Reader Question: What is the American Express “Once-Per-Lifetime” Rule?

It’s not always easy writing new (and hopefully beneficial) material every day.

As always, I try to highlight questions that subscribers send me that I feel would assist individuals that are just getting started in this hobby, are about that points life 24-7, or somewhere in between.


Below is an example of a question that can help you wherever you find yourself in this hobby. A reader asked:

What is the American Express ‘once-per-lifetime’ rule and is it important to me?

The reader asked this question after reading THIS POST in which I made reference to the CREDIT CARD RULES that banks have put into place. These are two great question that deserves a post.


On the majority of American Express credit card application pages you’ll see something that looks or sounds like this in the Terms and Conditions:

  • Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this or previous versions of this Card.

This phrase is known as the ‘once per lifetime rule.’ It is important to know whether your Amex card has lifetime language. If you’ve never read the terms and conditions, the card more than likely had lifetime language. But sometimes, the phrase is NOT included in the application. In other words, if you have (or had) the card previously, you could apply for the card and obtain the welcome bonus again.


Interestingly, you and Amex may have a different definition of “lifetime.”

Although this can change at any moment, I have seen data points that suggest if you haven’t held a specific card for seven years or more, you’ll be eligible for the bonus again.

Last year, Amex launched a “welcome bonus eligibility tool” and here’s how it works…when you apply for an American Express credit card, if you’ve already had the card you’re applying for, you’ll receive the following message:

Per the message, if you cancel the application, your credit will NOT be pulled and you will know your eligibility status.

Personally, I’ve chatted with Amex representatives (via Amex chat) and they were able to give me a list of cards that I’ve held previously. This is a great starting point because the list is telling you, both, what you’re eligible for and thus what you’re NOT eligible for.

Also keep in mind that targeted offers and upgrade offers, generally, don’t have these bonus restrictions, so this is another way to get the sign up bonus on cards again.

If you have any data points that you would like to share, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Were you aware the once-per-lifetime rule? Does it change your credit card strategy?

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