Posted by William Charles on January 19, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on January 19th, 2017 | by William Charles


What Does American Express Consider A Lifetime?

On the majority of American Express credit card application pages you’ll see that it states:

  • Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.

This is known as the once per lifetime rule. The question is are you really limited to one bonus per lifetime? or does American Express consider you to never have had the card after a set period of time? From the data points I’ve seen, if you haven’t held this card for seven years or more, you’ll be eligible for the bonus again.

Keep in mind that positive accounts can stay on your credit report for up to ten years, negative accounts can only stay on your credit report for up to seven years. This leads me to believe that American Express base their bonus eligibility on what is found in their own internal systems rather than what is found on your credit report.

Some readers have also reported that American Express chat representatives will give you a list of cards you’ve previously held before if you ask and this list should match up with what card bonuses you’re not eligible for. Keep in mind targeted offers and upgrade offers often don’t have these bonus restrictions, so this is another way to get the sign up bonus on cards again.

You can view the rules for getting the bonuses again with other card issuers here. You can also learn more about American Express credit cards here. Please share your data points on getting the bonus on an American Express card more than once in the comments below.

32 Responses to What Does American Express Consider A Lifetime?

  1. Lantean says:

    isn’t it two years for biz cards? i may have it confused with something else…

  2. sirtheta says:

    “This leads me to believe that American Express do base their bonus eligibility on what is found on your report what is found in their internal systems, rather than what is found on your credit report.”

    Did you mean: “This leads me to believe that American Express do base their bonus eligibility on what is found on your credit report, rather than what is found in their internal systems.”

    or the opposite?

  3. payal says:

    on Amex BGR, i got 3 bonuses in 5 years (75k, 50k and 50k)….

  4. My mann says:

    Off topic. Don’t know where to post this. I see this morning I was charged on my Starwood card $95 Instead of $65? Same card I’ve had for 2 years. Anyone else that happened to?

    • Tony says:

      The annual fee changed from $65 to $95 a long time ago…

    • Mark O says:

      They changed the AF like a year ago

    • Kent C says:

      Off topic too, I get the majority of good amex offers on my SPG biz and personal cards. Had them for 3 years and pay the annual fee willingly since my cash back exceeds that each year. For those unaware, you can view all your amex savings per card. It gives a total, not per yr unfortunately but not too hard to figure out. I’m sure people just cancel when they see an annual fee so might be helpful.

  5. Logan says:

    Really good post. It’s something we should all keep in mind down the road.

  6. Ender says:

    The DPs for getting bonus after 7 years… Did they close their old card before or after Amex roll out the “once per lifetime” rule?

  7. Jake says:

    In December I asked an Amex chat representative to give me a list of all the Amex cards I’ve ever held and their list did *not* include two cards that I had closed about 10 years ago. I specifically asked the rep about those two cards and they said they had no record of me ever holding them. I then tried again with a different chat rep and got exactly the same answer – they have no record of me ever holding those two cards. I haven’t tried re-applying for those cards because I’m concerned that Amex would still deny the bonus, but maybe one day I’ll try it out and see what happens.

  8. Kent C says:

    Many many years ago Amex changed their software systems and wiped out (maybe inadvertently?) the history of a cardholder. Some of you probably know this. I am not sure what year this happened. I applied for my first Amex, green card, no bonus back in 1994. Held that card and only that card until I got my Costco card in 2000. When I got that new card, my account stated member since 2000. Somewhere between 1994 and 2000 they changed systems and wiped out history. When I called to inquire why my history was not accurate, the rep could find no record of me having the green card but clearly admitted and knew that systems changed and wiped out the history of many cardholders. Not sure if this is a reoccuring issue or if it’s automatic.

    DPs which might be helpful from others. Does your Amex history indicate the correct year you got your first card? “member since..”

    • Michael says:

      I’ve had a card that was back-dated to 1998, when I first opened with AMEX.

      I’m not sure that ‘Member since’ matters any more as AMEX changed backdating to how long you’ve had a particular card.

  9. captainsave says:

    I signed up for the simply cash plus card with no bonus. Now i see them offering a bonus, will i get the bonus if i sign up for another simply plus card since i didn’t get a bonus the first time?

  10. TXOil says:

    Ok, my question is if i have multiple businesses, all with different EINs, can i get a bonus for each of the businesses, or am i locked out after the first bonus, for say the Business Platinum card?

  11. CGID says:

    Hey DoC. What do you think happens if you get a card, then PC it to something else? Is the moment of the PC the same as closing the account — from the perspective of this 7-year rule? Or do you think that it is more likely that, since that account number was never closed, Amex will still perceive that you once had that card (for as long as that account number remains open)?

    • No idea how it affects it in relation to the 7 year rule, but if they are using your credit report the account usually changes right with the same opening date? So would be considered a closure, I think.

  12. CA978 says:

    I had an AMEX card that I defaulted on in the late 1990s. They never sued me and never took a judgment against me. They just charged it off. Even though my credit is perfect now, AMEX does not let me get a credit card with them for that reason alone. So at least in this case, a lifetime is at least 20 years.

  13. P says:

    It’s until you’re dead and get reborn or get a new identity with birth certificate passport social security card and all that

  14. cm says:

    Maybe related question: I’ve had an AmEx card FOREVER. It started as the classic green AmEx charge card in the early 1990s and then at some point (needing to book flights with a real credit card) I instead got a credit card, at one point called “Blue”. Now it has turned into Everyday. I NEVER use it. I think the last time I used it was 5+ years ago. I just never bothered to cancel it.

    Can I get any of the frequent flier cards? Or am I locked out because of this dumb card? I’d cancel it in a heartbeat if it meant opening me up to FF bonuses or other bonuses. I never get mailed offers from them.

  15. David G says:

    Do they differentiate between signup bonus and upgrade bonus? I’ve never actually applied for a Business Platinum, but I’ve upgraded from BGR for a 50k bonus. Wonder if I downgraded back to gold and applied for Plat if I’d be awarded the bonus.

  16. Diamond Vargas says:

    Data point — a chat rep confirmed they had no record of my BGR that was closed ~3.5 years ago.

  17. DH7 says:

    If i get a pre-qualified offer for a card I already have (Everyday @ 15k points), with no lifetime language, should I apply? Should I close my existing card first?

    The terms do not contain the life time “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” that I see in the terms of the other cards listed.

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