The greater manufactured spend and churning collective has been slowly twirling toward a land of confusion with American Express application rules, especially related to no-lifetime language (NLL) applications. Let’s clear it all up: Lifetime language and a popup during a new credit card application aren’t the same thing, and they don’t matter in the same ways.

(No-)Lifetime Language

Lifetime language with American Express cards means that the application’s terms and conditions say something like the following, usually in bold, usually as the very first sentence:

“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card or previous versions of [CARD] from American Express”

No-lifetime language (NLL) means there’s no such language in the terms and conditions.

Practically speaking, this language doesn’t actually matter to a churner because unless you need to arbitrate with or sue American Express, the terms and conditions don’t affect whether or not you get a sign-up bonus. What does matter then?

The Popup

If you’re not eligible for a sign-up bonus, American Express will tell you before you submit your final application. You’ll see a popup that says:

Name, based on [reasons], you are not eligible to receive the welcome offer. We have not yet performed a credit check. Would you still like to proceed?”

If you get that popup, you’re not going to get the bonus whether or not the card has NLL. If you don’t get the popup, you are going to get the bonus whether or not the card has NLL provided you hit the spend requirements.

Why You Should Care

Since lifetime language doesn’t matter unless you want to sue or arbitrate with AmEx, why do we talk about it so much? A couple of reasons:

  • No-lifetime language offers are less likely to give a popup
  • No-lifetime language offers will often let you get multiple accounts for the same card

So, don’t be afraid to lob in an application for a juicy American Express sign-up bonus because you’ve already had the card and it’s not NLL. If you don’t get a popup, the bonus is in the bag.

Pictured: The bonus in the bag.