized user – no spend is put on the card; cancelled (within the past year) Delta Gold AMEX after first year – only put enough spend to get the 75k mile bonus; cancelled (within the past year) personal SPG card after about 4 years and personally significant spend.

    Just adding for another data point.

  17. If these datapoints are correct, it sounds like Amex might be considering people’s accounts with OTHER issuers (like Chase does with 5/24) instead of just Amex history.

    Unfortunate, but at least they’re letting people know before the credit check though.

  18. It’s pretty clear that if you are a point chaser (I.e., open and close cards just for the bonus) and/or a person who doesn’t charge to a card you are going to get denied.

    With good reason IMO because you aren’t a profitable customer.

  19. I got the same message when applying for the Amex Simply cash plus biz card. I can’t get a bonus from Amex. I play the miles game; but haven’t had too many Amex cards over the years. For example, I’ve opened four new cards (no Amex) in the past two years and was denied the bonus.

  20. I received similar rejection for my upraded Delta Amex card (went from gold to Platinum). I was told by a Delta representative that I was eligible for the bonus after opening my new Platinum card. A couple of months later and a phone call to Amex, I was told that the bonus wasn’t available for me, but gave no clear indication why.

  21. Card wasn’t a CSR killer before and certainly now is just a joke. Won’t even bother applying for it. Amex you suck.

  22. I suppose I’m the odd ball. But I feel like credit card jumping for bonuses is a scam on the card companies. Dishonest and immmoral. I think its time it ends. I just received an Am Ex card with a very high bonus but I suspect its because I haven’t done it in the past. I will not use my new bonus offer either. Not what cards are for!!

  23. I closed the MB platinum in July. Ineligible for the Delta welcome bonus and the personal platinum welcome bonus.

  24. I upgraded from the plat delta to reserve card two months ago, told I would get the 70k miles as long as I met spend requirement and paid difference in fee, did both then afterwards was told I did not qualify because of some vague reason. I did mine over the phone and not online.

  25. I’m not sure this is limited to just the AmEx Gold Card.

    As an additional data point, I have been fighting with AmEx over the welcome bonus on my Delta SkyMiles Gold Card. Despite multiple requests to investigate, they tell me they need more information on my end. This is of course absurd, considering nowhere in the approval email or online approval does it mention the offer I applied for (I checked and re-checked). Similarly, they asked if I still had my welcome pack (for a card I opened a year ago). Of course I didn’t keep that, though I’m 99.9% sure the bonus miles offer was mentioned nowhere within the documents.

    Do I have any recourse?

  26. Service culture has changed at AmEx….but for anyone thinking of jumping ship, I’d hesitate before going with Banco “popular” and the Avianca/lifemiles card – fraudulent activity on card 6 months ago, never dealt with as such despite reporting, disputed dozens of calls, amounts continued to accrue interest, sent to collections and credit bureau and I watch my score drop 150 points because of the UTTER incompetence. So, as bad as AmEx gets, it’s not the worst option.

  27. Lucky,
    As @Anthony says, even without the bonus, my grocery and restaurant spend on the new Amex Gold Card would be beneficial, so I’m thinking of taking that plunge. Timing unknown at this point. And if the other annual benefits remain (airline and restaurant credits), this new card seems decent enough.

  28. I certainly think they should crack down on customers who get too many cards. I also think they need to invest in a useful customer service staff. Between hold times, getting transferred to offices that aren’t even open, getting disconnected, getting passed from one office to another, it makes dealing with a cable/internet company seem reasonable.

    I’m starting moving towards canceling more cards. I had the Platinum, two Hilton cards, and two SPG cards. Recently canceled the business SPG and will probably cancel the lower end Hilton card. Neither of which gives me much for my money.

  29. For those who have gotten the popup window – Are they actually putting some spend on their existing AMEX cards over the course of the card life?

    I am surprised everyone is just focusing on the old books – like never have this product before, only have opened a couple AMEX cards, (and other cards), canceled AMEX cards over a year ago, etc etc
    NOBODY has reported just HOW frequent and HOW MUCH s/he used their AMEX cards.

    AMEX indeed has enough AI now to identify those who applied the card, met the spend, then sockdrawered the card for the rest of the first year. Canceled after AF posted in the 13th month…

    It seems the AI employs a lot of behavioral science to determine whether the cardholder is a profitable customer to keep. It will flag those sockdrawered accounts.

  30. Hey miafll, read my post. I put just over $194,000 spend on my 3 Amex cards over the last 12 months and they still won’t give me the bonus.

  31. Hey Lucky, thanks for the post. Travel Freely reported data points of getting this warning message, then calling and the customer service agent disagreeing with the warning and getting an approval over the phone. Seems like the automated system may be strict but reality of approvals may be more positive.

  32. I blame the bloggers including you.

    Its so easy to say “you have a business”. Amex will approve you for anything.

    The bloggers decided killing the golden goose was ok as long they could sell the goose carcass for a lot of money in the short term.

    Now all we are left with is goose shit.

    Just like typical Republican behavior. Pollute now and make money. Someone else will pay to clean it up. The funny thing is they act like others should treat them in a civilized way while they got about murdering others.

  33. “Dishonest and Immoral” Are you for real Cornelia Gallaway. Or perhaps you work for AX and are a plant. You are an Oddball that is for certain

  34. Nan this post is about AMEX? Not CITI. So I have a question for the board when do we suppose this message from Amex will go away. What kind of timeframe are they looking at. I got the message and so did my wife. I stupidly closed my Ascend card after getting the aspire and meeting the bonus. But she did not do anything stupid like that. We have had big spend lately on all AX cards

  35. Oops. Yes, you are correct. I saw this, “Citi typically won’t offer a welcome bonus if someone has opened or closed a card in the past 24 months, and this now also applies to many “families” of cards,” and thought there might be more info on the Citi card. Thanks anyway.

  36. Whelp. It was only a matter of time. The big question is do we have a counter move? Maybe AOR when you get the green light, then take an extended break like in 5/24 planning?

  37. I got the pop-up trying to apply for the Blue Business. I called in, the agent applied for me–same popup. I asked for what reason the alert was showing since I’d never had the card, etc etc. He went away and spoke with a supervisor, and when he came back he said that because it was the standard bonus offer at the time I would get it, that the alert is indicating that I’m not further eligible because it’s standard (?) and that the supervisor stated the pop-up was showing incorrectly for several cards.

    I have no idea if any of that is true, or if I’ll truly get the bonus from the card. But it can’t hurt to call in and retry.

  38. +1 for AMEX getting stricter. I’m at 4/24 overall and applied SPG Luxury cc and got the dreaded popup. Been an AMEX cardholder since 2011, have 3 active cards, and have only cancelled 1 AMEX ever – last September.

  39. All this applies not just to the new bonuses, but they are initiating lots of shutdowns as well…my 3 [email protected] cards (SPG, Platinum, Hilton) were cancelled with no explanation (the so called explanation was “it is a business decision)…all the cards were 3-5 years old, so no recent bonuses involved…all had regular organic spend, quite high even, always paid in full, no cycling, no late/returned payments, no MS, FICO 812, high income, 4 new cards (not with [email protected]) in 2 years…go figure…a friend of mine who did some light MS as well as a lot of organic spend and who has similar FICO/financials was shut down by [email protected] as well with the same “it is a business decision” explanation…something strange is going on with [email protected]

  40. I tried to use a “self referral” yesterday for the Rose Gold Card, which I’ve never had. Currently have 4 AMEX cards and am an AU on 2 others. Had the pop up that I wasn’t eligible for the bonus do to my history with AMEX, blah blah blah. I tried calling this morning and they had “great news” and I could apply for the 25K offer (yeah, no thanks!) Anyways, I haven’t closed any accounts in years, pay the annual fees and only put a little spend on them. I did open a Delta Gold earlier this year but that is all. Hoping I can put some spend on the cards and get approved without popup in a few weeks.

  41. The issue is that sign-up bonuses specifically run against the grain of the AMEX membership idea of building long-term relationships; and where the more they know you, the more they are able to help you out in situations. Having customers drop in and out runs counter to that.

    It’s not to say there isn’t a financial implication of giving away points/miles, but there’s a bigger brand implication that is even more important that they consider.

  42. @ K –
    Maybe thats how they view themselves, but I think they are delusional. With all bonus claw backs, long time customers shut downs, Amex offers retroactive claw backs , their brand is a semi joke now. Gone are the times when old dudes flashed their fancy Amex Platinum to impress, but they still cling to that reputation, reputation that is long gone. Yes, it has a few nice transfer options, and maybe some still like FHR (although some would argue that Virtuoso is way better), but beyond that the brand comes across as petty, vindictive or often incompetent. Who would want to get in a relationship with them when they deny insentives at will, and who would want to continue their relationship with them long term when you don’t know when and for what you might be shut down.
    Just my 2 cents (or miles)

  43. Not only are credit card bonuses dishonest and immoral, it is wicked and those who accept them are sinful.

    That is why I refuse to accept any points that come with my monthly credit card spending. Every month I have to call American Express and tell them to retract the points that I was awarded. My parents taught me to resist temptation and I am grateful for it.

  44. Right on Max. If Amex is going to refuse to honor the bonuses even when one meets the signup criteria why offer them at all. They are simply going to piss off long time customers such as myself who has been a card member since 1989. Hope someone fro EO is paying attention. There are a lot of other lenders I can do business with. You are not the only fish in the sea Amex.

  45. Have received 12 total Amex cards here – maybe 10 new in past 24 months, heavy spend in category bonus point areas on about 4-5 of the cards ($100K+ year spread over all cards). Have only cancelled two. Just approved for new PGC with 50K referral bonus which hopefully won’t be clawed back. Did experience 100K clawback on first personal platinum card 2 years ago for meeting minimum spend with GC purchasing before I knew that to be a no no so my bad. So far am very happy with AMEX as I (clearly) am closed out of Chase (again, did myself in on that score before I read/learned more). With the suite of AMEX cards I have I earn some of the top rates in every category, plus have earned tons of sign up bonuses. They’re not perfect, but few complaints here on AMEX. Rev. Lovejoy – love your humor – start an anti-blog!!

  46. This summer, Delta Skymiles and Amex phased out the Classic card and conducted a mass migration of Skymiles Classic card holders to the Amex Gold card. My wife is a long-time Skymiles member and Classic card holder. She wasn’t aware that she was being transitioned to the Amex Gold card until she received it in the mail. SHE DID NOT REQUEST THIS CARD. She contacted Delta and Amex to protest. Under the terms of the migration, she was denied the bonus miles that she would have been awarded if she had applied for the Gold card herself. This is nothing less than theft. Delta and Amex refused to invalidate the issuance of the Gold card. My wife had never in the past applied for or held the Amex Gold card, either through Amex directly or through Delta. She refused to activate it and she cancelled it. Then, on the phone, she initiated an application for the Delta Amex Gold card herself to receive a 60,000 mile Skymiles bonus, contingent on dollars spent, on offer during a promotion that expired 19 September. Although they were happy to issue her a new Delta Amex Gold card, Delta and Amex refused to award her the 60,000 promotional bonus miles because “she had already been issued a Skymiles Gold card”, the card that she refused to accept and that they refused to invalidate. Upon learning this, she cancelled the application before completion. Delta is the ONLY major carrier to deny eligibility for bonus miles on affiliated frequent flyer credit card cards if the applicant has EVER, AT ANY TIME IN THE PAST held the same card. Tell me, Delta. Tell me, American Express. Is this how you demonstrate appreciation for the loyalty of a Delta Skymiles member of more than twenty years? Why should we ever fly Delta Airlines again? Why should either of us continue to be Amex card holders at all when Delta and Amex conspire to abuse their members? All of our correspondence to Delta and its partner American Express is documented with dates and names of the people we spoke to. All for naught. Delta and their Amex partner have blown off my wife’s complaints. Delta points the finger at Amex. Amex points the finger at Delta. Both are crooks. By issuing her a card that she DID NOT REQUEST, they denied her the opportunity to qualify for bonus award miles on her own recognizance. As an individual, if she applies for the Gold card, she must qualify and undergo a hard credit inquiry. Yet Delta and Amex completely circumvented that process to issue her a card she did not want. Where does she find justice?

    Just to be clear, the decision not to issue bonus miles for the Amex Gold card issued to cardholders in the mass migration wasn’t limited to my wife. As a matter of policy, Amex and Delta made the decision that NO Classic card holders would be eligible for Gold card bonus miles ordinarily awarded when spending criteria are met. We were told the free use of the card for one year before the imposition of the annual membership fee was sufficient reward and she should be pleased to receive the upgrade to Gold. Under the Gold card 60,000 mile promotion that expired on 19 September, my wife could have earned enough Skymiles for a round trip ticket to Europe. And Amex/Delta sincerely believe delaying a $95 annual fee for a year is worth a trip to Europe? Not likely.

    How many other former Classic card holders have been victimized by this scam without even realizing the bonus miles they will never get, but are simply “pleased” to have been upgraded to the Gold card?

    How do Amex/Delta circumvent the hard credit inquiry any Gold card applicant must undergo to apply for the card on their own recognizance? This is unequivocally an example of customer abuse, unethical business practices, and outright fraud. The denial of bonus miles to a qualified account holder is in fact, theft of bonus miles.

    “Pleased to be upgraded to Gold.” My wife and I obtained the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and 50K Ultimate Reward miles when it first became available. When Chase offered the Sapphire Reserve card, we downgraded the Preferred card to the Freedom Unlimited card and opened a Reserve card account, receiving an additional 100K UR miles. Haven’t looked back. In fact, we’ve been so pleased with Chase Sapphire that I opened a Chase Ink Business card and received an additional 80K UR miles. Chase service is everything Amex isn’t. The Chase annual fees are worth it. And Amex says my wife should be pleased to have her Delta Skymiles account upgraded to Gold status? Right.

  47. As one-time Amex Platinum customers we NEVER received the service offered by Chase, but worse, we had witnessed a continued degradation in the once-vaunted Amex card perks. What’s more, the fee Amex charges merchants for the privilege of being an Amex merchant is so onerous many won’t honor the card. Amex is a legend in their own febrile mind. No such problem with the Chase VISA. Everyone honors VISA.

    Last year, we used our CSR card to pay for an extensive swimming pool renovation by a BBB A-rated contractor. The contractor did a poor job and refused even a partial price adjustment, actually claiming that when the pool is full, one can’t see the quality of the plaster application. We contacted Chase and they retained a third party who drained the pool to assess the quality of the work. Based upon the third party report, Chase credited to our account the entire amount we had paid the contractor, several thousand dollars, and sued him for recovery themselves. Last time we checked, he’s no longer in business, at least under the same DBA. At Chase, we feel like we’re appreciated. Would Amex have gone to bat for us? Not likely, and the contractor didn’t accept Amex because their fee was 50% higher than the fee charged by VISA. Lucky for us that our Chase Sapphire is VISA.

  48. My wife and I applied for Business SPG card, no pop message during application. We’re both approved for 100k bonus offer. Completed the spend requirements however Amex is refusing to give us the bonus on too many cards open and closed reasons. Its ridiculous

  49. My husband and I both were approved for the SPG personal in August, met the minimum spend organically, and have been refused the welcome bonuses. No pop ups came up during the applications. We spend a lot on Amex. We each have 4 Amex cards currently open and we each closed two others (one in 2014 after one year and the other last year after 3 years). Good credit scores and pay our bills on time. Amex tells us we don’t get the bonus because we closed those two cards in previous years. We are not happy since we had no warning before applying! Not cool Amex!

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