American Express removes the minimum income requirement from its cards

I had advance notice on Tuesday that American Express was about to make changes to the minimum income requirements to apply for its cards.

To be honest, I assumed that they were going to go up.

Instead, Amex has removed minimum income requirements altogether.

Amex Platinum

These were the previous HOUSEHOLD minimum income figures for the travel cards:

Preferred Rewards Gold (charge) – £20,000

Platinum (charge) – £40,000

British Airways (credit) – £20,000

British Airways Premium Plus (credit) – £20,000

Starwood Preferred Guest (credit) – £30,000

If we’re honest, these figures were probably too low.

Let’s take the British Airways Premium Plus card.  This comes with a £195 annual fee.  Someone on a salary of £20,000 will take home £1,397 per month.  That is not necessarily a good income base for shelling out a £195 annual card fee.

Similarly, a £40,000 salary gives you take home pay of £2,530 per month.  A £450 fee for Amex Platinum is a disproportionately high percentage of that.  I’m not sure that this works in favour of Amex when it comes to recruiting cardholders who will stick with it for the long term.

This is why I expected the minimum income numbers to increase.  Instead, they have gone.

I can see the logic here.  After all, a single person living at home on a £20,000 salary has a totally different disposable income profile to someone who is married with two kids and a mortgage taking home £20,000.  Taking a strict cut-off level is a blunt instrument.

It remains to be seen if American Express will, instead, make their application forms more complex and start digging deeper into your personal and financial situation before accepting you.

Do let me know if you decide to apply for one of the cards above, where you would previously have failed to pass the household income test, and are now successful.

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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  1. Min. income for gold charge was 30000 not 20000. And you are probably right with tighter checks- my gold charge approved straight away but when i recently applied for BA credit card (which require lower income than amex gold), I was refused despite decent turnover on my gold charge account…

  2. Income plays a significant role in most credit decisions, including FCA imposed affordability checks. I wouldn’t conclude that the removal of an arbitrary income cut-off means it is playing any less of a role. It is more likely, as Rob suggests, that Amex have become better at assessing individual financial circumstances.

  3. What you haven’t considered is that spend might not be disspossable income spend but other types of spend such as work-related expenditure. It was my work-related expenditure which first attracted me to getting a credit card with benefits. It made my cash flow easier and rewarded me for the inconvenience of not having a corporate credit card.

  4. Henry C says:

    I think household income as a concept is ridiculous in the first place.
    I’ll put forward my stance. I’m 21 and live with my parents, and I work in IT.
    My household income is therefore about 5 times my personal income, which is a crazy way of establishing whether it would make sense for me to have one or not.
    Personal income would be a better base, but really I’d favour credit checks more as even on a relatively low income my work travel and also ad hoc IT spend at work gives me lots of opportunity to put expenses through the Amex for points.

    • Genghis says:

      In many cases household income is a valid check. Ie. Wife earns £100k, husband earns £15k, the husband would be able to afford the card based on overall couple income

    • Often the definition of household income would not include your parental income. Not sure what AmEx used to define it as, but I have seen definitions that only include spouse/partner.

      • It would Never include parental income!

        Household income is quite simply principal + spouse

        • I might be completely wrong but I could never find any additional
          Information on this. Households we’re not defined in the T&Cs.

    • Are you still in your parents’ “household” at 21 for credit card purposes?

      • Realistically speaking, many people are still living entirely off there parents in their twenties, and even slightly dependant on them beyond that point – especially if their parents happen to be well off. This of course makes the calculations solely based on your and your spouse’s income irrelevant in all those cases.

  5. I am delighted the income requirement has been removed. I am a director of my own (limited) company and don’t take a salary but the company pays me a dividend. Amex did not allow my dividends to count as income.

    • Let us know if you now get accepted.

    • This has never been an issue for me. I have the Platinum, Gold, Starwood and BA Premium cards right now, with a £60k available credit limit on the latter, all whilst having an official salary < £10k a year, yet dividends making that 6 figures.

    • They have no way of knowing your income. You could put down £1m and if you consistently put that on all your applications for all credit etc. then £1m would become the norm for you.

      Of course, if you rent a room in your mate’s flat then you are still going to run into issues but it is spend patterns, paying it off (for example, you cannot put £10k a month onto a card and pay it off each month if you are earning £20k a year can you ?) and so forth which build out you profile.

      When we took out a deal on my wife’s new X3 it was about £55k but they let her drive it away for £2k down and nigh on £900 a month at about 3% or so. On the finance forms, which I filled in, there was no “how much do you earn ?” question at BMW and I pulled them up on this. I am not even sure if there was a job question at all.

      Thus, with BMW at least, it is not necessarily the information you give them that makes the decision but rather the anecdotal and probably hidden information they and the credit reference agencies already hold on you that influences the decision as to whether you fit their acceptable credit risk profile.

    • Barnaby100 says:

      That is not accurate. I am a director and have had multiple amex cards during that time. I have always stated that I am a director and put down my total income. The only credit card to ever question was the Virgin Atlantic mbna and I sent them the company bank statements and they were happy with those.

      • I was recently rejected for the VIrgin White card which put a spanner in my miles collecting plan – I don’t have income but husband has very good income – I phoned the application through to explain this as it asks for your income and not household. He put me down as zero income but noted the household income. Got rejected so I appealed to MBNA sending payslips bank statements for joint account etc but still got a standard reject letter referring me to my experian credit report which is at 999 – so I am none the wiser as to why I got rejected. Hoping to upgrade my husbands gold to platinum soon then refer me for platinum – makes me nervous to apply again though.

        • James67 says:

          Liz, do you have any other mbna cards in your own name or was this your first application? If you have another card the simplest thing to do is just call and ask if you can split the credit limit with virgin white. If no other cards I suppose you could try calling (but better write) again and tell them you will refer it to ombudsman if they don’t approve card for you within a month given your excellent credit score. You probably don’t have a leg to stand on by raising it given your lack of income but the mere threat with associated time and cost might bounce mbna into approving you a card with low limit.

          • No I don’t have any more MNBA – I am a suppl on husbands black card which we were going to cancel but have decided to keep on now to give options for Virgin/IHG/Hilton. I was hoping to get the MBNA AA card next time there was a bigger bonus but that’s not going to happen now. Our credit limit on my husbands card is higher than I would like but that doesn’t count for me.

            • James67 says:

              You could get your husband to set up a monthly standing order to a current account that is solely in your name. You then have an income. Next time the virgin card (or other cards of interest) comes round with extra bonus then try applying again. Be sure to put your employment stats as homemaker or housewife, not unemployed.

            • James, I already have 2 current accounts in my name only in order to get some interest and have ready access. Both have standing orders from our main joint account. So could I declare this as income?

            • Thanks not really income as I am just recycling money in and out to gain interest. Not sure I could declare that as income?

            • *that’s*

    • The definition of income is ‘money received, especially on a regular basis, for work or through investments’ so based on I would not have a problem as declaring dividends as income.

  6. What a good idea. Having minimum income rules discriminates against the financially independent.

  7. Trickster says:

    Related to this, does anyone know whether the Hilton credit card uses household or personal income as a retrial? Thanks.

  8. Oyster says:

    At current prices I will like retire on less than £40k per year. But hopefully I will have other cash and investments available to draw against.
    An example, along with the Ltd company director above, where pure income isn’t a great indicator of credit affordability.

    • Ditto I will retire at 55 with just under 40 k pension rising with inflation and an uplift at the state pension age plus whatever state pension is still around. But should have no real outgoings so was concerned that I would have to give up the platinum card. The announcement clarifies that.

  9. Very interesting. I’m a student now undertaking and have an income of roughly £12k (excluding student loans). I do have the BAPP from when I was able to say the household income was above £30k.

    Whilst enquiring about adding a supplementary card holder a few weeks back I was offered the Gold Card, but had to confirm my *personal* income as being above £20k. I said it wasn’t and was told I wasn’t eligible.

    I’ll try and get a referral link and apply online for it again now- and post back here!

    • If you made a formal application then Amex and the credit reference companies will now have your income at XYZ a year and if you make another quick application then the income will be inconsistent and flag it up as a potentially higher risk than otherwise would be the case.

      Just the same if you put different employers down on your file each time, different expenses, different addresses etc. Instability and the potential for people inflating their incomes come into play in their assessment.

      • The whole system is odd. I had a tricky period whilst on gardening leave from my City job where I was sitting on plenty of assets but with no employment income.

        Hint – homemaker will generally get you accepted in situations where putting unemployed would not!

        Still have no idea what to put on the forms now. Publishing / Media? Travel? Technology?

  10. I haven’t had an income of £40k for many years, but had an Amex Plat more recently! Now I could legitimately re-apply if I wanted.

  11. Platinum is 40 k , but its a joint 40k as they ask your combined family income

  12. Warren says:

    I currently have a Preferred Rewards Gold card but due to my wife working part time she wouldn’t historically be eligible for her own card so she currently has a supplementary card on my account.

    Would she now be able to get a card through her own account and still get the 20,000 bonus points? Or would I have to cancel her card then let her apply? Or cancel her card then wait 6 months until she applies. Also, would I be able to have a supplementary card on here account to help hit the £2k target in the first 3 months?

    Btw, I want to hang onto my cold card to access some lounge clubs later on this summer.
    Sorry about the amount of questions, hopefully someone has a simple solution!

    • Yes, but you must refer her, and get your own referral bonus also. Yes you can be named on her card too, to make the spend. Being on your card doesn’t affect her application at all. It’s worth renewing yours too if you hit the annual spend as they will give you a bonus of 15k avios on renewal. Transfer them out, then cancel yours. Then next year have your wife refer you.

    • I got the gold card and SPG card in my name last year with no personal income but with husbands household income so she could have her own card with you as a suppl.

  13. PointsMaker says:

    Little OT maybe, I think it’s a well know but not not often discussed “feature” that if one upgrades to Platinum from gold using the upgrade link for extra points, Amex forgets to charge the annual fee. How does this affect the insurance product, as technically you haven’t paid the membership fee, so perhaps this would invalidate the insurance?

    I wouldn’t like to be in the situation where I needed to claim but was unable to due to the fee not having been charged.

    • Presumably your best bet would be to contact Amex and let them know they haven’t charged you yet…? ;p

    • Do you not charged at the time of cancellation if they omit to charge you at the start??

    • Tilly71 says:

      Ahh, That’s why I didn’t get charged anything for having my amex plat for a month when I got the 20k bonus for 1k spend. ☺

    • I tried the link recently and it didn’t give me the bonus points. Waiting for the fee to hit me as my account hasn’t yet gone through a billing cycle since upgrading. Looks like that ‘offer’ is now dead in the water…

      • Andrew* says:

        How recently? I upgrade a few weeks ago, qualifying spend came through today and 20k bonus MR points just posted…

        (What I didn’t get with the upgrade was the ‘target bar’ on the app telling me how much was left to spend to hit the spend target…)

      • James67 says:

        Just used it successfully 30 minutes ago.

    • James67 says:

      Well, I for one didnot kniw that, thanks :)

      Presumably MR points earned from PRG remain in account after upgrade ir do we need to transfer them out before upgrading?

      • Stuart says:

        The points just carry over. Have done this twice & have never been charged when cancelled.

        • James67 says:

          Thanks Stuart, just upgraded successfully.

          • Be aware, you won’t get the 20k bonus points based on a reader report this week. It has either been withdrawn or Amex is matching names against those who were emailed and only giving it if you were.

            • James67 says:

              Thanks Rob, i did not use the link directly from here I just went directly from a page on amex own website which may or may not be the same link. But page is freely available there and, unless I missed it, it did not say anything about it being targeted. Do you think I should call and ask if I’m eligible for bonus or just wait and see what happens when I hit spend target?

            • No idea … no harm ringing although whether the agent can see if the computer would give you a bonus is debatable!

              There may of course have been other specific reasons why this reader didn’t get it although he didn’t know of any.

            • James67 says:

              Goodmorning Rob, I went back to read the t&c on the offer page this morning and it appears to be gone. Therefore, I’m happy I applied last night. I will call Monday to check what they say on 20k bonus and report back.

            • ROb/James – I just phoned Amex to ask about the upgrade and was told the 20k bonus offer is on until 11 Jan 2017

    • Sideysid says:

      Thanks for bring this to my attention. I have upgraded and although it was not ‘approved’ right off the bat my Apple Pay has updated me shortly afterwards to say my Amex card details have been changed on my behalf which gives the game away somewhat.

  14. Catman99 says:

    Off topic… I am on one of the cheap business class flights on air Qatar from Oslo. My outward flight from Gatwick is now 6 hours delayed so I will miss my connecting flight. What should I do? I think that’s all the flights for today so I suppose I could rebook if I go and stay overnight in a hotel. Does anyone have any recommendations – I have no status?

    • Eek so if I read this right your positioning flight is delayed and thus you’re going to miss the first flight of your Qatar ticket? This is a major issue if so as subsequent sectors will be cancelled. I’d urgently get on the phone to Qatar and see what they can sort out for you!

    • Any chance you could get a ticket on line from Lhr or LCY ? Am sure you tried. That’s really bad luck…you could still make it am sure if you changed airports, by taxi if ness! Do you have avios to quickly book on BA? Call QR in MAN. Will charge you a change fee usually nicer to biz pax than Y ones. Good luck!

    • OP probably on board now looks like he had the Norwegian D82802 flight due to go out at 0920 has a new departure time of 1530.

      Good luck.

      • Catman99 says:

        I didn’t go in the end. I knew I had missed my connection and there were no more flights that day, so I would have been stuck overnight in Oslo. My insurance covers up to £1K but last minute business class flights one way were already well over that, then there would have been hotel etc. There just didn’t seem to be any right answer.

        Even getting back out of the airport is a real pain. You have to be guided out by staff and go through immigration. You can’t use the e-gates as you haven’t left the UK and go through the Red Lane in Customs even though I hadn’t bought any Duty Frees. The worse thing was I had to wait an hour and a half for a member of staff to pick me up in Departures.

        • Good lesson for others

          Commiserations to Catman99


          Think about using partner airlines etc

        • Sorry to hear that – how frustrating (esp that bit at the end waiting to get out) – did Qatar come up with any alternative for you?

        • Very sorry to hear that. I would have tried to get Qatar to reissue your ticket on the basis that it was a fellow oneworld alliance member who screwed you up, and possibly even put you on a flight out of London. If you turned up at the Heathrow ticket desk in person they may have been willing. Alternatively, get yourself to Oslo and see what you can negotiate when there.

          At the end of the day, it doesn’t cost the airline anything – as long as there are seats unsold which will remain unsold – to help you out.

  15. OT re MBNA credit cards and Lloyds:

  16. OT re MBNA credit cards and Lloyds:

  17. barnaby100 says:

    My parents are their 80s. My mother reports that her friends- all cash rich/ asset rich and most with public sector pensions – are having difficulties getting credit cards and/or decent limits when their spouses die- even when they have been supplementary cardholders for many years. So holding card independently would seem to be a good idea as you age.

  18. Dannyrado says:

    Have amex stopped transfers to IHG?? I can’t find the option on the website

  19. Thomas says:

    Anex never really make sense in their dealings.
    Been a member since 1991, US based at first. Back in the UK in 2000 and also between jobs, so not even working, I was offered the Black Centurion. Took it of course but stopped when they raised the annual fee.

    • I was Business Gold on Amex which morphed into Platinum when you couldn’t apply for Platinum and then when Centurion came out I went over to that gratis for a couple of years. Like you I jumped when the fee jumped from £650 or so to ???? and never went back to the charge card.

  20. Slightly off-topic:
    I’ve had the BA premium AMEX for a little under two years now. However my income has been reduced massively since going to uni. I’m now considering signing up to the Gold Preferred card in order to get the 20,000 avios bonus. Will a problem occur due to discrepancies in my stated income or now, as of the change, it simply disregarded?

    Thanks in advance

  21. Stephanie says:

    I applied for AMEX Gold when I got my first job, obviously my income was significantly lower than £40K…but shortly after I submitted the application, I received a phone call from AMEX say they would like to invite me to apply for Platinum card. It was a really tough choice, the £300 annual card fee was a rather large sum, especially if you use “available income” as a measurement (Net income less living expenses). That was probably around 8% of my available income.

    It took me a good minute being silent on the phone before I told the guy that I would accept the invitation. (I fear if I rejected the offer, they might never invite me again, as I was hoping to get Platinum card shortly in the future)

    I did wonder why AMEX invited me, given I was totally honest with my income. But if AMEX could see the spending on my Barclaycard, then it might make sense…I believe there was about 40K spending through my Barclaycard per year.

  22. A friend of mine wants to start collecting Avios. Do you think as the first card, the Amex Gold card would be the best to join? How long does it take to transfer the Amex Reward Points to BAEC for example? Would transferring points from Gold Card to BAEC regularly keep the miles active in your account or do you need actual account activity on your BAEC account for any Avios to remain active?

    Thank you

    • I would do Gold. No fee and, importantly, you have a year to decide if Avios is for you. If not, you can cash out for something else.

    • Genghis says:

      Amex Gold is a good first card. It’s free. Transfers from MR to BAEC take a few days. Set up the link to BAEC prior to when you actually want to transfer to ensure quicker transfer. Any account on BAEC keeps avios active for another 3 years

  23. Thomas says:

    Anyone know how long it takes for the complimentary upgrade to HHonours Gold to process?