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AmEx Strikes Again: Green Card Now Affected by “Waterfall” Rule

Just when you thought the lifetime language situation with AmEx couldn’t get any worse, they’ve gone ahead and added another restriction to their signup bonuses. This time, the victim is the AmEx Green Card, which now falls under the dreaded “waterfall” rule.

If you’re not familiar with the “waterfall” rule, it’s a sneaky way of preventing you from getting a signup bonus on a lower-tier card in a card family if you’ve ever had a higher-tier card in that same family. For example, if you’ve ever had the AmEx Platinum, you’re now ineligible for a bonus on the AmEx Gold or the AmEx Green. In other words, your ineligibility “waterfalls” down, but does not go the opposite direction. This means the optimal order in which to obtain these cards is from the Green, to the Gold, and then finally the Platinum.

This rule was first introduced on the personal Delta cards a few months ago, and then expanded to the AmEx Gold Card shortly after. Now, the AmEx Green Card has joined the club, making it even harder to earn those valuable Membership Rewards points.

Here’s the new language on the Green Card:

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

American Express Offer Terms

This is a huge blow to anyone who was planning to get the Green Card for its 40,000-point welcome bonus and its unique benefits, such as the $189 annual CLEAR credit and the $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit. The Green Card was also a great option for those who wanted a lower annual fee ($150) than the Gold ($250) or the Platinum ($695).

Now, the only way to get the Green Card bonus is if you’ve never had any of the other cards in the AmEx family, or obtain an elusive “no lifetime language” offer. That’s a pretty narrow window, considering how popular the Platinum Card and Gold Card are among points & miles enthusiasts.

The good news is that the business cards are still safe from the “waterfall” rule, at least for now. You can still get the bonuses on the Business Green, the Business Gold, and the Business Platinum, regardless of your personal card history. But who knows how long that will last, given AmEx’s track record.

The bottom line is that AmEx is making it harder and harder to earn their points, which is a shame because they have some of the best transfer partners and redemption options in the business. If you’re looking to maximize your Membership Rewards points, you’ll have to be strategic and careful about which cards you apply for and when. And don’t forget to check the fine print before you pull the trigger.

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