American Express changed the offer terms on their line of business credit cards last week. Unfortunately, the change is not positive.
Last year, American Express limited the eligibility of signup bonuses to once per lifetime for its personal credit cards. Specifically, the language reads as follows: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”
Translated, this means that if you’re applying for a personal card like the Preferred Rewards Gold card, you are ineligible for the bonus if you’ve ever had that same card before. Until last week, business card applications were not subject to that same restriction. Those offer terms had the language “in the last 12 months” included at the end of the above restriction.
It’s obvious that this business decision is targeted at those applicants who abuse the process by churning credit card applications–apply for card, get signup bonus, cancel, apply again, etc. At the same time, it’s a bit surprising that American Express would extend this policy to business cards as well. The opening and closing of credit cards for business has some legitimacy as business owners open and close various entities, each which can have their own cards.
It remains to be seen how this plays out going forward. There have been recent reports of targeted mailings with offers for personal cards that do not contain any of the restrictions mentioned above at all. With this strategy, American Express gets to decide who, if anyone, can receive an incentive bonus for a card that they’ve held in the past, and when they can get it. It’s possible that similar targeting will extend to prospective business card accounts as well.
Bottom line, when applying for any credit card–particularly one that you may have had in the past–read the offer terms carefully.