American Express Tightens Rules on Welcome Offer Eligibility

New terms have come to the credit card offers being sent out by American Express. In the past, most all welcome offers from Amex have prohibited the offers for “…applicants who have or have had this Card.” This is sometimes called “lifetime language,” because it’a purpose is to ensure that Amex customers only get the welcome offer perks once in their lifetime. Occasionally, targeted offers from Amex have come without lifetime language, but those instances are rare.

Amex has recently, however, added to the terms used in the lifetime language. These new rules are troubling to those who play the rewards game. The new language says they may use the number of Amex cards an applicant has opened and/or closed, along with “other factors,” to determine whether or not an applicant is eligible for the welcome offer.

So, essentially, if they, hypothetically, looked at a credit report and saw a history of opened and closed accounts, Amex or otherwise, they could use that to determine an applicant’s welcome offer eligibility.

Those who apply for credit cards to receive rewards points or miles may find these new rules frustrating. The assurance of the welcome offer benefits is no longer as solid as it once was. Now, the applicant will not be assured of their eligibility until they see it reflected on their statement.

There is speculation among those who play the card rewards game that cards closed within a year of being opened will have the biggest negative impact on Amex’s decision making. Cards closed in order to avoid paying a second annual fee could also negatively affect eligibility.

These factors are indicators to Amex of a customer they do not want – one who is primarily interested in rewards and bonus points without long-term spending plans for the card.

It’s conjecture, at this point, to say whether or not the average consumer will be affected much by this change in terms, but for those who have a few closed cards on their credit, it’s probably not a big deal. After all, it is just smart finance to re-evaluate your cards periodically, and an annual fee would certainly be a part of that evaluation.

More likely, Amex is looking to root out those fly-by-nighters who close lots of cards right after they get the rewards and then open new ones for more rewards. If you are somewhere in the middle – having some long-term cards, and closing a few here and opening a few others there – then you may want to play the game a bit tighter when it comes to Amex. On the other hand, time will tell what the overall effect of the new Amex terms will be.

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