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American Express Pre-Approval: Your Guide to Pre-Qualify for the Best Cards

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How to prequalify for an Amex Card

I remember the days when qualifying for an American Express card was a sign of privilege. If you could throw down an Amex card, you probably had more money than most.

Today, Amex still has a line of premium cards—the Black card that next to nobody can qualify for and the Platinum card with its big annual fee and huge perks. But they also have a whole lineup of great cards, like the Amex Everyday, for those who aren’t earning six figures.

But here’s the bad news—banks and card companies are getting smarter about who they do business with. The good news? You can save yourself some time and unnecessary hits to your credit score by getting pre-approved for an Amex card before you apply. I can tell you how.

Get Pre-Approved for the Best Amex Cards

Before we get into the Amex pre-approval process, let’s take a quick look at what you’re pre-qualifying for. Below are some of my favorite American Express cards. They are all a part of the excellent and flexible Membership Rewards program.

That program has a huge number of transfer partners, which means you can use your points to fly for free on a wide variety of airlines, to stay for free at hotels or book a rental car for free. You can also redeem for cash back or for one of my favorites, Amazon purchases.

Earn More for Popular Spending Categories: Amex EveryDay Cards

The Amex EveryDay and EveryDay Preferred cards are great for getting into the American Express Membership Rewards program. The EveryDay card has no annual fee, a 10,000-point sign-up bonus and earns double points at supermarkets.

The Everyday Preferred has a $95 annual fee, but you’ll get a lot more from this card. It’s my top pick because you’ll get triple points for groceries—something just about everyone spends a lot of money on. You’ll also get double points on gas, which is also a very popular spending category, and a 15,000-point sign-up bonus.

The Best All-Around Amex Card: Premier Rewards Gold Card

While the Premier Rewards Gold card costs a little more—$195 a year—it would be my choice if I could only have one Amex card. That’s because you’ll earn double points at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. You’ll also get triple points for airfare.

In addition to a respectable 25,000-point sign-up bonus, you’ll get an annual $100 airline fee credit that can be used for bag fees, in-flight purchases and more.

The Biggest Amex Sign-Up Bonus and Big Travel Benefits: The Platinum Card

Let’s talk about sign-up bonuses. Right now you can get a whopping 100,000 Membership Rewards points with the Business Platinum card. That’s as big as an Amex Sign-up bonus gets.

Unfortunately you have to spend a lot to get that bonus. You’ll get 50,000 points after spending $10,000 in three months and another 50,000 if you can spend $15,000 more in the same time period.

I know that most people can’t do that. But the personal version of the Platinum card also has a great sign-up bonus. You’ll get 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in three months.

Both of these cards come with huge benefits for travelers that will easily cover the annual fee if you use them. You’ll get the best lounge access with Priority Pass access, free entry into Delta Sky Clubs when you fly Delta and, best of all, complimentary access to the swanky Centurion Lounges.

You’ll also get an annual $200 airline fee credit, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee reimbursement, perks and upgrades through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and the Hotel Collection, Gold elite status with Starwood and Hilton hotels, car rental privileges and much more.

The personal Platinum has an annual $200 Uber credit and the Business Platinum includes a discount on points redeemed for airfare.

Why You Should Pre-Qualify With American Express: Save Your Credit Score

I love a good bargain, and even better, I love when a company gives me something for free or cheap. There’s a special feeling when I put something in my Amazon cart, get to the checkout page and see enough Amex rewards points to get it for free.

amex credit cards

Booking a flight and paying nothing is great, too. But I don’t want to ruin my credit by applying for a bunch of credit cards and getting denied.

By pre-qualifying, you can be more surgical on those hard credit pulls that lower your credit score. That’s because getting pre-approved involves a soft pull, not a hard pull. Pre-qualifying will never affect your credit score.

How to Pre-Qualify for American Express Cards

Remember when Amex was a status symbol representing affluence and class? Back then, you went to them—they didn’t come to you. But now Amex is no different than the other card companies.

You’ll receive offers in the mail and find their ads online. If you’re receiving pre-approval offers in the mail, that doesn’t mean you’ve qualified for a card. But it gives you a pretty good indication that you’re the demographic Amex is looking for.

Pre-approval is different than actually applying for the card. It means that Amex thinks you’re likely the get the card based on the information they have. It’s a great way to hedge your bets.

If you decide to apply, Amex will collect more information on you by doing a hard pull on your credit report. With that info, they’ll make their final decision. But if you’ve been pre-approved, chances are you’ll get the card.

American Express Online Credit Card Finder

When you get a pre-approval offer in the mail or your email, those are just the offers Amex is telling you about. You can also go online and check out the American Express pre-qualification page.

That page will ask for some basic information about you that allows Amex to do a soft pull on your credit. Don’t worry; it won’t affect your credit score. With that card match tool, you can then see all of the offers available to you. The credit card finder is very useful.

Remember, you’re looking for offers with an impressive bonus offer if you’re looking to bank some free travel. Those might appear at the top of the pre-qualification page.

New Rules Restricting Bonuses

I mentioned earlier that banks are getting a smarter. Much like supermarkets clamped down on those extreme couponers by changing the rules regarding coupons, so too are banks.

Banks like Chase with it’s 5/24 rule, and now Amex, are trying to weed out people who apply for the card, get the bonus awards and either close the card or never use it again.

This isn’t a profitable relationship for the banks, so they’re making it harder to apply for multiple cards and get approved.

Once Per Lifetime Rule

Here’s how Amex’s policy works. First, you can only bank a sign-up bonus once per card. If you had a Platinum card and later closed it, you can’t apply again down the road to get another bonus. That doesn’t fly (see what I did there?) anymore.

Recent Applications

The number of cards you’ve applied for in the recent past may disqualify you, too. In other words, if Amex sees a pattern that tells them that you’re a travel hacker—such as applying for a larger than normal number of cards in a short time span—you may be denied.

Be Careful About How You Meet the Minimum Spend

The days when you could buy a bunch of gift cards to meet your minimum spend are gone, too. Issuers don’t like manufactured spending.

Amex specifically says that purchases of “checks; purchases or reloading of prepaid cards; purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments; or purchases of other cash equivalents” won’t count toward the minimum spend to get the points.

There Are Other Options

If you’re having a hard time getting an Amex or Chase card because of their restrictive rules (or for any other reason), you still have a lot of options. There are plenty of cards with outstanding rewards that don’t fall under the Amex or Chase brands.

The Southwest cards come with some impressive rewards largely because of the Companion Pass that allows you to take a family or friend with you for free. And if you get two of the Southwest cards at the same time, the sign-up bonuses alone may qualify you for the pass.

south west credit cards

Another to look at is the new Marriott Reward Premier Plus. There are a lot of good rewards cards on the market.

But let’s not count out Amex. It’s a great program and they offer excellent cards. Just be sure to check to see if you pre-qualify for the card before applying. That saves a hard pull and ding to your precious credit score.

Be Responsible

Don’t forget—the banks know what they’re doing. There are plenty of free points to be had but only if you’re the type of person that can grab the points and never pay interest on your purchases.

Not everybody can do that, so be honest with yourself. The banks offer these enticements because they know that enough people will sign up with no intention of paying interest but in the end, they will. Don’t be a statistic. Grab your points, but also make sure to never carry a balance and pay interest.

Pre-Qualify Before You Apply

There’s no reason not to get pre-approved before you apply for an American Express card. The Amex pre-qualify process is quick, easy and painless. Afterwords, you’ll have a pretty good idea which cards you can get.

Then you’ll just have to decide which Amex card you want to apply for. Will it be the top-of-the-line Platinum, the big earning Premier Gold Rewards card, or one of the affordable EveryDay cards?

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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