Dealing with the Amex 4 Credit Card Limit (2021)
You can only have 4-5 Amex "credit" cards. This constrains your ability to get all the Amex cards you may want and also collect Amex signup bonuses.
Some people have experienced a 4 card limit, some people have recently been able to get a 5th card, and we know one person who recently got a 6th. It's clear Amex has a limit, but no one has been able to piece together why it differs slightly for different people.
The 4-5 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 4-5 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.
- One of the Delta cards to get the free baggage benefit (and/or a companion certificate) on Delta airlines. Get Free Checked Bags with Airline Credit Cards. Guide to the Delta Airlines Companion Certificate.
- One or more of the Hilton cards for access to their free night certificates. Fans of these of these certificates might want to get up to all three of the Aspire, Surpass, and Business cards. Get Free Hotel Nights with Credit Card Certificates.
- The Blue Business Plus card to earn 2x Membership Rewards points on all your purchases. Without access to business cards, you might want the Everyday Preferred card instead. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
- The Blue Cash Preferred or Everyday Preferred card for their great reward rates on groceries (and gas). Best Credit Cards for Grocery Spending.
- The Marriott Business card for its 15 extra elite night credits and its free night certificate.
- Either the Hilton Aspire or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card as a less expensive way to get a Priority Pass membership (if you don't already have one from one of the other premium cards).
- The Amazon Prime card to earn 5% back on Amazon purchases. However, there are several other good options for earning rewards at Amazon. Best Credit Cards for Retail Purchases
- 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.
- 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 4-5 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.
- 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.
Depending on your circumstances, you may want:
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.
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.
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