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AmEx Adds “Waterfall” Lifetime Language to Gold Card: What You Need to Know

American Express has been shaking things up in the credit card world lately, and not in a good way. They’re back with another curveball, this time targeting the AmEx Gold Card. If you’re a points & miles enthusiast who’s been eyeing that shiny Gold Card in your wallet, there’s some news you need to know – and it probably won’t be what you’re wanting to hear.

Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

First, let’s talk about what’s happening. AmEx has introduced new language on some of their cards in relation to who is eligible to receive a signup bonus. Aptly termed “waterfall language” by credit card churners, it’s all about preventing you from snatching up a signup bonus on a lower-tier card in a card family once you’ve held (or currently hold) a higher-tier card in that same family. In other words, if you hold (or have held) the AmEx Platinum, your ineligibility for a bonus “waterfalls” down to cards below it, but the inverse is not true.

This language isn’t entirely new, but it is concerning. Waterfall language made its debut a few weeks ago on personal Delta cards. The idea behind it is to encourage cardmembers to keep progressing within a card family, from basic to premium, while making it less appealing to go “backwards.”

This also comes on the heels of AmEx restricting welcome bonuses on Platinum Cards to count most variants as one product for the sake of the once-in-a-lifetime rule – and that’s reflected in the fine print we’ve quoted down below.

The Impact on AmEx Gold Card

So, how does this affect the AmEx Gold Card? Well, if you currently hold or have ever had any flavor of the personal AmEx Platinum card, you’re out of luck when it comes to scoring a signup bonus on the personal AmEx Gold. Ouch.

This change is likely to disappoint current or former Platinum cardholders who were eyeing the Gold Card’s signup bonus. Fortunately, the rule doesn’t work the other way around, so Gold Card members can still chase that Platinum SUB if they desire.

Here’s a snippet from the fine print on the Gold Card:

You may not be eligible to receive a welcome offer if you have or have had this Card, the Premier Rewards Gold Card, the Platinum Card, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Charles Schwab, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley or previous versions of these Cards.

New language restricting welcome bonuses from AmEx

What’s Safe (For Now)?

Fortunately, not all AmEx cards are affected. As of now, the AmEx Green Card remains unscathed by this “waterfall” rule, and the same goes for all the business cards in the AmEx lineup. But the big question here is if AmEx will continue to expand this rule.

It’s worth noting that when AmEx rolled out this rule on the Delta card family, they left the lower-tier Delta Blue card untouched. The Delta business cards also got a free pass. It’s uncertain if AmEx will cast a wider net in the future, but history suggests it’s a possibility. In other words, if you have your eye on a particular AmEx card, and are a current or former holder of a higher-tier card in that family, you might want to grab those signup bonuses while they’re still available. For example, if you’re a Hilton loyalist with an Aspire Card in your wallet, now would be a good time to go ahead and grab the Surpass Card for the signup bonus.

Strategy Going Forward

So, what’s the game plan if you’re chasing those juicy Membership Rewards points and starting from zero? It seems the strategy is clear: progress sequentially within a given card family. For example, start with the Green Card, then move on to the Gold, and eventually, reach for the Platinum – in that order. This way, you can collect all those sweet signup bonuses “on the way up.”

In the world of credit card rewards, change is the only constant, and AmEx’s “waterfall” rule is just the latest twist. Keep your eye on the ever-evolving landscape, and always stay one step ahead in the game of maximizing your credit card rewards.