by Lyle Daly | Dec. 10, 2018
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Planning to apply for an American Express card? Learn about the rules the bank has first for a better chance of getting the card and the welcome offer you want. Image source: Getty Images.
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With an extensive lineup of credit and charge cards, American Express is a popular choice among consumers. However, it's also one of the more restrictive banks in terms of its application rules, especially when it comes to sign-up bonuses and other welcome offers.
To avoid any issues with an American Express application or your welcome offer, you'll need to know what those rules are.
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While most banks stick to credit cards, American Express has credit cards and charge cards available. Many of the rules American Express has only apply to credit cards, which is why it's important to recognize the difference between the two.
A credit card has a revolving line of credit, and you're just required to make a minimum payment every month. With a charge card, you're expected to pay your entire balance.
All American Express cards clearly state whether they're credit cards or charge cards.
There are three limits you should know about before applying for an American Express credit card:
Unless you're applying for cards left and right, these limits probably won't come into play. None of those limits apply to American Express charge cards.
Here's where American Express is very strict. The terms for its cards, including credit and charge cards, specify that sign-up bonus offers aren't available if you've already had the card in the past. It doesn't matter if you failed to receive a sign-up bonus the first time around, even if one wasn't available at that time. Once you've had an American Express card, you won't be eligible for its sign-up bonus in the future.
The same rule applies with other types of welcome offers, such as 0% intro APRs.
American Express reserves the right to disqualify you from bonus offers for other reasons as well. If so, it will notify you of that as you start the card's application process and give you the option of canceling your application.
If American Express believes you've abused its Membership Rewards program in any way, that can also affect your bonus and your card accounts. One specific example of program abuse cited in the card terms is canceling or downgrading an account within 12 months of opening it. Potential actions American Express may take for this include:
With the way American Express limits welcome offers, it's a good idea to prioritize American Express cards with the best offers. Here are a few to consider for points, cash back, and 0% intro APRs.
The Platinum Card® from American Express is the bank's top-of-the-line travel card. It carries a steep $550 annual fee, but for that you get one of the longest lists of perks you'll find, including:
If you're understandably skeptical about paying $550 annually for a credit card, there are plenty of much more affordable options among the best travel rewards cards.
There are two standouts here in the American Express Cash Magnet® Card and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. Both are no-annual-fee cards that have 0% intro APRs for 15 months on purchases.
The American Express Cash Magnet® Card has one cash-back rate for everything, making it ideal if you'd like to stick to a single credit card. Its benefits include:
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has bonus categories where you can earn more back. This card's main benefits are:
All of the cards and bonus offers available through American Express give you plenty of options when you're in the market for a new credit card or charge card. Just keep its limitations in mind and remember that you only have one shot to get a card's sign-up bonus.
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