Among Amex's many rules for granting credit cards and welcome offers is the famous “once per lifetime” rule. Generally, Amex will only grant you a welcome offer once for each of its cards. This rule is actually written in the offer terms for Amex credit card applications. But Amex often publishes credit card offers that do not include this language. We refer to these offers as “no lifetime language” or “NLL” offers. NLL offers can lead to some confusion, so let's set the record straight.
Once Per Lifetime Rule Explained
Typically, the offer terms for American Express cards state that the welcome offer is not available if you have or have had the card for which you are applying. Below is an example of lifetime language highlighted from an Amex card application:
The language above is referred to as “lifetime language” because it is not limited to any specific period of time. This differs from Chase Sapphire cards, where you are ineligible for a sign-up bonus if you've received a bonus for a Sapphire card in the last 48 months.
So if you open a card such as The Platinum Card from American Express(review) with a welcome offer for 100,000 Membership Rewards and later see an offer for 125,000 points, Amex will not grant you those 125,000 points even if you are approved for the new card. This rule applies even if you close the earlier card with which you earned the earlier welcome offer.
If you do apply for an offer that has lifetime language and you've already earned a welcome offer for that card, you will likely receive a pop-up with the following message:
No Lifetime Language Offers
To get around Amex's “once per lifetime” rule, we can take advantage of no lifetime language offers. Amex often publishes card offers that do not contain the lifetime language quoted above. NLL offers appear in many different forms. Sometimes Amex sends them via email. Other times, they appear as pop-ups when you log into your Amex account. And on occasion, Amex even mails these offers via snail mail.
Here is a screenshot of an application for the Business Platinum Card from American Express(review) with no lifetime language:
How to Approach NLL Offers
NLL offers only apply retroactively. They do not exempt you from the once per lifetime rule going forward. This means that if you apply for an Amex credit card for the first time by using a NLL offer, you have used up your once per lifetime welcome offer. Moving forward, you will have to rely on other NLL offers to earn a welcome offer for that card again.
For example, let's say you've never had the American Express Gold Card(review) and you want to open for one for the first time. You do not need to find a NLL offer because you have never had this card before. But once you open a Gold card, you will only be able to earn a welcome offer for a second (or third or fourth) Gold card by applying through a NLL offer. This is the case regardless of what type of offer you applied with the first time.
So what does this all mean? If you're considering opening an Amex card that you haven't had before, you do not need to worry about lifetime language. Just make sure you get the best welcome offer you can find, regardless of whether the offer has lifetime language.
Amex's once per lifetime rule can be quite draconian. But thankfully, Amex publishes plenty of offers without lifetime language that allow us to earn welcome offers more than once for the same card product. Understanding Amex's once per lifetime rule and being able to spot lifetime language in credit card offer terms is important to help you rack up valuable Membership Rewards.
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