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Level Up: The Key to Earning Multiple Amex Card Bonuses

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The idea of opening more than one travel credit card might sound absurd to some, but it's the key to how many savvy travelers keep piling up points. Yet some recent changes from American Express have thrown a wrench in how it all works.

You see, each bank has its own set of rules for determining who is (and isn't) eligible for a new card bonus. Traditionally, Amex had just one real rule: You could earn each card's welcome bonus exactly one time. But over the last few months, we've seen Amex repeatedly new language to many of its cards, limiting whether you can earn another bonus based upon other Amex cards you have – or have had.

Whether you're looking into Amex's own line of Membership Rewards cards like the *amex gold* or co-branded offerings from Delta and Marriott, these these new restrictions might require you to start with the cheapest card and work your way up the ladder – paying a higher annual fee as you go to keep earning welcome offers. So while it's still possible to earn an Amex welcome offer bonus on each card once per “lifetime,” these new rules mean you have to do it in the right order.

Whether you're just getting started or already have several Amex cards, here's what you need to know to make sure you don't inadvertently make yourself ineligible for that next big bonus.


How to Earn Multiple Welcome Offers

When it comes to choosing a new travel credit card, you might be interested in perks like free checked baggage or lounge access. Or maybe you spend a lot in a certain category and want to earn bonus points.

But for many people, the initial draw is earning a big welcome bonus offer to kickstart their travels. Here's the problem: Amex's new rules are making it harder and harder to earn that big pool of points or miles.

In the past, Amex's old terms stated that you could get any of Amex's nearly 20 personal credit cards (and earn a welcome bonus) on each of them exactly once. So once you had a card, you wouldn't be eligible to earn the welcome bonus on it again down the road. It's a fair restriction, and one that didn't stop travelers from earning separate bonuses on multiple different Amex cards – just not the same exact one, over and over.

Now, that's no longer the case.

Following Delta's botched changes to its SkyMiles program, Amex rolled out new welcome offer eligibility restrictions on the suite of SkyMiles branded credit cards. These new restrictions now block any current (or former) Delta cardholders from picking up a less-expensive SkyMiles card and earning another welcome bonus. At the time, it was clear that these new restrictions were intended to keep unhappy Delta loyalists from dumping their pricey SkyMiles cards in favor of a more affordable option … but that didn't stop it from spreading to other cards.

Slowly but surely, we've seen similar language start spread throughout the entire suite of Amex's own Membership Rewards travel cards, popular Amex cashback cards, and the Marriott co-branded cards, too. As of publication, there are only a few cards left in Amex's entire portfolio without some sort of “family” restriction.

Here's where things stand.


Membership Rewards Cards

As of October, 2023, Amex began adding terms to its Membership Rewards earning cards that limit welcome offer eligibility based on other Amex cards you have (or have had). As of publication, every card within the Membership Rewards family has been affected.

You can now only work your way up, not down. So while it's fine to get the American Express® Green Card and then get a bonus on the *amex gold card*, the reverse won't work. And if you start with the Platinum Card, you've made yourself ineligible to get welcome bonuses on the other two cards.

Amex went even further to limit welcome bonus eligibility for different flavors of *amex platinum*. If you've had that standard version or one the co-branded cards from banks like Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab, you won't be able to earn the bonus on one of the other two anymore.

amex travel credits 

Got a small business – or eligible for business credit cards with a side hustle? You're in luck: To date, similar restrictions haven't yet spread to Amex business cards like the *biz gold* or *biz platinum*.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and Amex EveryDay Preferred® Credit Card are kind of in their own little family of Membership Rewards-earning cards. In order to get a welcome offer on both of these cards, you'll need to start with the no-annual-fee EveryDay Card before moving on to the EveryDay Preferred.

It's still possible to earn a bonus on multiple Membership Reward-earning credit cards. You'll just have to start at the bottom and work your way up in order to do it.

Read More: New Gold Card Restriction Makes it Even Harder to Earn Amex Bonuses


Delta Co-Branded Credit Cards

Since Amex had historically limited cardholders to earning a welcome offer bonus once per card, and they offer four separate Delta co-branded credit cards, you could pick up all four – in any order – and earn a big pool of SkyMiles in the process. It's the reason we have always cautioned travelers to not upgrade their Delta credit card, as you could apply for a different version outright and still earn the big welcome offer bonus.

But that's no longer the case as Amex has added terms that limit welcome offer eligibility based on which other Delta SkyMiles cards you've previously had. It's not a blanket one-size-fits-all restriction, though.

delta credit card offers 

It's still possible to earn a bonus on multiple Delta credit cards. But again, you'll have to start at the bottom and work your way up in order to do it. As of publication, the Delta American Express business credit cards don't appear to be impacted.

Under the new requirements, Amex is only allowing travelers to earn a welcome offer on a more expensive Delta card than the one they currently have, or have had.

Read more: Amex Makes It Harder to Earn to Earn Welcome Offers on Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards


Marriott Co-Branded Credit Cards

Trying to decipher which Marriott co-branded credit card you're eligible for was already hard enough before Amex copied over these new family rules to the hotel chain's portfolio of cards. With six different cards to choose from, you now need to worry about these new rules on top of deciding which card is best.

marriott bonvoy brilliant card 

Just like the Delta SkyMiles and Membership Rewards earning cards, the only way to earn multiple Amex Marriott bonuses is by starting with the mid-tier *Marriott Bevy* before moving on to the higher-priced *bonvoy brilliant*. To complicate matters further, Marriott also offers co-branded cards issued by Chase so there are even more rules for some of these cards.

Be sure to consult our Marriott Card eligibility guide before applying! 


Cashback Credit Cards

Amex cashback cards aren't immune to these new rules, either. As of September 2023, you are now ineligible for the *Blue Cash Everyday* if you've had the Cash Magnet® Card, Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, or the Morgan Stanley Blue Cash Preferred®.

As for the *Blue Cash Preferred*, you can't earn a welcome bonus if you've had the Morgan Stanley Blue Cash Preferred.

The bonus on the Cash Magnet® Card isn't available to anyone who previously had the card or those who've had the Blue Cash Everyday, Blue Cash Preferred, or the Morgan Stanley Blue Cash Preferred before.

amex blue cash preferred 

The Morgan Stanley Blue Cash Preferred® has nearly identical language to the regular Blue Cash Preferred, meaning you won't be eligible for the Morgan Stanley version if you have or have had the standard Blue Cash Preferred Card.

It's still possible to earn a multiple bonuses on Amex cashback credit cards, but you'll only be able to get two of the four cards. In other words, you'll want to start with the *Blue Cash Everyday* before moving on to one of the other cards.


Use the Amex Welcome Offer Eligibility Pop-Up

Head spinning? Not sure which Amex cards you can even earn a bonus on? Don't worry.

One great feature Amex offers is an easy-to-use tool to confirm you're actually eligible to earn a big bonus on any card before you officially hit submit on any credit card applications.

This tool processes your information before American Express actually pulls your credit. It can stop you from applying for a credit card if you're not eligible for the bonus, saving you the trouble of a pointless hard credit inquiry.

amex welcome offer eligibility pop up

You’ll only get a pop-up if American Express deems you ineligible to earn the welcome offer on the card. That means you can assume you're eligible to earn a welcome bonus if the application goes straight through to a final decision without a warning like the one above.

But more and more travelers are getting warnings just like this … even if they meet the qualifications. After years of approving anyone, it sure seems like Amex is cracking down on applicants who already have several of their credit cards, preventing them from earning yet another bonus.

Read More: Why Am I Not Eligible For an Amex Welcome Offer Bonus?


Amex Welcome Offer FAQs

Should You Care?

Yes and no.

These new rules no doubt complicate things for travelers always looking for the next big welcome bonus. But the average traveler was never going to apply for every Amex card over the course of their lifetime, anyway – or more than one or two.

Furthermore, most people typically start with a no (or low) annual fee card before moving on to a more expensive card for additional perks. These new rules follow the natural progression for most travelers.

That's not to say that none of this matters. It certainly does – and there will no doubt be many who got drawn into a big welcome offer on a top-tier card and are now locked out of earning another bonus on a cheaper version down the road.

Does This Apply to All Cards?

Not quite. While these new restrictions have spread to nearly all of Amex's personal credit cards, you won't yet find them on the Hilton co-branded portfolio.

This means that if you currently have the top-notch Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you're still eligible to earn a bonus on both the *Hilton Surpass* and the *Hilton Honors*. That said, it's probably only a matter of time before we see similar restrictions get added to these cards.

If any of them have been on your radar – plan accordingly.


What About Business Cards?

So far, these new restrictions only apply to personal cards. We haven't seen the new “family language” pop up on the terms and conditions of any of Amex's business cards.

Time will tell, but it's probably not a matter of if we'll see similar restrictions added to business cards, but when. If you're eligible for business cards – and you just might be – it's not a bad idea to start at the bottom of a given family and work your way up, just to be safe.


How Long is a Lifetime?

On paper, Amex has long had a “once per product, per lifetime” rule for earning welcome bonuses. In practice, that's not quite how it works.

Several data points have shown us that Amex “forgets” you've previously had one of their cards after seven years. That seven-year mark is kind of a magic number when it comes to credit, as it's the same time limit that negative items like missed payments, outstanding debt, and Chapter 13 bankruptcies can be listed on your credit report.

Critically, it's seven years since you closed a card – not when you opened that card or earned the bonus.

But because these new restrictions are still quite fresh, it's still unclear exactly how it applies when it comes to earning a welcome bonus on another card based on your history with Amex.


Does it Ever Make Sense to Skip a Card?

Absolutely. Just because you have to start at the bottom and work your way up in order to earn multiple welcome offers doesn't mean you need to start at the very bottom.

The *delta blue* is a perfect example. Delta's base-level card typically comes with a measly welcome offer and very little in the way of benefits. In most cases, it's best to sacrifice the small welcome offer in order to get started with a better card that'll earn you more SkyMiles right off the bat – not to mention instant benefits like free baggage.

The same will be true for other Amex cards as well. It doesn't make sense to get a card just for fear that you'd never be able to earn a bonus in the future. If the card's benefits don't fit your needs and it's not something you see yourself keeping, it's probably best to pass right from the get go.


Bottom Line

Over the last few months, Amex has added new restrictions to the welcome offer terms on most of its personal credit cards, making it harder and harder to earn that next big bonus. So far we haven't seen it spread to any business cards, but that's likely just a matter of time.

With these new restrictions, one thing is clear: You need to start at the bottom and work your way up in order to earn multiple welcome offers.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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