Credit Cards

Bad News: Amex Adds New Restrictive Language for Sign-Up Bonus Offers

american express 1099s referral bonuses
Written by Charlie

American Express has added new restrictive language to give them an out when it comes to giving out sign-up bonuses. This new language allows them to look at your history as a customer to decide if you will get the sign-up bonus for a new card. This is bad for a few reasons!

American Express has been at the lead of anti-churning practices and anti-manufactured spending practices for a while now. The language was pretty clearly spelled out for their Bluebird cards and they have made it almost impossible to churn their cards for bonuses over the years.

Amex Adds New Restrictive Language for Sign-Up Bonus Offers

amex restrictive language

The New Language

However, new language added for sign-up bonus offers demonstrates that they feel they can add even more restrictions when it comes time to giving out bonuses for new cards.

Remember, Amex will already not give you a bonus on a card if you have ever had that card before but not it appears that they will also be looking at this: “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

That seems to indicate that they may just be putting in writing what they have been using for eligibility already, in some cases. It does not give any hard numbers like how many cards you have opened or closed but it is letting potential customers know that it is something they may consider.

Amex Wants “Good” Customers

There is no secret that American Express wants customers who are good customers with them – those that use the cards for spending in regular ways (not gift cards, manufactured spending, etc) and those people that keep the cards for more than a year. It takes credit card issuers at least one year (for some cards, maybe four or five years) to make money on the customer when calculating the sign-up bonus. Amex does not want customers that are dumping them before the second year to avoid paying the annual fee again.

What Does This Language Mean For Potential Customers?

Here is what I don’t like – Amex is not saying they will deny your card application based on this language. They are saying they may deny you the bonus offer based on this. This means you may get a card with a hefty sign-up bonus (and maybe an equally hefty spending requirement) and then you find after you have met the spending that Amex deemed you ineligible for the bonus because of how many cards you have opened and closed. That is bad and Amex is covering their bases for doing this by inserting this language in their offer terms.

Going forward, I would suggest you give Amex a good long look as to what cards you have may be beneficial for you to keep. I generally keep my Amex cards since I can more than make up for the annual fees with what I get back in Amex Offer statement credits. If you can do the same, I suggest you keep those cards open and only close them if you need to when applying for a new card (since there is a limit of how many Amex credit cards you can have open).

In the meantime, hopefully we will get some data points on this. Be sure to check the comment section of this post at Doctor of Credit as customers will likely chime in over there with their experiences.

Also, don’t forget about the language that follows this new language as well:

“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome bonus offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome bonus offer(s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit statement credit to your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.”

Yes, Amex really does not like churners! 🙂

HT: US Credit Card Guide via Doctor of Credit

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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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.


  • Wow, that’s pretty vague wording…obviously intentionally so but geez, they seem to be going too far. Especially if it turns out they don’t tell you until after you met the min spend.

  • Amex is really throwing the hammer down. This language basically gives them free reign to do whatever they want. I think they will not only use this to not pay the signup bonuses, but also freeze/shutdown accounts. We’ve already seen some recent reports where Amex shuts down accounts and gives less them optimal ways to redeem current MR balances.

    If I had a huge balance of MR and had a history of churning I’d be slowing my activities to a halt until we see how this new language is actually enforced.

    • “This language basically gives them free reign to do whatever they want”

      have you ever read ANY of your credit card’s agreements?

      “If I had a huge balance of MR and had a history of churning I’d be slowing my activities to a halt until we see how this new language is actually enforced.”

      If you have a history of churning the rest of us would welcome that. Can we help you close your account today?

      • The big difference is that the language buried in the terms is just that – buried. Putting language like this right up from and in bold is like throwing out a warning that they will have the ability to not award a bonus based on their internal review of your history.

        • You mean that you sign contracts, and certify that you have read them, without having read them? Only an idiot does that. It would be quicker to read the contract than to bitch after the fact you know.

          • I’m talking about the paper Cardmembers agreements that they send you with the card. Some of those details are not ones you see when you fill out the application on the application page that you sign.
            You know what, as I said, it is pointless to discuss this with you anymore. So just move on.

  • Amex declares eligibility for the bonus at acceptance. The misuse language is not new.

    Overall, you should welcome this tighter pre-qualification. The size of the signup bonus they can offer you is reduced by churners. Eliminating them from the mix will increase startup bonuses for those that don’t.

    • If you are saying that approval for a card is an indicator that you will get the bonus, that is not the case. Amex allows you to get any card even if you are not eligible for the bonus.
      If you are saying they will tell you when you get approved if you will get the bonus, that is also not completely helpful. I and others have been told by reps before that we will get the bonus only to find out months later that they researched and found that the applicant was ineligible.
      Finally, I don’t have affiliate links for any Amex cards (by choice) so it doesn’t bother me one way or another.

      • “If you are saying that approval for a card is an indicator that you will get the bonus, that is not the case. ”

        I am clearly not saying that. You are told at acceptance.

        “If you are saying they will tell you when you get approved if you will get the bonus, that is also not completely helpful. I and others have been told by reps before that we will get the bonus only to find out months later that they researched and found that the applicant was ineligible.”

        Please upload proof. I don’t believe that has ever happened.

        • Lol – if you don’t believe me, that’s fine. I’m not going to dig through communications to upload proof for you. It has happened and I lost out on a 100k MR bonus because a rep told me I was eligible. It turns out he was wrong and I was not and this came out after I spent the amount, and then spoke with many reps and a supervisor before finally being told there was nothing they could (would) do. So, it has happened. Others have told me of similar situations but with far less communication with Amex.

          • Again, you don’t have to believe me and it is not my job to convince you. Glad you like Amex this much. I like Amex too but that doesn’t stop me from calling out changes they make to language that could be helpful for my readers to know. Bye!

      • Actually, clarify. What would you call abusive use of the credit card signup bonus system (by applicants)? Nothing?

        These churners aren’t your friends you know. They cost you money. Your interest is in taking a hard line against them. Instead, you seem to have a high school student’s “big credit card company” attitude and a consequent total disregard of the facts.

        • I can only assume you work for Amex as I don’t know anyone that would defend them this hard!
          You are attempting to put words I my mouth as I did not say any of that. And churners do not cost me any money! I chose to not be an Amex affiliate because I did not like how they limited my ability to offer readers the best offers. That had nothing to do with churning.

          • I don’t work for AMEX. You presumably wrote that to avoid answering the question.

            Right now you appear to go to any lengths to defend churners and I’ll put your inability to see that their activity reduces the size of the offers to legitimate card applicants down to economic illiteracy.

          • Andy, I answered your question. And, unlike you, I will take your word that you don’t work for Amex.
            The problem with this lies with Amex. They were the ones that got in trouble because of some of their offers and how they handled them years ago and it is why they had to pay thousands to customers after they outsourced to a company to deal with the issues. As a result, they went the total other direction and cut off everyone that had had the particular card before. Now they are freezing the points of some people who are acting within their guidelines and doing weeks long reviews. They need to have a more customer friendly approach.

          • I agree @L3 is probably an Amex employee or just a db troll. Don’t waste your breath.

            I’ve had 5 Amex cards since my first in 1997. Does that make me an abuser? The issue with the new language I have is I don’t honestly know if Amex views 5 cards in 20 years an abuser.

            As far as people getting approved then not getting bonuses…is this the first FF blog/forum site you’ve ever been on L3? Spend 5 minutes & Google “Amex Clawbacks” and then tell us this has never happened.

  • I do agree about amex offers making the annual fee a lot less costly. Especially for the Amex Plat that had the $450 fee, adding the $200 in airline gift cards + the $200 uber credit made the economics a lot better. Especially for those occasional amazing offers, it sort of neutralizes the annual fee if not putting some money in my pocket. That’s why they raised the Plat fee to $550.

    I sort of feel like this language is just to cover themselves if they want to try to fight it, but it certainly looks unfair from a consumer standpoint if you apply for a card, fulfill the bonus offer then find out later that they denied it. I think that’s an unfair business practice. I wouldnt be surprised if some CSFB complaint might end up forcing amex to pay out the claim regardless of the wording. Just another reason to make sure you don’t MS the initial spend offer.