A beginner’s guide to whether you qualify for an American Express sign-up bonus

GUIDE: Earning Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 4 minutes
POSTED: February 14, 2018
UPDATED: June 13, 2018
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: American Express Membership Rewards

Given the 100,000-point bonus offers on both the American Express Explorer and Qantas American Express Ultimate cards, I thought it would be helpful to answer some of the most common questions we receive regarding eligibility for American Express sign-up bonuses.

But first, let’s look at the policy…

In simple English

If you currently hold or have held almost any American Express card in the past 18 months, then you are not eligible for the sign-up bonus on another American Express card.

However, does not apply to David Jones or Corporate American Express cardholders; if you are a supplementary cardholder; or if you hold the Westpac Altitude Black American Express companion card.

The official wording

American Express card members who currently hold or who have previously held any Consumer or Small Business Card product in the previous 18 month period are ineligible for Welcome offers. This includes Consumer Charge, Consumer Credit and Small Business Cards

David Jones American Express Cards are excluded, which means DJ Card members can apply for other Consumer or Small Business Cards and will receive the Welcome Bonus and vice versa as long as they don’t also hold or have held the other Card type in past 18 months

Any card members that hold or have held any Bank-Issued companion Amex Cards (ANZ/NAB/CommBank/Westpac) are eligible for Welcome Bonuses

This policy has been in place since April 2017 but note that most of the banks have stopped issuing their own American Express cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I am a supplementary cardholder on my partner’s American Express card, will I be eligible for the sign-up bonus if I apply for a card as the primary cardholder?

Yes, holding a supplementary card is not a barrier to applying for your own and being eligible for a bonus.

If I hold a bank-issued American Express card from Westpac, NAB, ANZ or CommBank, can I earn the sign-up bonus on a card directly issued by American Express?

Yes, remember that the policy only applies to existing holders of American Express-issued cards—if you only hold an American Express issued by a bank such as Westpac or NAB, that won’t affect your eligibility for points bonuses.

Note that most banks are moving away from issuing American Express cards themselves anyway.

How long do I have to wait from cancelling an American Express card and signing up for a new one to get the sign-up bonus?

It’s best to call American Express to confirm the exact date for your situation (here are the phone numbers for different card products and the general number is 1300 132 639).

From what we gather, it is 18 months from the closing date on the last statement after the card is cancelled but we’re not 100% on that.

If I close my existing card that has been held for 18 months, do I qualify for sign up points straight away, or do I have to wait 18 months from when I cancelled my Amex before I qualify again?

You have to wait the 18 months.

Can I hold multiple American Express cards at the same time?

Yes, you can but you will only earn the sign-up bonus on the first one.

So, if you earned the sign-up bonus on the Explorer and then wanted to apply for the Platinum Edge, you would not earn the sign-up bonus on the Platinum Edge but you can still apply for it to earn more points at supermarkets and on fuel.

Will I earn the sign-up bonus on a personal card if I already hold a business card, and vice versa?

Generally, no, as Small Business cards are included in the policy. The only exception is if you hold a Corporate card.

If I hold a David Jones American Express card, will I earn the sign-up bonus on another type of American Express card?

Yes, this is an exception! Existing American Express cardholders are eligible for bonuses on David Jones American Express cards.

If I currently hold an American Express card, will I earn the sign-up bonus on a David Jones American Express card?

Yes, existing David Jones American Express cardholders are eligible for bonuses on other American Express cards.

If I hold, say, the American Express Explorer card, can I refer a friend or family member to another American Express product like the Platinum Edge and earn the referral bonus?

Yes, you can refer someone within the same rewards family as the card you have. Both Explorer and Platinum Edge are under the same rewards family.

Here are the American Express rewards families and the cards under them:

Rewards FamilyAmerican Express Cards
Membership RewardsPlatinum Charge
Explorer
Platinum Edge
Essential
QantasQantas Ultimate
Qantas Premium
Qantas Discovery
VelocityVelocity Platinum
Velocity Escape

Why do different American Express cards transfer to frequent flyer partners at different rates?

That’s due to the difference between the Gateway, Ascent and Ascent Premium versions of American Express Membership Rewards points.

What was the previous (more generous) policy?

In the past, American Express differentiated between:

  • credit and charge cards; and
  • personal and business cards.

They allowed existing credit cardholders to earn sign-up points for charge card applications, and vice versa—as long as they didn’t already hold a card of the type being applied for (credit or charge) and hadn’t in the preceding 18 months.

The other part of the policy was that personal and business cards were separated, allowing holders of personal cards to be eligible for points bonuses on business cards, and vice versa.

Summing up

A lot of frequent flyers are frustrated by American Express’ tightening of sign-up bonus eligibility policies.

From a consumer perspective, it makes earning large sign-up bonuses on multiple cards more difficult, as you have to wait 18 months after cancelling a card to be eligible to earn a bonus on another.

From American Express’ point-of-view, this policy is designed to reduce the ability of customers to ‘churn and burn’ credit cards to earn maximum points.

As such, a wise strategy may be to wait until an attractive American Express bonus is offered, jump on that, supplement with any other American Express cards that offer a higher earn rate on certain categories, and apply for Visa and Mastercard options with other banks to pick up other bonus points.

Then, once you see that the value that you have extracted from the American Express card/s has been maximised, you could choose to cancel that card/s, wait 18 months and start the process again.

Just note that American Express does reserve the right to change this policy whenever they like—to make it more lenient or restrictive—so do make sure your credit card strategy can adapt to any future changes.

A beginner’s guide to whether you qualify for an American Express sign-up bonus was last modified: June 13th, 2018 by Matt Moffitt