Posted by William Charles on March 30, 2015
Credit Cards

Published on March 30th, 2015 | by William Charles


25 Things Everybody Should Know About American Express

Each & every card issuer is slightly different in what they offer and how they handle different things. I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at 15 different things everybody should know about American Express. You might know some of these already, but hopefully you’re able to find one or two useful gems that you didn’t know before.

  1. If you don’t already have an American Express card, wait for a good offer to come along. American Express is very aggressive when it comes to acquiring customers that don’t have any American Express issued credit cards and they offer large sign up bonuses to try and entice these customers. If you don’t already have an American Express card, chances are you receive a lot of targeted sign up bonuses from them. When you decide to go for one of these offers, make sure it’s a good one because you’ll receive far fewer after that first sign up. There is also some anecdotal evidence to suggest that you might be able to get these good bonuses to reappear by cancelling all of your American Express cards.
  2. They have application rules. You’re limited to one approved credit card every 5 day rolling period and two approved credit cards every 90 rolling period. Note that this only applies to credit cards and not their charge cards.
  3. American Express refunds the annual fee on your card as long as you cancel within one statement period after it posts. If you cancel after that time, they used to prorate the annual fee, but since September 1, 2016 they stopped doing so. Downgraded cards will still be prorated.
  4. You can increase your credit limit by up to three times it’s starting limit. American Express make a lot of money from interchange fees (part of the fee merchants pay to accept credit cards), because of that they want their cardholders to spend a lot of money. One of the easiest ways to increase spending on a card is to increase the credit limit. If you request a credit limit with American Express, they’ll usually approve an increase of up to 3x. E.g if you started with a $2,000 limit you could get it increased to $6,000. This is very useful as your credit utilization is another factor in most credit scoring models and other card issuers typically don’t like to extend you more credit than what you’ve been extended. Some cards have a minimum credit limit (e.g Visa Signature cards require a limit of at least $5,000) so having a higher limit with American Express could help you get approved for these cards.
  5. You can only get the sign up bonus on American Express personal & business cards once per lifetime. In the past it was possible to get the sign up bonus multiple times. On May 1st, 2014 American Express cracked down on this practice for personal cards, they then extended this to business cards on February 25th, 2016 and now you can only get the sign up bonus once. This means you really need to think long and hard about applying for a card before you do so, to make sure you’re getting the best possible bonus. However, you can sometimes get a separate bonus for each business with a unique EIN/SSN.
  6. You can reallocate your credit limits with American Express online. Sometimes American Express will not want to extend you any more credit, but you might want to put more spend on an existing card. Reallocating your credit limit allows you to take some of your credit limit from one of your other cards that you rarely use and add it to the card that you want a higher limit on. There is no hard pull to do this either, which is very nice.
  7. You can view what personalized credit card offers you have online. American Express allows you to view all of your targeted personal & business card offers online, you can also check CardMatch but they are not always partnered with American Express and typically show the same offers even when they are.
  8. American Express doesn’t officially match higher sign up bonuses if you apply for an American Express credit card and then see a higher sign up bonus for the same card a couple of days later. However, they are good about giving ‘goodwill’ points for such a thing upon request.
  9. American Express will expedite shipping on their credit cards. If any of your American Express credit cards are lost or stolen, American Express will expedite the shipping on those cards. They will also automatically expedite shipping on some of their premium products (e.g Platinum cards) for new applications. For lower end cards you can call and request this expedited shipping, but not all customer service representatives will do it.
  10. If you apply for multiple American Express cards the hard inquiries will be combined. As long as all of your applications are approved on the same day, multiple hard inquiries will be combined into a single inquiry. The catch is that you can only apply for one credit card per day, so you’ll need to add in charge cards to be successful doing this tactic. It’s possible to mix applications for both business & personal cards as well.
  11. If you’re declined for an American Express card you should always call reconsideration. American Express will often approve you after asking a few basic questions, you can always view the American Express reconsideration number here as well as the opening/closing hours. If you’ve never called reconsideration before, I’d recommend reading our post on tips for your first call.
  12. If you have an American Express card with a high annual fee, consider downgrading it.  American Express has a lot of credit cards with high annual fees, most of which aren’t worth keeping after the first year (when you’ve gotten the sign up bonus). You can downgrade these cards to a no annual fee card, I think the best option is the AmEx EveryDay card which has no annual fee and also earns American Express Membership Rewards points. This allows you to keep those points rather than having to redeem them/transfer them until you’re ready.
  13. You should call American Express every 90 days asking if they have any retention offers on your account. Most people only call retention when their annual fee is due (which you should do as well) but it’s worth calling every 90 days, you’d be surprised at how often they’ll give you 5,000 points just for being a cardholder or offer you a spending bonus.
  14. You can make some serious money from American Express Sync offers. Last year I made about $150 per American Express card just buying gift cards and reselling those, but you can also just get some great discounts on purchases you’d planned to make anyway as well. The basic premise is that American Express will release offers (e.g receive a statement credit of $20 when you spend $100 or more at <merchant>) and then you can use Twitter to sync these offers to each card. I personally recommend using OffersBot to do this, but you can set up your own system just as easily. Not all offers can be synced via Twitter, so it’s worth checking the website every week or so to see if there are any individual offers you can take advantage of.
  15. They run Small Business Saturday every year. Small Business Saturday is basically a way for American Express to increase the number of smaller merchants that accept American Express cards, every year they offer a bonus to card holders. Last year you could receive three statement credits of $10 when you spent $10+ at any small business Saturday participating merchant (basically any small business that accepts American Express). Lots of people were able to make lots of small $10 purchases and get some goodies for free (or almost free if they were above $10).
  16. You can have a maximum of four five American Express credit cards at one time. This only applies to credit cards issued by American Express and only credit cards (e.g you can have as many charge cards as you like).
  17. If you’re an existing cardholder and apply for a new card and American Express denies you – they will usually only do a soft pull. This is because they’ll usually check the credit report they already have on file for you.
  18. Amex is known to sometimes give out the new credit card number instantly, at the time of approval, so that you can use it for online purchases. This is very YMMV; sometimes you’ll get it and sometimes not.
  19. If you’re not given an instant credit limit when promised, you can sometimes get a bonus. This isn’t always the case, but worth asking for one and seeing what happens.
  20. Amex business credit cards do not get reported to the personal credit bureaus which is useful for keeping your credit report cleaner.
  21. If you closed out an Amex card and change your mind, you should be able to get the account reinstated with no hard pull provided you make the request within 30 days.
  22. American Express periodically offer upgrade offers to their credit cards. Read more about that here.
  23. You can check your credit card’s application status online.
  24. They will adjust your auto-pay and you’ll only pay what is due. This is useful for people that pay off their card mid cycle.
  25. You can often get a bonus for adding an authorized user card, so it’s worth waiting for one of these offers. You can view previous offers by clicking here.

Sorry for the click bait headline, again I hope you learned something new. If you didn’t consider sharing this post with somebody just starting out as I’m sure they’ll find it useful. Is there anything about American Express that you think I missed? If so, share it in the comments. If you did find it useful, let me know what number tip/trick you found the most useful.

I’ll do a similar thing for the other card issuers in the coming weeks.

You can view other posts in this series by clicking the links below.

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Small Business SUNDAY?! If you go on Sunday you’ll be a day late to the party.

I currently have Blue Cash Preferred® Card. When the annual fee is due again, should I cancel it and then apply for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card to get the sign up bonus since they are different cards? Or should I just do the downgrade? Will I get the sign up bonus for the downgraded card?

Doc, do you know if the ‘backdating of age of account’ works if you cancel all your cards? For instance, I sign up for a couple Amex cards in 2003, 04 and 05. By 2008 I have cancelled them all, but in 2009 I apply for a new one. Does that 09 card still show as being open since 2003?

Danny, it’s a big mistake to cancel credit cards- first of all, you are lowering your credit line, secondly, you’re shortening the length of time of your active credit cards, both of which will impact your credit scores negatively,.

The ONLY times to close an account are if the card is raising the interest rate and you’re carrying a balance, and you can’t afford this, or if,for instance. you are in a bind and need some other kind of loan where the creditor requires this.

Sometimes when applying for a credit card with a credit union, if they feel you have too high a credit line (they feel that if it’s all used your income isn’t sufficient to pay the amt of your full credit lines (the sum total of all your card credit lines). There is a card I really want but my credit lines total far too much and they won’t grant me a card unless I cancel several and I am NOT about to do that! I have a very high FICO score with all 3 credit bureaus, owe just a few hundred dollars, and a perfect payment history, In spite of this, they don’t feel my income could support the fully-spent credit limit I have. Of course there’s no way that I could make sufficient payments if all were used, but I want a large line for dilution purposes, which helps your credit score.

Tremendously important is the ratio of credit used to the amount you have available. I’d love to have several hundred thousand $ in combined cards, because then a usage of maybe $10,000 would be a very small percentage of what would be available to me. It’s not gonna happen, however. LOL I am close to $200k, but even the use of $6k is still 3% and even that low a percentage does make a difference re a credit score, no matter if your record is perfect over 20 years.

Re the second paragraph in the above entry:I should have added that if you close the account you still have to make at least the minimum payments until the card is paid off, but the interest rate is frozen at the level it was at the time you’ve done this,

You’re making a very interesting point, I didn’t think that closing an account would have such a big impact. Thank you for writing it up!
Now I’m wondering, what if I close and account and CL is decreased by 10K and then open another one for 10K, does it even things out so the credit score is not effected?

All the issues @saronne touches on are real, but the conclusion is invalid.

Cancelling a card can move “average age of accounts” in either direction — if I cancel my newest card, the average age will go up.

And unless you are in the market for a mortgage, the sign-up bonuses from churning vastly outweighs the change in utilization when you cancel a card. The important factor (not part of your score, but it IS part of a lending decision) is Debt-to-Income ratio, and total credit line doesn’t have any effect on that.

Because cancellation is a necessary part of churning, for some people it’s a “profitable” decision, not a “big mistake”.

You’ve more than once mentioned that Amex is risky for MS. How so? (If you’ve addressed this in more depth elsewhere, sorry, didn’t catch it).

Great post. Might want to clarify that the limit of four credit cards INCLUDES Business cards, which is not what most people think.

great post, thanks for the rundown will!

gotta bookmark/save this for future reference!

Dude, you are on fire. Da zone!

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I think your #12 is incorrect or, at least, incomplete. Can you please look this over and tell me if I have it right?:
If a person is looking to downgrade a card with MR transferability (like Amex Gold), the Everyday card does NOT provide that. It lets you “put the points in the fridge” but you cannot use them like you can with the Amex Gold (transfer to BA, for example). To me, this is not useful because, if you want to “take them out of the fridge”, you need to be able to find another Amex MR card (and maybe you no longer qualify for any with bonuses) and wait to get approved.
To find a cheaper card than Amex Gold, you could go to Amex Green ($95 versus $175).
Is all that right?

i didn’t know about the ability to transfer credit limit online. Could you elaborate on that? I’ve poked around and can’t find it. Under Credit Managemebt, it only gives me the option to increase line of credit, not to transfer it

The ability to transfer CLs online disappeared about mid year last year. You can’t transfer CL online any more.

Thanks Paul!

Have you heard anything about backdating going away? There’s a whole thread going on at my fico.

I believe you have some good information, but some wrong information as well. I have 5 american express open credit cards, and 2 bank sponsored american express credit cards. So your information about having a maximum of 4 amex cards is incorrect.

Bank issued cards never counted towards AmEx card limits

I don’t understand point # 10 if you say you can only open 1 card per day. So how are you going to be able to do this? Do I apply for a business card and on the same day apply for the personal or vice versa?

Also, I have a regular Green Amex card going back to 1996. How do I know if I’ll be restricted for a brand new card?

Hi Will,

I just got a letter from Amex offering credit limit increase on one of my cards but it’s not 3 times increase (max increase)….should I take it or not? I worry it would be a hardpull….

Hi Will,

Appreciate your advice on my question above …… really in dilemma now and don’t know what to do. any advice will help. Thanks a lot in advance.

Hi, I have a question about the downgrade. The AF of my Delta Gold card has just been posted and I wanted to downgrade it to Amex Everyday or Hilton HHonor card. If I do so and then apply for their annual fee card (Everyday Prefered, Hilton HHonor Surpass), do you think I will be able to get the signup bonus? I called Amex today and the rep said no because after the switching I will already have one card of the family so I won’t get the signup bonus of the other card of the family…

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