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Is American Express Is Cracking Down Hard On Approvals?

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American Express Approvals Are Tougher To Come By 

American Express Approvals Are Tougher To Come By

I received a reports from a few readers of American Express denials and they have all come in the last few days. While this shouldn’t be too surprising with the economy looking shaky for the foreseeable future and with lenders cracking down on approvals, welcome offers and slashing credit limits.  It only makes sense for them to be proactive and to protect themselves against potential bad debt and risk.  But this is a little surprising because American Express has been on pretty much auto approve for so long, especially for current card holders.  Even if you received the dreaded pop-up you could still get the card, just not the welcome offer. Approvals were especially easy to come by if you are a current cardholder.  Amex would even stop doing hard pulls once you were a cardmember and approve you with a soft pull.  It appears that has recently changed some and that American Express approvals are tougher to come by these days.

Recent Denial Data Points

A couple of readers sent in their denial letters with the following reasons listed on them:

  • Too many recent credit inquiries.
  • Past due payment with American Express in the past (talking about years ago not recent).
  • Current balance on American Express accounts was too high.
  • Too many inquiries in the last 12 months.
  • Average age of accounts is too low.
  • High balances relative to claimed income.
  • Returned payment in the past (input bad bank info and this was several years ago).

It appears even when people are being approved it is instant approved less often.  So underwriting is likely looking at it and that means no instant credit card numbers as well which is a favorite among many in the miles and points world.

American Express Approvals Are Tougher To Come By 

Why This Is Surprising

If this was a letter from Capital One, Barclays or Bank of America it wouldn’t be surprising.  But since it is American Express it feels like the ground is shifting some. I can’t remember these being an issue in the past with Amex and I for sure have not heard of multiple denials citing them over a short time frame.

It appears American Express approvals are going to be tougher for the near future.  Right now we are not sure if there is a set standard in place like Bank of America’s 2/3/4 rule etc. It may be too soon to tell if this is widespread or if we are looking at a few data points that just happened to be at the same time.

I would lean towards approvals being more difficult in the near future with Amex.  It makes a lot of sense why they would be more cautious in our current economic climate.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t a little surprised to see it.  I mean Amex has welcomed us with open arms for a lot of years.

Final Thoughts

The thing I find most interesting about all of this is the fact that American Express is pulling up late or returned payments from several years back.  It has long been their stance that if you have one that you will be auto denied for the next 6 months or so on any new applications but I can’t remember them going back this far.

You will want to make sure your balances are low before applying for any new American Express cards going forward.  At this point we are not sure what number of recent inquiries they are looking to be under but I am sure that will shake out with more data points.  I know the readers that reached out where in the teens over the last few years.

Does it surprise you that American Express approvals are seemingly tougher to come by, or is this a somewhat expected shift? If you have any data points to share please do so in the comments.

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Only have Amex Gold and Business Gold. No revolvers so no preset limits on the 2 charge cards. Not worried about my internal limit with them but will be interesting to see how they treat those in the coming months with revolvers as it relates to the cutting of limits.

  2. I just applied for and got the Amex Gold (got the 50k SUB). I was 1/24 (2/24 if they’d count being an AU on an account), 1% utilization, and between 800-830 credit score depending on which bureau. The 6 months to hit the SUB made it too tempting to pass up. Annoying thing to remember for next time, I went to pull the T’s & C’s at the approval page to save the 50K SUB info but didn’t realize once it clicks out of that page you can’t get back in to get your instant approval #.

  3. Amex was basically the last issuer that would essentially approve almost anybody in the churning space with no concern for inquiries, new accounts, etc. Of course you could be denied, but it was honestly easy to get approved if you had a decent enough score. That appears to be changing. How much so, we will see.

    • Exactly Kevin. Too early to tell right now but sad to see it change since they were the best thing out there for approvals.

  4. AMEX also appears to be cracking down on signup bonuses. Although I have stellar credit, an AMEX popup warned me that I would not qualify for a Hilton Aspire signup bonus if approved because of a list of BS reasons such as too many cancelled cards. Although I did downgrade from Platinum to Green in 2016, and did not put much spending on those cards, I upgraded back to AMEX gold in January and spent about $8,000 over three months. It didn’t help because I’m still getting that no-bonus-for-you message and with my spending greatly down due to COVID-19, I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever get an AMEX bonus again.

    • I am surprised the 8K in spend didn’t drop it. I think I spent in the 10-15K range before trying mine again when it finally dropped off.

      • So if I want the Blue Cash Everyday, I should apply before I close the Hilton business. Which btw will be closing since i am going to have to ask for a refund because of travel cancel due to you know what, and they will most likely in turn claw back the points earned on this

  5. For the last six months, I’ve been wanting to get the Hilton asphire card, but always got the dreaded pop up. I currently had bonvoy,brilliant, and business Delta. I’ve also closed about 3 other amer cards in the last three years. For the last 3 months I was putting spend on all of my current cards. A little over a week ago , I called to cancel my bonvoy because renewal fee hit, and am growing sick of marriotts constant devaluations. No retention offer, so I cancelled. Yesterday I figured I’d try the Hilton asphire one more time, expecting the same results. I was approved instantly with no pop up. Go figure.

    • Nice – congrats Al! I am thinking the 3 months of spend on your cards got you off the naughty list. At least that is what did it for me.

      • So if I want the Blue Cash Everyday, I should apply before I close the Hilton business. Which btw will be closing since i am going to have to ask for a refund because of travel cancel due to you know what, and they will most likely in turn claw back the points earned on this…

    • 3rd party gift cards? Raise and ABC Gift cards are the most commonly used. Otherwise you need to get into private groups etc. for the best deals / offers. That also requires larger quantities.


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