A Guide to Credit Card Issuers’ Rules on Welcome Bonus Offers

Dec 10, 2019

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

If you’re in the market for a rewards credit card, chances are you either have a specific award redemption in mind or just want to give your points balance a boost in case of a spur-of-the-moment trip. A big welcome bonus offer is a great way to achieve this, and there are many options to choose from.

However, with several issuers imposing restrictions on welcome bonus offer eligibility, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules so you don’t miss out on any big welcome bonus offers. Here are some card issuer rules you should be aware of:

American Express

American Express imposes a once-per-lifetime restriction on welcome bonus offers. In other words, you can’t get a welcome bonus offer for the same card more than once. That’s why it’s best to get in on big welcome bonus offers when they come around. Since you’ll only qualify for it once, you may as well hold out for the biggest one possible.

A quick Google search is a good way to determine what the highest bonus has been for a particular card. This may not work out well for people who like to speculatively stock up on points, but it is conducive to a more sensible approach for acquiring new credit cards.


The Chase 5/24 rule is simple and straightforward: If you’ve applied to five other rewards credit cards in the last 24 months (from any bank), Chase will not approve you for a new card. There's a simple strategy for dealing with this restriction: Get a Chase card first if you have other cards in mind.

Whether you’re just starting out with rewards credit cards or looking to stock up on points, one good strategy given the 5/24 rule is to get your desired Chase card first. Whether it’s the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you should apply for these cards before any others to make sure you remain compliant with the 5/24 rule.

Once you’ve been approved for a Chase card subject to 5/24, you can then move on to applying for any other credit cards. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind restrictions imposed by American Express and Citi as well.


Earlier this year, Citi added language to some of its credit cards restricting welcome bonus offers for the same card to one per 48 months. In other words, if you apply for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® this year, you won’t be eligible to earn its sign-up bonus again for another four years.

This is less restrictive than the Chase 5/24 rule, but it’s nonetheless disappointing if you’re looking to stock up on Citi ThankYou points through a new welcome bonus offer (without waiting upwards of four years).

On the other hand, the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier® Card welcome bonus offers are only restricted to once every 24 months. That’s great, since Citi ThankYou points are much more versatile in that they can be transferred to 15 different airline partners.

The bottom line

These credit card issuer restrictions make it more difficult to obtain big credit card welcome bonus offers spontaneously. But the rules can still be manageable with a little bit of planning. The key takeaway is to be strategic about applying for rewards credit cards: Get the cards with the most restrictive rules first, and try to hold out for the biggest bonus possible if you don’t have an immediate need for the points.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.