The point, miles and credit card rewards hobby is an ever changing “game.” We call it a game because it’s fun, it’s rewarding - not only mentally with ever fluctuating dopamine levels, but also in the physical world with free and luxurious travel benefits- and for some, it’s especially interesting when tricks are found allowing “gamers” to take advantage of the system.
Over the years, the credit card game (sometimes known as “churning”) has become more and more difficult in terms of earning big chunks of points and miles quickly. In the past we’ve seen banks allowing customers to apply for the same credit cards repeatedly within short periods of time (in some cases, multiple cards of the same category on the same day) and receiving multiple bonuses. Of course such loose policies were bound to be abused, and banks quickly caught up and instituted a policy for bonus eligibility with examples such as “not eligible if you’ve received the new cardmember bonus within the last 24 months” and “Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card.”
However, it was revealed last week that American Express is beginning to drop the hammer with a new policy leaving customers no way to know in advance whether they will receive the bonus or not. Amex has added in its Offer Terms the following language:
“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.”
Since the news broke out, many still felt unsure how such a policy would be enforced, or whether or not it would be enforced at all. Today, we have received the first data point of the new policy actually being enforced.
A fellow credit card hobbyist shared the following screenshot (we’ve acquired their authorization to share the image) today after applying for the Amex Hilton Honors Ascend credit card. The exact wording was:
“John Doe, based on your history with American Express welcome offers, introductory APR offers, or the number of cards you have opened and closed, you are not eligible to receive this welcome offer. We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?”
Just to be extra-clear, the applicant has never had the Amex Hilton Honor Ascend card, nor the Surpass card before.
Here we are facing the new reality. You may actually be declined to receive the welcome offer of an American Express credit card which you’ve never had in the past due to your previous relationship with Amex. (Talk about being, subjective and discretionary)
What does this mean for customers, and how does this play out for the credit card churning hobby as a whole? How many opened and closed cards are too many? How far back does Amex look into the past? Will Amex decline welcome offers of new cards because cash equivalents were purchased to meet previous spending requirements? Will Chase and Citibank issuers follow suit?
The fog is clearing for Amex Churners, but there are still many unanswered questions. The one sure thing we know is, the credit card game will no longer be the same.
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