American Express used to be a card churner’s gift – the ability to get bonuses again and again on the same cards was fantastic. Amex realized that this was not exactly what they were looking for and shifted to a once per lifetime policy with regards to personal card bonuses. Could they be walking this back now?
Is Amex Walking Back Their Once Per Lifetime Policy?
To be quite honest, I believe that this policy was somewhat a knee-jerk reaction and pretty dumb. I am not just saying this because I was unable to get any more card bonuses with Amex personal cards! On a side-note, this policy is actually why I decided to not get direct affiliate links for Amex cards (even though I was approved for them) since I did not want to deal with poor sign-up bonuses, this restriction, and all the compliance checks while still needing to meet their quota. I do have the link above this article but that is does not come with that same level of compliance checks and quotas.
Hurts “Regular” Customers
Consider this: a customer who used to use American Express years ago decides to come back to them because he/she finds the advertisements for XX,000 points interesting. They think they remember getting that card when it had no bonus at all or they cannot even really remember if that is the card they had. Because of Amex’s policy, that customer gets no sign-up bonus and is a decidely annoyed customer.
This change in policy did not just stop card churners – it had a real affect on customers that Amex really needs. Like the people that used to have a Delta card when they flew Delta but had switched to United for several years. Now, they are back to Delta and thought they would like to start their account out with a new bonus. Oops, not for you! To make it worse, these customers are willing to sign-up at the hugely advertised bonuses that are terrible – offers like 30,000 miles (when the card typically offers 50,000 miles or more at least once per year). Amex should be happy to get someone willing to apply for such a low bonus but no, if you had the card before, no bonus at all for you now.
The above situations are the stories of real customers.
Targeted Offers Not Including That Language
To be clear, here is what the current public offerings on personal cards say about the once per lifetime bonus:
Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.
According to many people, the targeted offers on various American Express products being sent out through the mail (and some via e-mail) do not contain that language. If you receive such an offer, read through the terms to be sure, but you should be okay to apply again since the language is not there. Just be sure to hang on to the paper in case they do not award you the points.
Could They Roll It Back Soon For All Customers?
American Express is certainly not having the staying power in people’s wallets that they used to have. Between losing accounts like JetBlue and Costco and having co-branded partners like Delta upend their award redemption program, they need to do something to draw a customer base back in. Ending this ridiculous ban on returning customers and bonuses could be a good step.
Of course, if this does happen, it will likely come with increased spending requirements. Otherwise, we will all just hit them again and be good to go after spending just a couple of thousand. 🙂 It could be that shutting down Bluebird for many customers will help them make such a decision since one of the most popular (and easiest) ways to meet spending requirements was through loading Bluebird.
These offers are certainly not new (Doctor of Credit reported on them last year) but I have been getting more e-mails/comments from readers that they are getting these targeted offers so maybe Amex is sending them out more frequently.
If you receive one of these targeted offers and have previously held that particular card, read the terms carefully. If there is no mention of the lifetime language, seriously think about applying for the card since these offers are typically much better than the public ones anyway.
In the meantime, if you need points/miles and have already held Amex personal cards on most products, consider their business cards. The only language on those is that it must have been 12 months since you held that product to get the bonus again.
What offers have you received and have they had the exclusionary language in it?