New Amex Gold and Plat holders – a word on triggering the sign-up bonus …

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Last week I promoted an offer, now closed, for 30,000 bonus American Express Membership Rewards points with the fee-free Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card.  A lot of people took this offer up, and now have to spend £2,000 within 90 days to trigger the bonus.

(If you missed this offer, don’t worry.  You can still get 20,000 MR points – worth 20,000 Avios or other stuffDetails of the card are here.

Some people struggle to achieve the £2,000 target spend within 90 days.  Historically, I have suggested booking something refundable – like a fully flexible BA flight, cancellable for a £15 fee.  If Amex has set your account up properly, the 20,000 points would post instantly when the transaction that takes you over £2,000 of spending posts to your Amex statement.  You could then cancel the BA flight and retain the bonus.

Amex now seems to be taking a harder line on this.  A number of different reports, from different people, both from Head for Points readers and Flyertalk posters, makes it quite clear that Amex is now removing sign-up bonuses if a refund causes your net spend within the first 90 days to fall below £2,000.  And fair enough, of course.  Amex is already being hugely generous with their sign-up bonuses in the first place.

The best way to deal with this is, frankly, to spend £2,000 in 90 days cleanly!   This may mean, for example, thinking about how much spending you can realistically do in the next 90 days.  If you are going on holiday in March, for example, you may want to delay getting the card until January so that your hotel bill will fall into the 90 day period.

What are your other options?

Transfer your Membership Rewards bonus into Avios before your refund goes through.  This will leave you with a large negative MR balance, which would almost force you to cancel the card since you would take years to clear it with normal spend alone.  However, cancelling a card whilst leaving a negative MR balance is not going to endear you to Amex next time you want to apply for a card.

Do not refund your BA flight for a few months.  I doubt that the bonus points would get taken away if you triggered your refund outside the 90 day period.  This may mean, of course, that you have to settle your card bill for the flight now.  When you refund it, you will end up with a big credit balance on your card which will take a couple of months to work through.

Try to bring forward as much spending as possible to reach the £2,000.  If you spend £50 per week in Tesco, for example, why not buy £750 of Tesco giftcards?  You will have worked through them in 4 months and it is not a major complication to your life.  Perhaps you could top up your Oyster card with a few hundred pounds, or buy an annual rail season ticket instead of monthly ones?

Please post any other thoughts in the Comments below.  Whatever you do, though, do not burn your bridges with Amex.  Amex is THE major player in the UK loyalty credit card industry, and if you have a falling out with them then you will be the loser in the long run.

On a more positive note, I am pulling together a post on the quirks in the Amex Gold bonus points system (it is often possible to earn 3 or even 4 points per £1 instead of the usual 1) which will go up in a day or so.

(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. My advice if you’re struggling to hit spend (and if you’re not set on a particular Amex card) is to get the Starwood card, which is only £1000 spend to hit the bonus.

    Additionally, if you’re out for dinner with friends, throw down your Amex and pick up the cash that your fellow diners have contributed.

  2. martindeutsch says:

    I was hoping that getting married would help get towards the spending target, but neither the jeweller nor the pub we’re having the reception in take Amex, so this’ll take a bit more planning!

    If you haven’t already, sign up for a supplementary card for your partner to help out. Once they’ve been on a very cheap flight in business class, they’all understand and gleefully help spend on it…

  3. Trickster says:

    There is always the Amex sterling travellers cheque purchase option as discussed on one of your other posts, with a relatively small commission fee.

    Shame they don’t do delivery, but you can collect landslide a several airports. Not Manchester though unfortunately.

    • True. There is a fee but it is still a steal given the bonus.

      Or, of course, just get your holiday money from Amex Currency Exchange anyway. Rate if you preorder is OK and it goes through your card as a purchase, see recent posts on this.

      • Trickster says:

        Not got any current holiday plans unfortunately.

        Are you aware of whether any other establishments treat Amex currency/ TC transactions as a purchase not a cash advance? I’m wondering if Amex travel agents might, as there’s one in Manchester I think.

        • No idea. However, you need to remember that I think it is a mistake that Amex Currency Exchange treat transactions as purchases. You would be lucky to get away with this anywhere else.

  4. Get a friend with a merchant account/payment gateway to charge you 2k and give it all back to you minus the fees!

  5. can you put deposits on gambling websites, not place a bet, then withdraw it later?

  6. I’ve had Amex gold for about 4 months. I’ve triggered and received the bonus, but no longer use the card as BMI has better earning rate. Thinkin bout cancelling card so i can be eligible for another bonus in 6 months. Do I need to delete my MR account or will it automatically be removed upon cancellation? Also I am yet to transfer out my points to avios, so not sure whether to wait for a conversion bonus!

    • Trixky. However, as there is no fee on Gold for year 1, unlike Plat, it doesn’t cost you anything to keep it open. Given that, for example, the SPG Amex currently has a 25k Avios sign up bonus, you may want to keep Gold for now to keep your MR open in case of a transfer and focus on other cards for a while.

      • Thanks Raffles, yeah I got the SPG on the way!

        Just thought if I cancel PRG now, it kicks off the 6 months straight away, and I won’t be eligible for any other Amex offers as I’ve already got BA and now SPG. I’ll hang on til new year I reckon. Sod’s law as soon as I cancel a conversion bonus will start!

  7. Speaking of the gift cards, I was hoping to stock up utilising the 150 extra points offers, but I seem to remember you wrote (possibly on FT) that you were able to use the £5 off £50 spend vouchers off the quarterly mailing with said transaction? It says on the vouchers, as well as a similar till spit that they ‘exclude’ gift cards. Does this mean all gift cards, just Tesco’s own ones or is it just empty words? In an ideal world you could stack them for £10 off Nandos but is this just not realistically possible?

    • They only mean Tesco gift cards (and this IS applied). The conditional spend coupons work fine on all other giftcards, although the MasterCard ones do not qualify for the 150 bonus points.

  8. I very much doubt I will trigger the bonus. However, this is my first Airline reward card. I’m not a big spender but given the double points on supermarket and travel spend in year 1, I’m better of using this than the Ba Amex card for now (I won’t trigger that bonus either!)

  9. Mummy55 says:

    Do you think it’s possible to buy MasterCard gift cards using Amex gold card and use these to pay household bills such as BT phone bills ect. where they will not take Amex???

  10. Howard B says:

    We have about 150,000 Reward Points and about 60,000. No need to transfer them at this moment. Does anyone have any guess when Amex Rewards Points and SPG Points will be given a bonus to transfer to Avisos?

    • Last SPG (well, any hotel point) transfer to Avios was April to June this year, when there was a 25% bonus. Tends to come round once every 12-18 months. Open to all. Amex to BA transfer bonuses are more frequent these days but are targetted, so there is no guarantee you will be able to take part in any particular one – I am blocked from the current one.

  11. Howard B says:

    thanks….so is there at the moment a targeted Amex to BA bonus?

    • Yes, I think it is still there. You need to log into your Membership Rewards account and look at the banner ads. Click through into the Travel Rewards bit and, again, look at the banner ads (all 5 versions – click on the white dots in the ad to bring up all the versions). You either see ads for Virgin and BA transfer bonuses or you don’t. I don’t.

  12. Raffles, do you know if you can sign up for two charge cards (say platinum and gold) at the same time if you are referred and get both signup bonuses if ou meet the spending target?
    They seem to do it in the US all the time but not sure how Amex UK would view it.

    • I have never seen this done in the UK. I think you have to go with one or the other (or do one, cancel, and do the other in a year. Think long term in this game.).

  13. Just wondering why the years wait? Isnt is six months?

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