(Update) Wait, What? All Cards Can Count Towards The Amex 4 Card Limit?

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Charge Cards Count Towards Amex's 4 Card Limit

Do All Cards Count Towards Amex’s 4 Card Limit?

American Express has had a limit on how many credit cards you can carry with them for a while now.  It was a limit of 4, then it went to 5 or sometimes 6, and then back down to 4. But this was just for credit cards and not cards without a preset spending limit. The cards with no preset spending limit, like the Amex Platinum, were limitless. That was until they weren’t, and they are now capped at 10 per person. These two caps were completely separate though and they did not interfere with each other.  That is until dallasguy123 ran into this issue with his most recent application.

He was denied the credit card because he exceeded the 4 credit card limit. Except that he only had 3 credit cards and 3 cards with no preset spending limit and it shouldn’t have been an issue.  Even the rep was confused about it after looking over the account. It had everyone wondering, do all cards count towards Amex’s 4 card limit? That was until they figured out the culprit, Pay Over Time!

Credit Card Versus Cards With No Preset Spending Limit

Before we get ahead of ourselves we should point out the difference between credit cards and cards without preset spending limits. American Express puts them in different classes for a reason, since they are different types of lending products.

Charge Cards Count Towards Amex's 4 Card Limit

Cards Without Preset Spending Limits

Cards without preset spending limits are a type of card that requires you to pay the full amount you’ve charged each month. Though, Amex has a “pay over time” option available to some card members. Certain cards also have a feature that allows you to designate specified purchases to pay at a later time. They are initially set up in a way that there is no carrying a balance on your account from month to month though.

Charge Cards Count Towards Amex's 4 Card Limit

Credit Cards

Credit cards offer a revolving line of credit, meaning consumers may carry a balance from month to month rather than having to pay the balance in full every month. Each time you use a credit card, you are essentially taking out a loan, and card issuers require a payment of at least the minimum amount due be paid by the due date every month. Interest charges typically accrue on amounts carried over from previous billing cycles.

How Pay Over Time Plays In

Dallasguy123 and the rep tried to figure out what the hold up was on the application.  He only had 3 credit cards so the 4 card rule should not play a role in the application process.  That is when the Amex rep figured it out, one of his cards without a preset spending limit was auto enrolled in Pay Over Time. The Pay Over Time program allows you to essentially turn a card with no preset spending limit into a card that can carry a balance on selected purchases. People would sign up for this feature in the past as a way to get 10,000 easy points.

I have never heard of this being a problem before, or included in a person’s credit card count.  But it appears it may be an issue now.  American Express’ system is looking at the inclusion of Pay Over Time with a card with no preset spending limit the same as a more traditional credit card.

The rep told dallasguy123 that he would need to remove Pay Over Time from his account and then call reconsideration back after 24 hours.  They should be able to process the application then.

Final Thoughts

I think many of us have Pay Over Time on our accounts from previous offers but have not run into this issue previously.  I am not sure if this is a recent change or a one off anomaly at this point. It is something to be aware of if you are applying for an American Express card and are near the 4 card limit. You may want to call, or chat with, Amex and proactively remove Pay Over Time from your cards before applying.

If you have had a similar experience share it in the comments below.

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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20 COMMENTS

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Well just for giggles….I have had six Amex cards for years. Occassionally I drop one, get a different one and go on. Right now I have five credit cards and one charge card. The lineup is Plat, Gold, EDP, Bonvoy, Bonvoy Biz, and a very old Optima card that I wish I could PC to the BBC.

  2. The DP is completely false.
    It’s a bug that’s been around since 2018. He called the wrong number and spoke with a clueless rep.
    Talk to the correct department and this will be taken care of within minutes.

  3. 4 Amex cards is enough IMHO. Any more and you are just going for the sign up bonus that is gaming the system. People that do that (and those that push for MS) create issues and cause devaluation for the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong I have a total of 9 credit cards but each has a specific purpose and wasn’t done solely for bonuses.

    I frankly think Amex should have a 4 or 5 card limit across all their products and am glad Chase counts both credit and charge cards against their 5/24 requirements (even though that locks me out of another Chase card u til next November- considering SW or Hyatt since I use both and would get value from the card outside of any bonuses offered)

    • I don’t think either thing leads to devaluations and I have not seen anything showing any kind of proof that it is the cause. Devaluations are a business decision and happened long before miles and points were more mainstream. The increased offers from banks going after credit card holders has led to the devaluations more than anything. That and making the loyalty programs look more profitable to secure loans etc.

      Do you think people are out there chasing Delta Skymiles? Don’t think so, but they continue to be devalued all over the place. Why? Because they are the most popular credit cards American Express has. Remember that the miles and points community is very small and insignificant in the grand scheme of these programs.

      • More points issued to people for any reason = more balance sheet liability = more incentive to devalue. AA Flyer is right. There is no need to prove it, it is obvious on its face.

        • Rob you are making a direct correlation that is a stretch in my opinion. Yes more liability means more likely to devalue but this community is a small drop in the bucket compared to the larger program. Like I said increased card offers to everyone is more a cause than what AA listed. It would have been devalued anyway. Delta has 200M flyers annually alone that they are giving out miles to (or at least potentially). We are a small fraction of that pie. We are a small fraction of Amex cardholders etc. You guys are reaching in my opinion.

          • Also think of 20 years ago. All cards earned 1 mile / point per dollar if anything. Now no fee cards earn 3x or 5x. Issuers have jacked up welcome offers and earning structures in an effort to beat the market in a highly competitive and profitable space. You really don’t think that is the main reason for devaluations? Almost everyone has a points earning card now where few did a few decades ago.

          • Sorry, I’m genuinely confused by your argument. All of the points you make are the exact reason why they have to devalue over time. AA flyer and I are saying that all of this issuance of points is going to squeeze them financially. It makes perfect sense for them to devalue as well as look for other expense relief in the form of limiting how many cards and bonuses the most active 2% of customers are costing them.

          • My point is they would devalue regardless of people chasing sign up bonuses etc. because of what they are offering everyone. To say the miles and points community is to blame for it is taking it too far imo. That was my point. Even if everyone was straight laced like AA Flyer wishes they would still devalue their programs.

          • Ok, I can agree with the fact that they would devalue over time, no matter what. But I think you underestimate the impact churners have. They may be only 1 or 2% of customer, but I will bet you they take down 10 to 20% of overall issued rewards.

          • It would be interesting to see what the actual number is for sure.

            We can look at American Airlines though (totally anecdotally). They shut down the worst abusers and confiscated tens of millions of miles and took it off their balance sheet pretty much overnight. That was right before a pandemic where air travel is at all time lows, including cash prices. With this line of thinking (AA cleared their balance sheet, low priced flights) we should be seeing great award rates. I haven’t really seen any. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see them devalue again in the near future even though they cleaned up their accounts.

          • Yeah, I am actually surprised by that too. You would think this is a good time to offer all of the unused capacity to at least lower award rates and retire some points. AA in particular may just be so super desperate for cash that they don’t want to incentivize points usage over cash in the door, however little it is.

    • AA Flyer I have 4 Amex credit cards and 4 Amex charge cards. All of them are keeper cards for now. That said, with Amex gold devalued with the removed airline credit I may convert that one to Amex green (no SUB for conversions) depending on how a comparable value replacement for the credit shakes out. With none of those cards was I “just going for the sign up bonus.”
      Why do you “think Amex should have a 4 or 5 card limit across all their products”?

        • T1G3R
          I don’t MS due to not wanting to have 8 accounts be shut down, so it’s not good for that for me. If you are doing it on such a large scale on Amex yourself, how long have you been doing it and how many MR have you acquired through maxing the annual bonus via MS?

      • Correction: I likely will be converting Amex gold to Amex green. The Uber credit is a major downgrade in my opinion vs the airline credit. I have a car in an area with mostly free parking. I care less about the SUB than I do about 5×24.

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