Amex “Once In A Lifetime” Rule: How Does It Work?

Amex “Once In A Lifetime” Rule: How Does It Work?

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Credit card issuers have all kinds of restrictions when it comes to getting approved for and earning the welcome bonuses on cards. In this post I wanted to talk about one major restriction for earning the welcome offers on Amex cards, which might not be quite as cut-and-dried as it sounds.

What is Amex’s “once in a lifetime” rule?

When you apply for an American Express card, you’ll generally see the following phrase listed with the offer terms:

“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card.”

As you may have guessed, this generally means that you can’t earn the welcome offer on a card if you currently have that particular card, or have had that card in the past. If a card underwent a rebranding at some point, generally that card would be covered by such a restriction as well (in other words, you’re not eligible for a card you’ve had in the past simply because the name changed somewhat).

Anyway, this concept is what we often refer to as the “once in a lifetime” rule, since you can only earn the welcome offer on a particular Amex card once. Note that this is specific to the welcome offer — you can get approved for a card multiple times, you just won’t earn the bonus if it’s a card you’ve already had.

Amex card offers are officially “once in a lifetime”

How does Amex define a “lifetime,” anyway?

The definition of a lifetime may not be as straightforward as you’d assume. Can you really not receive the welcome offer on an Amex card that you may have canceled 20 years ago? Anecdotally it would appear that this rule might not be quite as strict as it sounds on the surface.

The most common belief is that Amex’s lifetime “clock” resets after seven years. That’s to say that you may be eligible for the bonus on a card again seven years after you’ve closed it:

  • The logic is that generally delinquent reports fall off your credit report after seven years, so maybe for whatever reason Amex uses a similar timeline
  • Understand that this is purely what’s believed by many, rather than anything Amex has officially confirmed
  • There are people who report having earned the welcome offer on a card under seven years after closing the same card, so there seems to be some other element to this that can’t easily be explained

How can you figure out if you’ve had an Amex card before?

Do you want to figure out if you’ve had a particular American Express card before, or if you’d be eligible for the welcome offer on a card? You have a couple of options.

For one, you could contact Amex and ask which cards you’ve had in the past that are now closed. The easiest way to do this is via the chat feature on Amex’s website (so you can get it in writing), though you can also phone up Amex. I’ve found that agents are typically pretty easily able to pull up which cards you’ve had, and when you’ve closed them.

Amex also has a useful pop-up warning feature during the card application process. If you’re logged into your account, you’ll generally receive a pop-up prior to being approved for a card, informing you if you’re eligible for the bonus.

Amex also has the “Apply With Confidence” feature on some cards, which will inform you if you’re approved for a card before there’s any potential impact on your credit. However, you’ll want to explicitly make sure this shows as an option during the application process, since it’s not available on all card applications.

This Amex card restriction might not be as simple as it sounds

Is there any way to get around Amex’s “once in a lifetime” rule?

Occasionally Amex will send out targeted card offers to encourage people to apply, which don’t include any lifetime language. Publicly available applications virtually always have lifetime language, so this would only come in the form of a targeted offer. Furthermore, I’d make sure you only apply with a link intended specifically for you, or else you may end up in trouble with Amex.

As mentioned above, the only other option is that Amex seemingly has the lifetime rule reset at some point. So you could try applying for a card and seeing how it goes, though there’s obviously some risk associated with that strategy.

Bottom line

One of the most significant restrictions when applying for Amex cards is the “once in a lifetime” rule, whereby you can typically only earn the bonus on a card once. However, this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds, as it’s widely believed that this “clock” resets somewhere around seven years after you’ve closed a particular card.

This isn’t an official policy or guarantee, but is just worth noting in case you find yourself applying for a card you’ve already had, and end up being approved and earning the bonus. The Amex pop-up feature during the application process at least makes it a bit easier to manage expectations nowadays.

What has your experience been with Amex’s “once in a lifetime” rule?

Conversations (26)
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  1. David Guest

    I was got by a Delta SkyMiles employee. I have to go SkyMiles card and cancel out a couple of years ago.

    While at the airport I was approached by a Delta representative and they offered me the Platinum card for the 90,000 mile bonus.

    I explained to them that I had to go card before so I might not be able to get the 90,000 mi and they told me yes I will be...

    I was got by a Delta SkyMiles employee. I have to go SkyMiles card and cancel out a couple of years ago.

    While at the airport I was approached by a Delta representative and they offered me the Platinum card for the 90,000 mile bonus.

    I explained to them that I had to go card before so I might not be able to get the 90,000 mi and they told me yes I will be able to get the 90,000 Miles because it's a platinum card and not gold.

    So after sending my $3,000 to qualify come to find out I don't qualify because I had the gold card.

    So I have four American Express cards and I talked to them and they will not honor it and Delta will not honor it so I canceled all American Express cards well not exactly cancel I just took them all out my wallet and threw them on the floor and that's where they will be until they expire.

    Oh yeah and I refuse to fly Delta for now on.

  2. Joey Reddick Guest

    Well as a business analyst & asset manager. i’m that professional thats has never had a credit card in my life.

  3. Robert Dill Guest

    I'VE BEEN WITH Amex Platinum since 1971 and have not been offered any bonus. I did receive a gift and thank you for being with them 50 years. I was so happy to receive this. Several years prior at a College Graduation I was on the Dais with your former President and CEO Ken Chenalt. I suggested that Amex should recognize it's long term members. He apparently listened.
    Maybe some bonus points would be a good idea.

  4. Rick Guest

    I received the sign up bonus on the Marriott Amex card in early 2021. While recently applying for the Hilton Amex card, Amex clearly advised me before completing the application that I was ineligible for the Hilton sign up bonus (though with unspecific wording about why). To me, a Marriott card is not the same as a Hilton card (direct competitors, in fact). But obviously Amex sees it differently. No Hilton bonus for me.

  5. Rick Guest

    I received the Marriott Bonvoy Amex sign up bonus in early 2021 (Marriott points) and now when I tried to apply for the Hilton Amex card (offering 100k Hilton points sign up bonus) Amex very clearly and before completing the application advised me I am not eligible for the Hilton sign up bonus. To me, a Marriott card is not a Hilton card (direct competitors, in fact) but I suppose Amex considers them “the same card“?? No second bonus for me.

    1. Willie Guest

      Marriott Better. 100k Hilton points is very very little. It’d only get you one to two nights free.

  6. User Guest

    I had a blue then platinum. I paid a vendor on PayPal and they cancelled my card. Ruined my credit. Companies that are so big you’re just a number and six years later I still have bad credit, have too much power. I will never be their customer again. I’ve had family members with black and the concierge is nothing more than google with discount codes.

  7. Jim Rich Guest

    I’ve had Amex/Business card for 18 years. They do not report credit info to Big 3. Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
    So as a person you are invisible.
    I applied for just a credit card & was declined because they rely on Trans Union. Trying to reason w) Amex & Credit reporting agencies is like trying to talk to Siberia w) a basketball game going on in the background. I still have Amex/Business card, but...

    I’ve had Amex/Business card for 18 years. They do not report credit info to Big 3. Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
    So as a person you are invisible.
    I applied for just a credit card & was declined because they rely on Trans Union. Trying to reason w) Amex & Credit reporting agencies is like trying to talk to Siberia w) a basketball game going on in the background. I still have Amex/Business card, but went to my local bank to get a credit card. I will gradually start spending on credit card.
    If after few months Amex doesn’t offer me a credit card, I will keep their card but spend Zero on it. I currently spend $3,000 or more a month. Amex doesn’t stand behind their customers.

  8. Steven Lemos Guest

    There once was a mistake, where Amex said I ordered the Delta Reserve card. I had only inquired about the card but for some reason the agent I had inquired with thought I said to order the card. The card showed up at my home, I immediately called Amex and told them it was a mistake, that I never order it and to cancel the account. I never activated the card and never received any...

    There once was a mistake, where Amex said I ordered the Delta Reserve card. I had only inquired about the card but for some reason the agent I had inquired with thought I said to order the card. The card showed up at my home, I immediately called Amex and told them it was a mistake, that I never order it and to cancel the account. I never activated the card and never received any of the new card offer. A year later I tried to order the card and they said I was ineligible for the new card offer since I already had that card. I tried telling them my story but to no avail. So I had to order the platinum card instead. I couldn’t believe that they considered a card that was never activated, never used and canceled the same day it arrived as a card that was previously owned by me. Amex is very hard to deal with. If I could earn points with another card I wouldn’t hesitate dumping Amex.

  9. Clifdwllr Guest

    It's often the case that there's requirement of at least a two year hiatus of having their card. Specifically, Amex.
    I dropped from a gold to basic, no fee blue Amex card and just accepted an upgrade offer for $99 annual fee with a 20k miles bonus.
    Would pay$60 baggage fees when I fly at Christmas, plus I couldn't buy those miles for $99. Free baggage next year then too.

  10. J2 Guest

    I opened an Amex Platinum in 2016 and received a 100k bonus from that, then closed it in 2017 since I stopped traveling for work. Opened another Amex Platinum this month (so 5 years post-close of the old account) and was targeted with the 150k bonus. Weirdly the offer on the approval page included the once in a lifetime language, but this 150k bonus is still on my new card. So, who knows what's going on. Has anyone been actually denied a bonus before 7 years?

    1. Mike Guest

      Yes, I did a referral for the Platinum Card and also opened a Platinum account. In both cases I was denied the bonus points since I was a previous member.

  11. Lance Fields Guest

    I started Green upped to Gold, then Platinum. Back to Gold when the annual fee went to 695$. I was offered to upgrade back to Platinum with a spend requirement,
    which I easily met and was awarded 100K reward points in exchange.

  12. MikeDooley New Member

    Hi, Ben!
    Do you have any recommendations on UK Business cards that earn miles / avios?

  13. Darren C Diamond

    AMEX offered me the Blue Business Cash (BBC) on 1/30/2022. I hit the min. spend ($250 statement credit after spending $3,000 in 3 months), got the bonus, then AMEX offered me another BBC on 8/16/2022. I am halfway to the min. spend ($750 statement credit after spending $15,000 in 12 months + $100 per employee who spends $1,000 in 3 months).

    This latest BBC is my 5th AMEX Biz CC. Three phone agents told me I can have unlimited Biz cards with AMEX.

  14. jb Guest

    I can confirm 7 years is accurate for me. Approved for two Biz Gold signup offers 7 years apart. Second time did not have NLL.

  15. Bob Guest

    Got a targeted invitation for a Delta Platinum about 3 years after I closed my card - and at that time, I had the card for a year. The invitation has the once-in-a-lifetime language, I think, but the 100K bonus was given right after I met min spend.

    Now the trick is to find use for these Skypesos .... .

    1. Stephen Guest

      Transatlantic off season in coach is great value.

  16. Jp Guest

    If you’re an authorized user, will it disqualify you from the bonus?

    1. Kiki Guest

      I was an authorized user and applied for my own card and received the bonus.

  17. Kate Guest

    Just recently received the Hilton surpass bonus again and approved for the plain platinum bonus. Had both quite a few years ago, maybe has been seven, time flies.

  18. pstm91 Diamond

    I got a Hilton sign up bonus twice, once applying and then received a targeted offer down the road after closing that card.

    I also got the Plat sign up bonus twice. I originally had the MS version of the card but when my account there closed, so did my card. They let me sign up for it again (standard version) no problem.

    I find I get plenty of targeted offers so as not to worry about never receiving a sign up bonus again.

  19. Bill n DC Gold

    I currently have a Platinum card that started as a Green card (just like in 1983 with my first AmEx card) I got an offer to upgrade to Gold with nice MR bonus. Then offer to upgrade to Platinum with more bonus MRs And of course I’d already churned through golds and platinums but scored big here. When my year is up, I’ll go back down to Green and wait for the next offered.

    1. MK Guest

      What about moving to a different country? Like from the UK to the US, building up an excellent credit score from scratch and then applying for the same cards again? I'm certain that'll do the trick as Amex tracks its customers only on a country by country basis but not globally.

  20. 305 Guest

    Does the Schwab Platinum count as a separate product/sign-up bonus from the regular Platinum?

    I have a Schwab account already. Closing my regular plat and getting the Schwab Platinum seems an easy way to collect another bonus (and then resets the clock on the reg plat for another potential bonus 7 years later)

    1. Sam Guest

      Theyre different products so youre eligible.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Joey Reddick Guest

Well as a business analyst & asset manager. i’m that professional thats has never had a credit card in my life.

1
Kiki Guest

I was an authorized user and applied for my own card and received the bonus.

1
Lance Fields Guest

I started Green upped to Gold, then Platinum. Back to Gold when the annual fee went to 695$. I was offered to upgrade back to Platinum with a spend requirement, which I easily met and was awarded 100K reward points in exchange.

1
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