Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Like most credit card issuers, American Express has rules regarding their approval process and how many consumer credit cards you can have. Some of these rules are explicitly stated when you apply for a card, while others are long standing unwritten rules proven through customer experiences.
Perhaps the most important restriction you need to know about is the once-in-a-lifetime rule, which limits how many times you can earn a welcome offer for a particular American Express Card.
Before you apply for your next American Express card, be sure to read about Amex's current application rules.
Amex application rules
Just like the Chase 5/24 rule, American Express has rules to limit consumers from having too many credit lines issued to them. Before you apply for an American Express card, be sure you won't be violating any of the rules below. If you want to apply for an Amex card, it may be wise to consider canceling a credit card, or delaying your application.
"1 in 5" rule
The one card every five days rule is exactly how it sounds — you can't be approved for more than one card every five days.
American Express had had this rule in place for some time. The rule exists mainly to prevent credit card fraud in case you fall victim to identity theft.
This puts a damper on consumers who prefer applying for multiple cards in a short period of time to get their applications in before credit bureaus have time to adjust their scores. Like many of American Express guidelines, this is an unwritten rule and some consumers may have a different experience.
"2 in 90" rule
The Amex "2 in 90" rule limits cardholders to two card approvals every 90 days. This rule builds on top of the one card every five days rule.
The rule prevents consumers from being issued too much credit, along with limiting the number of welcome offers consumers can earn. Welcome offers in the form of cash back or travel rewards cost credit card companies billions of dollars per year. Amex is ensuring that it isn't on the hook for fulfilling more welcome offers than it can afford.
How many Amex cards can you have?
Keep in mind that just because American Express limits consumers to five card products doesn't guarantee that you'll be approved for that many cards. Each Amex card application is handled on a case-by-case basis determined primarily by your creditworthiness.
American Express has always limited the number of credit cards a consumer can have at one time. It's bounced back and forth over the years between four and five cards. Currently, you can have up to five American Express consumer credit cards at one time.
It is important to note that American Express offers multiple types of cards — business cards and consumer cards — and that the rule only applies to consumer cards where you are the primary cardholder. It also doesn't include American Express charge cards, which appear to be unlimited. Charge cards are less of a lending risk for card issuers because account balances are paid in full each month.
It appears in the past that American Express used to limit the number of Platinum cards you could have, but this seems to no longer apply. There are currently four American Express Platinum cards available:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab
- The Platinum Card® from American Express exclusively for Morgan Stanley
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Now, each of these cards is treated as a separate product. You can apply for each card and, if approved, earn the welcome offer by meeting the individual card spending requirements. Note that you must be a qualifying Charles Schwab or Morgan Stanley customer to get approved for those Platinum card versions.
Amex welcome offer rules
Not only does American Express have rules in place for card applications, but it also places limits on its credit card's attractive welcome offers. While some card issuers allow you to earn a welcome offer for the same card more than once, typically after a specific period of time, American Express isn't as lenient.
The Amex once-in-a-lifetime rule means that consumers can only earn a welcome offer for a specific product once. If they earn it, and cancel the card at a later date, they can no longer earn that offer. Consumers may be approved for the product if they reapply, but the welcome offer will not be available.
This rule prevents "churning" — opening a card just to earn the welcome offer, closing the card and then reapplying later to earn the welcome offer again. The once-in-a-lifetime rule applies to personal Amex cards and business credit cards.
In addition to general Amex welcome offer restrictions, there are other rules that apply specifically to Amex co-branded Marriott credit cards. Marriott partners with American Express to offer two hotel credit cards, but Amex isn't its only card issuing partner. Chase also offers Marriott credit cards. Here's a list of the cards available under the Marriott umbrella:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card (Chase)
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card (Chase)
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from J.P. Morgan (discontinued directly, but there's a way to still get it)
Since most of these cards fall under Marriott's rebranded Bonvoy loyalty program, earning welcome offers for each card could quickly boost your rewards balance. Unfortunately, American Express knows that and has put some measures in place to prevent that possibility.
Here's a look at the welcome offer restrictions for both Amex co-branded Marriott credit cards:
- Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months.
- Each Card renewal year, get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases on the Card at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™. Effective 9/22/22, the $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit benefit will no longer be available. It will be replaced with a NEW benefit of up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide.
- Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $450 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
You are ineligible to earn a welcome bonus if you:
- Have or have had Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card or the J.P. Morgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card in the last 30 days.
- Received the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card from Chase, as well as a few other legacy cards from Chase (see the card's offer terms for the full list of covered cards).
- Received a welcome bonus or upgrade offer for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card from Chase, in the last 24 months, as well as a few other legacy cards from Chase (see the card's offer terms for the full list of covered cards).
- Welcome Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
- 4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping. 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status with your Card. Plus, earn Gold Elite status after making $35,000 in eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
- Terms apply.
You are ineligible to earn a welcome bonus if you:
- Have or have had Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
- Have or have had a few other legacy cards from Chase in the last 30 days (see the card's offer terms for the full list of covered cards).
- Received the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Credit Card from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days.
- Received a welcome bonus bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase in the last 24 months, as well as a few other legacy cards from Chase (see the card's offer terms for the full list of covered cards).
You'll notice that the restrictions include now-defunct Marriott card options, not just current cards. If you still have or have held one of these discontinued cards in the past, you could be out of luck earning a welcome offer in the future.
Hilton Honors Surpass restrictions
Another Amex card featuring welcome offer restrictions is Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. Right now, you can 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
If you've held this card or other select Hilton Honors cards before, you can still apply for it, but you won't earn the generous offer. The language listed on the American Express website is very clear:
"Welcome Offer not available to applicants who have or have had the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card."
If this restriction applies to you, the good news is that there are other Hilton Credit Cards available with welcome offers you may qualify for still, and other rewards credit cards that offer Hilton Honors status and benefits.
When looking at various American Express credit cards you may notice this additional guidance on eligibility for certain cards:
"American Express may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility."
This means that Amex not only looks at your creditworthiness, but also any other factors they deem necessary to judge the risk level of approving your card application. There's no guarantee of approval even with an excellent credit score and credit history.
Wondering if you're eligible for the welcome offer on a particular American Express credit card? Amex introduced a tool that allows you to check eligibility before running a hard credit inquiry. The best part is that there's no extra effort on your part to use this tool. Whenever you apply for a card through American Express, you'll receive a notification if you're ineligible for a welcome bonus offer.
At that point, you'll have the option to either continue with your card application or withdraw your application. If you continue the process, Amex will perform a credit check to determine your creditworthiness.
Best strategy for applying for American Express cards
With all of these rules in place, what is the best strategy for applying for American Express cards?
- Focus on your goals: Regardless of card rules, start by determining your goals for an American Express card. Is it to earn rewards for travel? Maybe you want airport lounge access or other benefits only offered by a specific card. There's no sense applying for cards that don't align with your values or goals.
- Time out your card applications: Use the Amex card application rules above to guide your card application timing. You're more likely to get approved if you stick to the time frames other customers have experienced.
- Think bonus categories: Earning welcome offers is the quickest way to boost your point totals, but it's not the only way. You can also earn points through card spending. Analyze your spending habits and start with Amex cards that earn bonus points in categories where you spend the most.
- Get a business card: If you are a small business owner, it is best to start with a business card. Since business cards do not count toward the four-card rule, you will be able to earn great rewards for your business expenses while not losing out on opportunities for consumer cards.
- Pay attention to your card total: You can apply for the consumer cards until you reach the five-card limit. Keep in mind that if you've hit the maximum amount, you can cancel one consumer card to apply for a new one.
How to get an American Express card
You can apply for an American Express card online through the card issuer's website. Although there are no guarantees, with some thoughtful planning, you may be able to improve your odds of approval using the tips below.
- Know your credit standing: To qualify for an Amex card, you must meet its credit requirements. Credit card issuers aren't always forthcoming with credit requirements, but knowing your own score and credit history helps you know where you stand. You can get a free copy of your credit report via annualcreditreport.com. There are several free tools online to get your credit score too. Many credit cards and banks now offer credit score access for free.
- Start with one card: You can have a strategy for applying for multiple Amex cards, but it all starts with one card. Pick one Amex card you like and apply for it.
- Use the welcome eligibility tool: As mentioned, Amex will let you know during the application process if you're eligible to earn a welcome offer. If not, it's OK to stop the application process. There could still be reasons to move forward with your application, like access to specific perks, but you might be able to get those same benefits from another card.
- Be prepared: Amex will ask for various personal and financial information during the application process. Have it ready to go before you apply. This won't necessarily help improve your odds, but it can save time.
- Call American Express: If your application is denied and would like someone to review your case, you can call Amex's reconsideration line at 1-800-567-1083. There's no guarantee that they will change their mind, but it could be worth a shot if you think there was a mistake. If you are declined for a card, American Express recommends waiting until 30 days after receiving your decline letter before submitting another card application.
Which American Express card should you apply for?
American Express cards are extremely competitive because of their outstanding rewards and features on each product. Whether you want to earn American Express Membership Rewards, cash back or build your credit score, here are some top offers from Amex:
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Cash Back||Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.||$95|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||Cash back with no annual fee||Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.||$0|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||Occasional Delta Air Lines flyers||Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.||$250|
Frequently asked questions
How hard is it to get an American Express card?
American Express has higher credit requirements than other card issuers making Amex cards typically more difficult to get approved for than other cards. American Express also looks at other factors like credit history and how many cards you've opened and closed.
How do I check my American Express credit card application status?
You can check your American Express card application status online or by calling 1-877-239-3491.
How long does an American Express application take?
It usually takes less than 10 minutes to fill out an American Express credit card application. In many cases, you'll know if you've been approved immediately, but it could take up to several weeks to receive a decision.
Can I apply for two American Express cards at once?
You can apply for two American Express cards at the same time. Because of the Amex "1 in 5" it's likely that your second application will get flagged for possible fraud. There's still a chance of getting approved, though.
For rates and fees of Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here
For rates and fees of Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please click here
For rates and fees of American Express® Gold Card, please click here
For rates and fees of Hilton Honors American Express Card, please click here
For rates and fees of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please click here
The information related to American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab, The Platinum Card® from American Express exclusively for Morgan Stanley, The Business Platinum Card® from American Expressl, Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, J.P. Morgan Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy™ Premier Credit Card, Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.