Best Point Earning Credit Cards

American Express Is Smartly Balancing Their Once-Per-Lifetime Policy

american express 1099s referral bonuses
Written by Charlie

Amex has one of the strictest policies for sign-up bonuses but here is a very smart way they are balancing that policy out.

Credit card issuers have definitely tightened up in their handing out of new card member bonuses – especially to repeat customers! American Express has taken a lot of negative response to their once-per-lifetime policy on sign-up bonuses. But, they have been making some really great moves to balance that out.

American Express Is Smartly Balancing Their Once-Per-Lifetime Policy

What is American Express’ Once-Per-Lifetime Policy?

For those that may not understand what this policy is, American Express will not allow customers have ever held a particular card before to apply for that card again and receive the sign-up bonus again. If you just want to apply for the card and not get the bonus (applying for a repeat card, that is), they will happily allow you to do that. But you will not get the sign-up bonus.

This is likely one of the most disliked policies regarding new bonuses. American Express has been getting more generous over the years with these bonuses and people who previously had the card are getting left out from receiving those bonuses. It can hurt, especially when you get a targeted offer (and the language excluding you is there).

How Amex Is Smartly Balancing Against That Policy

But, American Express has been making, what I think are, really smart moves. There were some moves that I had questioned as to whether they were smart or desperate but how they have been handling some of these promos shows me they are actually do a really good job with balancing out their once-per-lifetime policy – and that is something that people like us have wanted to see.

Referral Bonuses!

So, what are these moves that are so “smart?” American Express has been upping and making more frequent their referral bonuses. These bonuses allow current cardholders to send out referral links to friends and family and allow them to sign-up for the card and the current cardholder gets a nice big bonus for that successful conversion.

For example, if you have a SPG card, you could send the invite to people and receive 7,500 Starpoints for every successful application – up to 55,000 points per calendar year in this way! Given that the highest that card sign-up bonus has ever been was only 35,000 points, this is a really good deal!

Rewarding Current Cardholders

This kind of referral system works great because it gives you, the cardholder, the opportunity to earn more points on that card by basically being a salesperson for Amex to the people around you. It encourages you to talk up a particular Amex product while rewarding you with the referral points when you are successful.

Yes, you cannot get the sign-up bonus again but this is something that is available to you each and every calendar year with a healthy cap on that year. With the Hilton Surpass card alone, my wife and I each maxed out the referral bonuses to earn a total of 160,000 Hilton points – without having to spend a dime toward a minimum spending threshold! This is how you can turn your Amex card into an advantage instead of hating on Amex that you cannot get the high current offer of 100,000 points.

Authorized User Bonuses!

They have also been sending out offers to add authorized users and earn bonus points that way as well. Again, you can get some great points that reward you for being a cardholder – something that excludes you from getting a sign-up bonus again. Instead, Amex is now rewarding you for being a good, continual customer.


Do I like the once-per-lifetime policy? Of course not! But, I love the points I am able to earn each year with referral bonuses and it is something that helps me to keep these cards year after year.

Have you taken advantage of the Amex referral bonuses?

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

Some of the links on Running with Miles are affiliate links that pay a commission if a purchase is made. Running with Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Seriously – did you write any of this article or did Amex write the whole thing for you.

    Once in a lifetime is nonsense – they are the only ones that do it, are losing share, and are going to slowly phase it out when they realize that people are using other cards.

    • And not everyone gets to throw a referral link up on a travel blog and get a bunch of referrals ‘without having to spend a dime’

      • Mike – join in with other readers sharing your link on those posts here! I always welcome readers’ links and even rotate those through the links in the body of the posts.
        Many readers have maxed out their referrals because of that. But, of course, it is easier to criticize than to take advantage of something like that and be proved wrong.

    • Yep, all me. They instituted this policy years ago and these are the first movements to try and make it worth it for customers to hold their cards. Progress – can be slow but glad to see it.

  • Lol. You love Amex because of….wait for it…referral bonuses!! Smh.

    The rest of us, who don’t pimp cards on blogs, don’t bother.

    • Uh, obviously a first timer here. I always welcome readers to post referral links. And I rotate those reader links in the posts about those cards.
      If you actually have a blog, sorry you don’t help your readers by letting them do the same.

  • Wow! Just checked in and pretty surprised to see these comments! Glad you all jumped to the comment section without checking facts. I actually do not have affiliate links (they were taken away earlier this week) – I actually decided to post this AFTER losing the links so no one could complain about that. Guess some of you complain no matter what!

  • For those of you calling me a shill – tell me how you get points from Amex under this policy? This is a smart move on their part to try and keep customers and I am glad that this helps me earn more points without a hard pull or spending!
    It’s called making the best of the situation. Try it.

  • Upgrade is an excellent way to get around the once-in-a-lifetime. AMEX offers upgrades from HHonors to Surpass card. You will get 100K even if you had the Surpass card before.

    • Yep, I had done that a few times on the Surpass card before they had added language on that card.
      Have you received the bonus when the language for once-per-lifetime on an upgrade? Thanks for adding to the content!

      • The last upgrade (earlier this year) to Surpass didn’t have once-per-lifetime clause. New upgrade that is showing up in my account now also doesn’t have the clause. But they added a new restriction to terms that if I cancel or downgrade the card within 12 months, they may take back 100K bonus points.

        • So with your past upgrades did you upgrade to Surpass, then downgrade back down to $0 fee Hilton card, and wait for a new Surpass upgrade offer?

  • Charlie, where should I leave my AMEX Surpass referral link? At 25,000 per referral it’s definitely worth the effort (capped at 80,000)

  • I have a question. I have AMEX Hilton Surpass. I signed up for it a few years ago and got the bonus points. Now they have bonus points and a free weekend stay. If I sign up again I would not get the points. I’m fine with that. But what about the free night? That was never part of my account. Do you know? Also, is that free night only once? Or is it every time I renew. It’s kind of confusning.

    • Unfortunately, you would be excluded from the free night as well since it is part of the sign up bonus. Also, it is only a onetime. That would be an awesome anniversary award though!

  • I like the authorized user bonus, I keep the card at least for a year, get the signup bonus followed by another 20K points for authorized users, some good cash back or points offers – talk about 10K points & $290 from PRG card alone- use the card in bonus catageories then upgrade or downgrade and still come ahead of the game by couple thousands dollars in value in one year!
    Their referral is crap, there are better offer for my friends and family on the same cards out there; so why would I refer them for lesser values? They just need to remove the airline credit’s restrictions and follow Citi and chase then I might be loyal customer and use them more

      • Like now on my PRG I’m offered 10k point for each approved referral, but for the one applying will get only 25k after $2k spending, they can get the 50k points for the same spending.

        • Ah, ok. Yeah, the PRG often has links that give better offers. But for the Plat biz and co-branded Cards, I have almost always seen referral offers match the public ones (in my experience).
          It makes good sense – they don’t have to pay an affiliate the $125-350 for the card commission and points cost them much less. No reason to not offer the same bonus through referral links.

  • I agree that the referral could make holding onto these cards more attractive. Though beyond posting here I’d just be signing up my husband and possibly recommending it via email to some points oriented friends.

    The possibility of signing up for the two Hilton cards with higher than usual bonuses right now (100,000 and 75,000) plus a free night and possible referrals is pretty attractive. Here’s my link to the 100,000 Hilton Surpass card if anyone is interested ;). I’d appreciate the referral.