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American Express is known for having a few restrictions when it comes to applying for their credit cards.

One is that you are limited to holding four to five American Express credit cards. Both personal and business count toward this limit. (AMEX Everyday, Delta, and SPG are credit cards.) Separately, you are limited to holding four to five American Express charge cards. Both personal and business count toward this limit. (AMEX Platinum is a charge card.) If you’re on the verge and contemplating a fifth credit or charge card, read this post–you can apply basically risk-free.

The other more publicized rule is that you can only get the bonus on an American Express card once per lifetime. There is a major loophole to this rule, however: If you were targeted for an American Express offer, you can still be approved even if you have had the card before, as long as any once per lifetime language is missing from the terms & conditions.

To specify, once per lifetime language, which is included in the offer terms of most public applications for Amex cards, looks like this:

Targeted offers come in different forms. Some are sent in the mail, and some are available in the form of upgrades on existing cards, which you can access through your American Express online account.

A Different Angle

It’s common knowledge at this point that you can get the bonus again on a card as long as it’s targeted at you and lacks that “welcome bonus offer not available to…” line. But recently, we were asked a question on Twitter that made me ponder a different angle to targeted Amex offers:

Sean’s situation is that he currently has the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card. One of the offers targeted at him within his Amex account online is the ability to upgrade to a Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, and the offer involves a 25,000 SkyMile bonus. He’s curious as to whether or not he would be able to apply for another Platinum Delta SkyMiles card separately/later down the line and still be eligible for its sign up bonus if he takes the upgrade he’s being offered (which makes sense since the Platinum Delta card currently has a 70k bonus on offer–wouldn’t want to forsake 70k miles for a meager 25k).

I found this to be a thought provoking question as it’s something I’ve never considered myself and never read a blog post about, but is probably a query that has crossed many minds that are trying to maximize their reward earning potential.

The fact of the matter is that the wording of the terms on public Amex applications does say a bonus is not available on a card to applicants who have or have had the product. Having an upgraded version of a card is probably still technically possessing a card. But it’s not totally clear. For example, this commenter on a Doctor of Credit post confirms that he upgraded a Hilton Amex card to a Hilton Surpass card, and then later opened and received the bonus on a separate Hilton Surpass.

How to Find Amex Upgrade Offers

  1. Log into your American Express account online
  2. Click the Menu button in the top left-hand corner of screen
  3. Select Cards, then Personal Credit Cards, then View All Personal Charge & Credit Cards

4. Find a card that is an upgrade to a card you already have, and there should be an option to “Apply for an upgrade”

Please, Share Your Experiences

Aside from the one commenter on Doctor of Credit, I couldn’t find another solid data point regarding whether or not you can collect a sign up bonus on an Amex card you’ve upgraded to in the past. I read some general, non-committal statements made by other bloggers, like “getting upgraded may not restrict you from earning a sign-up bonus down the road“. I understand this is most likely a YMMV situation, but help us form a more solid conclusion by sharing any experience you’ve had opening another Amex card you’ve already upgraded to.

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