Bank policies vary on whether you can earn a second sign-up bonus
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
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If I closed my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express a couple of years ago, can I get it again for the sign-up bonus?
American Express only allows one sign-up bonus per card. Other issuers have different rules.
Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.
Dear Cashing In,
I’d like to get a bunch more Starwood points for an upcoming vacation. I had the American Express Starwood card several years ago, but then canceled it. Can I apply for it again and get the sign-up bonus again? – Frank
There are people who routinely open and shut credit card accounts for the purpose of amassing reward points. These people often have dozens of credit cards open and are always looking for ways to game the system by signing up for cards, reaping the rewards, then closing the accounts. They sometimes repeat that process over and over. It is known as “churning.”
If you’re looking only at applying for a single card for a second time, you probably don’t consider yourself a credit card churner. But the principle is the same: You need to know which cards you can apply for repeatedly and receive the sign-up bonus.
Banks typically do not have stated policies on how this works. If you ask them – and I have asked them many times over the years – they will typically say something vague and noncommittal like, “We judge all applications on a case-by-case basis.”
So, it can be hard to know if a second application for the same card will be successful, or if they will give you the card but not the points. Obviously, this can be a big deal, because you don’t want your credit to take a hit for applying for a card that doesn’t give you the rewards you want.
General rules for multiple sign-up bonuses
Fortunately, there are people on the internet who compare notes and see what strategies tend to work. It varies by bank. These aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules, but they seem to be good rules of thumb to follow for the major issuers.
These tend to be the guidelines I have seen over the years:
- American Express: One bonus per card per lifetime.
- Bank of America: No restrictions.
- Barclay: No restrictions.
- Capital One: No restrictions.
- Chase: One bonus per card every 24 months.
- Citi: Card must have been closed for 24 months.
As you can see, American Express tends to be the most restrictive. If you have ever received a sign-up bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, you’re ineligible to receive the same bonus a second time.
Other issues are more permissive and allow you to collect a second bonus if you wait a couple years. And some, like Barclay and Bank of America cards, are thought to be highly churnable. In some cases, you can actually have two of the same cards at the same time.
Tip: Personal and business versions of the same credit card usually count as separate cards. If you are interested in applying for a second card similar to the one you already have, ask your issuer.
Business version of the same card
In a few situations, these limits don’t apply. Note that many cards have different versions of the same card, such as personal and business versions. Those usually count as separate cards. Sometimes, issuers reconfigure their cards by changing the reward structure, and can often count as a completely new card that is eligible for a second bonus.
Since Starwood is issued by American Express, though, you might not have many options. Note that there is an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card that you might consider, if you have your own business or side gig. Starwood points are pretty valuable and can be hard to come by.
Another option is to sign up for another American Express card, which offers general reward points, like the Platinum Card from American Express, which you can then transfer to Starwood.
See related: Earn 25,000 bonus points with the Starwood Preferred Guest cards from American Express, What is Chase’s ‘5/25’ rule and how it works
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