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Exploiting American Express referral bonuses

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The credit card posts on Head for Points are focussed on the sign-up and ongoing bonuses that you can get for applying personally for the various loyalty credit cards.  These are, at present, the easiest way to accumulate a large pile of Avios or other points quickly and cheaply.

However, if you have a British Airways Amex or an Amex Platinum, Green, Centurion or Preferred Rewards Gold charge card, there are also attractive referral bonuses available that can make it attractive to get a card for your partner, parents or other close friend or relative, with you pocketing the miles!

How can you take advantage of both ends of the bonus (assuming the card recipient agrees!)?  With Avios, it is easy – you can issue a flight ticket for yourself from the others persons BAEC account, or form a household account with them and access their miles that way. 

With American Express Membership Rewards points it is – whilst not openly publicised by Amex – usually possible to transfer them into anyones airline account, even if the names do not match.  I have done this in the past with Nectar, Priority Club and Club Carlson transfers.

Yesterday – after I had already drafted this post, as it happens – Amex changed the rules on referral bonuses for the Platinum and Gold card.  You must now be a new customer to Amex to receive a referral bonus for these products, which unfortunately knocks out a lot of people who already hold BA, SPG, Nectar, Platinum, Gold, Centurion, Green etc Amex cards. 

(If you a supplementary card holder on someone else’s Amex account, then you are NOT treated as an Amex client and so you are OK.) 

What is not yet clear is how long you have to wait after cancelling your existing Amex cards to be treated as a new customer – I would give it at least six months.

Let’s take a look at the possible combinations:

If you have the BA Amex or BA Premium Plus Amex and refer a BA Premium Plus Amex:

You get 9,000 Avios for referring and your friend receives 31,000 for signing up and spending £3,000 in three months

Total Avios earned:  40,000 for £150 fee

Verdict:  OK deal.  It is not clear if fee is refunded pro-rata if the card is later cancelled.  However, as per the Cards Update page, there is an offer for 40,000 Avios for a new application anyway with no referral required.

If you have the BA Amex or BA Premium Plus Amex and refer a BA Amex:

You get 2,000 Avios for referring and your friend receives 2,000 for signing up and spending £500 in three months

Total Avios earned:  4,000 for £0 fee

Verdict:  Not worth the effort unless the referred person genuinely wants the card

If you have a Centurion, Platinum, Gold or Green Amex and refer an Amex Platinum card:

You get 25,000 Membership Rewards points for referring and your friend receives 52,000 for signing up and spending £2,000 in three months

Total Membership Rewards points earned:  77,000 for £450 fee

Verdict:  A fantastic deal if you cancel the card quickly, since the £450 fee is refunded pro-rata to your membership period used.  If you cancel after three months, for example, you will get £300-£350 back whilst retaining the 77,000 points.  Only open to people who do not already have an Amex card.  £40,000 income requirement.

If you have a Centurion, Platinum, Gold or Green Amex and refer an Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card:

You get 12,000 Membership Rewards points for referring and your friend receives 22,000 for signing up and spending £1,000 in three months

Total Membership Rewards points earned:  34,000 for £0 fee (fee free for first year)

Verdict:  A fantastic deal if you are nervous about cancelling a Platinum card and reclaiming the fee, as the card is free for the first year (£125 thereafter).  Only open to people who do not already have an Amex card.  £20,000 income requirement.

In my view, the best deal here is for the American Express Platinum charge card as long as you are happy paying the £450 and then claiming a pro-rata refund after cancellation.  (The T&C’s of the card confirm you can do this, so you are not asking for a favour by doing so.)  You could earn 77,000 Membership Rewards points between you for, depending on how fast you cancel, around £100 of fee.  The person you refer needs to have a £40,000 income to get the Amex Platinum card, though – if you can’t reach that, the Gold card only requires £20,000.

Note that you must transfer your Membership Rewards points before you cancel the card, so there is a trade off involved as Amex occasionally runs 30%-40% transfer bonuses on transfers to Avios.  The longer you wait for a transfer bonus, the smaller the fee that will be refunded to you when you cancel.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – October 2022 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (6)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • TheFlyingDoctor says:

    Hmm, I was planning to move to the amex plat at some point in the future, but currently hold the BA amex, and an MBNA BMI amex. So I’d have to do without those for a few months before the introductory points were available?

    • louie-m says:

      You wouldn’t need to give up the MBNA Amex – Amex are only interested in cards they themselves have issued.

      Would be interesting to know how long a break is needed. This is one of those questions which is often asked but never answered!

      • Raffles says:

        Some comments on Flyertalk and Paid To Shop from people who have called Amex say they treat you as a new customer after six months from previous cancellation. I doubt you’d get that in writing, though.

  • Rich says:

    The ‘Important Info’ section on the referral page (for Gold Card) states:

    “The 22,000 Membership Rewards points and ‘First Year Free’ offer are only available to new American Express Charge Cardmembers. Please note, this offer is subject to change.”

    On this basis, I would say you will be fine if you have either of BA credit cards, as these are not ‘Charge’ Cards.

    • Raffles says:

      My gut feeling is that they haven’t got around to changing this wording yet, since the wording on the main Amex site only changed yesterday. That said, if you take a screenshot and apply now you should (eventually) convince Amex to cough up!

  • Two little known Amex Membership Rewards features | Head for Points says:

    […] I wrote my piece on Friday about getting family and partners to apply for American Express cards so that you could both benefit […]

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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