AMEX Credit Card Signup Bonuses are “Once in a Lifetime,” but are there exceptions? American Express first implemented its once in a lifetime signup bonus policy 5/1/14 for AMEX personal credit cards (see AMEX Signup Bonuses Becoming Once in a Lifetime). This was followed by AMEX business card signup bonuses becoming once in a lifetime less than a couple years later, in 2016.
The rationale for AMEX's new strict bonus language was clear: AMEX, Chase, Citi, and other U.S. credit card issuers wanted to reduce credit card churning, as a growing number of savvy consumers took advantage of generous signup bonuses to earn hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of AMEX Membership Rewards points and other frequent flyer miles and points by opening credit cards, only to close them a year later before paying the annual fee. For the same reason, Chase introduced its Chase 5/24 rule, which prevented credit card applicants for being approved for a new Chase credit card if they had 5 or more applications for credit within the preceding 24 months, and a 48 month rule for its Chase Sapphire cards, preventing applicants from earning a signup bonus if they previously earned a signup bonus for a Sapphire card within the preceding 48 months.
AMEX Signup Bonus Language
Click on the terms of a public offer for an AMEX charge card or credit card, and you'll likely see: “Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We 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.”
The latter part of these terms means that even some applicants who have never had a particular AMEX card have been unable to apply and earn a signup bonus for a new AMEX card if AMEX deems that they have a pattern of churning AMEX cards or otherwise holding them for a short time and/or perhaps not spending much on them beyond the amount required to earn a signup bonus. Generally, AMEX warns you via a pop-up if you won't earn a signup bonus if you're attempting to apply for an AMEX card and AMEX has decided you're not eligible for a new signup bonus.
Reported Exceptions to AMEX Once in a Lifetime Bonus Rules
Does AMEX's language mean that there are no exceptions, and that no one can earn another signup bonus for a given credit card? No. While AMEX's terms are certainly clear, in fact there are multiple reports of users who previously held an AMEX card and closed it, who have earned another signup bonus for the exact same card. This FlyerTalk thread and others reported success for some members who had closed a card 7 years or more ago.
More recently, this author was able to reapply for an AMEX Green card and earn a new signup bonus despite closing the identical card just 4.5 years ago. And a commenter to his post reported: “I got the Amex Platinum in 2016…Closed it in 2018. Applied for it again last November  and got the 75k bonus after hitting the minimum spend.” That's under 3 years.
As we mention above, there's no guarantee that AMEX will approve you for a new AMEX card with the associated signup bonus even if you've never had the card before; AMEX doesn't take kindly to applicants who are perceived to be churners or otherwise gaming the system. And in a few cases, AMEX has taken the extraordinary step of clawing back signup bonuses that it already awarded, generally when a cardholder cancels or downgrades an AMEX card within the first 12 months.
But the above examples demonstrate that there are exceptions, and it can be possible to earn a new signup bonus for an AMEX card you've previously earned a signup bonus for. We recommend waiting for a particularly high AMEX signup bonus offer, since there will still be a few years to wait before (potentially) becoming eligible for a new AMEX signup bonus.
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