Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

New Amex Gold and Plat holders – a word on triggering your 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 an article 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.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 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.

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 & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel 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 £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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 (25)

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

  • Andrew Seftel (@andrewseftel) says:

    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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

    • Raffles says:

      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.

        • Raffles says:

          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.

  • Joe says:

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

  • rtid says:

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

    • Raffles says:

      You may find one that works, but in theory deposits to gaming sites are treated as cash advances, not purchases.

  • Rich says:

    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!

    • Raffles says:

      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.

      • Rich says:

        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!

  • Jenni says:

    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?

    • Raffles says:

      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.

  • Al says:

    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!)

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

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