Home Credit Cards The Confusing Rules When Applying For Reward Credit Cards

The Confusing Rules When Applying For Reward Credit Cards

by joeheg

I’m almost finished with meeting the spending requirement for the last credit card we were approved for, so that means it’s time to find and apply for a new card. As always, you should not be bothering with this if you have credit card debt. If that’s the case, your main goal should be to pay off the debt and increase your credit score, and THEN you can start applying for credit cards.


When applying for credit cards, it’s important to know the rules that you’ll need to follow for each bank when applying for a credit card, because they’re all different. Knowing these rules will allow you to continue to get approved for cards and collect the bonuses that will add to your balances. That, in turn, will allow you to meet your travel goals.

I’m going to stick to the “major” banks that issue reward cards (American Express, Citibank, and Chase and Barclays) because they are the ones you’ll be dealing with most of the time.

*Cards in this article may give us a referral bonus if you signup with the provided links. We do not recommend or endorse any particular bank or card and no bank has influenced this article in any way.

American Express

American Express, or AMEX for short, has one of the easiest rules to understand when it comes to applying for their credit cards. If you currently have or have EVER had that particular card before, then you are most likely NOT eligible for a signup bonus again. There are some rare exceptions to this rule but assume that if you have ever possessed a particular card before, you will not ever get a bonus for that type of card again. There is NO TIME LIMIT on this rule.


OK, so how about some good news? You’re able to get a bonus for each specific card. So you can get the bonus for both the Gold Card and the Platinum Card.  If you’re able to sign up for a business card (and if you have any side business, you just might be), you are also able to get a signup bonus on both the Business Gold Rewards Card and the Business Platinum Card.  That’s not to forget the bonuses available when you signup for the AMEX Everyday cards and the AMEX Blue cards.

The same rules go for the AMEX co-branded cards (Delta, Starwood, and Hilton). You can only get one signup bonus per card, but each different card is eligible.

When you apply for an American Express card, there’s a pop-up box that will inform you if you’re not eligible for a signup bonus. That’s a nice thing for them to do but the system’s not perfect so it’s up to you to keep track if you’ve had a card before or not.

So while AMEX does limit you to one bonus per card, they do have a large number of cards to choose from. If you’re new to this, it will take you quite a while to work through all the cards. I’m still not even close to being complete and I’ve been doing this for YEARS.

Lastly, AMEX does limit you to having five of their credit cards (personal or business) open at the same time. These are any cards except the Green, Gold and Platinum cards, which are charge cards (and there’s a difference).


Citibank (or Citi for short) offers both its own cards that earn ThankYou Points and issues co-brand cards for American Airlines and Expedia.


Citibank has also placed some rules into effect about earning bonuses for their credit cards. While they’re more lenient than AMEX’s rule, they are also far more confusing.

When signing up for a card that earns ThankYou points (like the Premier or the Prestige), here’s the disclaimer:

“Bonus ThankYou points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”

To clarify, Citi will only allow you to get a bonus if you’ve not opened OR CLOSED any card in the same product family for at least 24 months. In practice, this means that once you have a Citi card and have kept it for 2 years, you can apply for another one in the same line (Premier, Prestige). However, if you were to cancel that card, the clock would reset for another 2 years. So if you have a Citi card, it would make sense to hold onto it for the 2 years, apply for another card that earns the same points and then, if you want, you can cancel the original one. Seems silly but it does keep people from signing up for the bonus and then canceling after the first year.

The same goes for Citi cards that earn American Airlines miles. Like AMEX, the business versions of the cards don’t count towards the limits so you can get a  business and personal card and get the signup bonus on both.

The other restriction Citi has in place is how often you can apply for a card. You can only apply for one personal card every eight days and no more than two cards in sixty-five days. For business cards, you can only apply for one card every 95 days.


I saved the best for last. Chase was once the darling of the rewards credit card universe. Not only did they have several cards like the Sapphire Reserve and Preferred personal cards and the Ink Preferred business card that earned valuable Ultimate Rewards points, but they also had co-brand cards with varied partners like Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, United, Southwest, British Airways, Disney and Amazon.com.


At the end of 2016, Chase dropped a bombshell on the points world when they instituted what has become known as the “5/24 rule“.  There have been numerous posts listing how the rule works (and how to beat them), and you can Google those if you’d like. Essentially, this rule says you will not be approved for a Chase card if you have opened five or more bank cards in the last 24 months. This rule, which is being followed very stringently, put many desirable Chase cards out of reach for many people, including myself.

There’s still debate about which cards Chase will count towards your five card limit (Do business cards count? What about if you’re only an authorized user on someone else’s card?) There are conflicting data points on each of these so it does pay to be prudent with which cards you apply for before going out and chasing every bonus announced.

While Chase was only applying this restriction to certain cards, it now appears that this restriction is in place for all Chase cards. The only thing is that this can’t be confirmed as Chase does not comment on the 5/24 rule.

Other Banks

Barclays, the issuer of the cards for JetBlue, American Airlines and their own Arrival cards (among others) is generally difficult to get any card from. For their own Arrival Plus card, they may have a 6/24 rule similar to Chase’s restriction on recent card applications.

I’ve personally found it was easier to get approved for a second card with a higher credit limit once I was approved for the first one.

So that’s just the main banks. The other issuers, like Bank of America, US Bank, and others each have their own rules as well but if you can remember the Big Three, you’re well on your way to getting to your travel goals.

H/T: Doctor of Credit and The Points Guy

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


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