Dealing with the Amex 5 Credit Card Limit (2021)

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You can only have 5 Amex "credit" cards at any one time. This constrains your ability to collect Amex signup bonuses and get all the Amex cards you may want.

The 5 card limit applies to your total number of personal and business cards. But Amex's "charge" cards (their Platinum, Gold, Green and Plum cards) don't count against that limit—with two important exceptions. At least for now, the personal version of the Green card counts as one of your 5 cards and so may any charge card that has the "Pay Over Time" feature turned on.

  • Amex has several credit cards that you might want to make part of your core credit card collection. Each one of these cards will take up one of your available slots.
  • Depending on your circumstances, you may want:

  • You may not have room to get all the cards you want. If so, you'll need to prioritize the benefits that are the most important to you. However, you can always swap them out if your prioritization changes.
  • Getting any of these cards will constrain your ability to earn Amex signup bonuses. For example, if you are holding onto three of these cards for their ongoing benefits, you'll only have one or two slots left open for collecting signup bonuses. To keep a good relationship with Amex, you need to keep new cards for at least year. So you'd be limited to only one or two new Amex signup bonuses per year. If you use up all your slots on "keeper" cards, you won't have any slots left over for signup bonuses.
  • Fortunately, many of Amex's most attractive signup bonuses are on their Platinum, Gold, and Green "charge" cards and they are not affected by the credit card limit (except the personal version of the Green Card). On the other hand, all six of the Delta cards, all three of the Hilton cards, and both Marriott cards have very lucrative signup bonuses that you probably don't want to miss out on.

  • Turn off "Pay Over Time" for your charge cards. Amex has been having an issue where charge cards that have the "Pay Over Time" feature enabled are sometimes counting against the 5 card limit. Turning off the feature frees up the slot for a real credit card. Select each charge card on Amex's website and go to the "Payment and Credit Options" to see the option to manage your Pay Over Time settings.
  • To optimize your signup bonuses, try to postpone getting the Amex cards you want to add to your core credit card collection. For the first few years, keep some Amex slots open to use to collect signup bonuses on their other cards. Once you've worked your way through the most valuable signup bonuses, get the cards you want to keep for the long run. Obviously, you need to strike a balance between the number of slots you keep open (and the corresponding speed at which you can earn signup bonuses) and getting earlier access to desired benefits.
  • Because Amex is relatively insensitive to the quantity of cards you have, you generally want to get cards from other banks first, before you start focusing on Amex cards. This delays your ability to get your Amex keeper cards even further.

  • Since many Amex cards are part of families, you can slowly move through each of the versions and maintain access to important benefits. For example, let's say you want access to the free bag benefit on Delta and that you think it is worthwhile to pay the premium for the Delta Platinum card for its companion certificate. Rather than getting the Delta Platinum card right away, you can your slots to gradually get every one of the Delta cards. While you were doing so, you'd have ongoing access to the free bag benefit. You'd save the Delta Platinum until last and hold onto it indefinitely.
  • Postponing Amex cards with attractive earning rates is an easy proposition. While you are collecting signup bonuses, you'll be focusing your spending on meeting the requirements for earning signup bonuses. It is easy to postpone getting cards whose primary benefit is earning more points on your spending.

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