Nutmeg Avios

Cathay Pacific renewing free Gold cards (= BA Silver) for Amex Plat cardholders yet again ….

It is now two years since American Express sprung a surprise on its Platinum cardholders by introducing a new benefit – Gold tier membership of Cathay Pacific‘s Marco Polo Club.

Marco Polo Club Gold has a lot of useful benefits in its own right if you fly Cathay Pacific – see their website for details.  However, as far as UK residents were concerned, there was only one benefit that mattered – as Cathay Pacific is a member of the OneWorld alliance, as is BA, a holder of a Marco Polo Gold card gets almost all of the benefits of a British Airways Executive Club Silver card.

The most important of these is access of BA’s business / Galleries Club lounges, which includes the Heathrow lounges. You can also bring a guest. This is a fantastic benefit for anyone who flies BA on a regular basis but never manages to achieve 600 tier points for a BA Silver card.

Marco Polo Gold

You also get most of the other benefits of BA Silver – free seat selection on BA flights, ability to use business class check-in desks when flying economy, additional baggage allowance, priority boarding etc. You can also now use the Fast Track lane at Heathrow when flying BA, Iberia or American.

Note that there is no requirement to credit your flights to Marco Polo Club. You can still have your British Airways or number in your booking for collecting avios and BA tier points. Unless you want free seat selection, in which case you will need to put your Cathay number in your booking, you can simply flash your Cathay Gold card at the lounge and at check-in.

For many people, this was a game-changer. Me included. I have historically spent money I didn’t necessarily need to spend in order to retain BA status, such as upgrading very short European flights to business class purely for the tier points.

I have stopped doing that now. I am currently BA Silver and will lose that in October. I have purposely not chased status this year, since I know I can get the Cathay Pacific Gold card at the end of 2013.

The reason for this post, though, is that American Express Platinum has always been very vague about how long your Cathay Pacific Gold status would last.

Initially they refused to say at all. Then they added a message to their website saying it was for one year only, but continued to tell members who contacted them that in reality this might not be the case. In Autumn 2012, most – although, oddly, not all – Cathay members got their free Gold extended for another year.

We are now another year on, and the first batch of renewals are coming around for a second time. And, so far, people seem to be getting their Cathay Pacific Gold cards renewed OK, even if they haven’t credited any flights to Cathay. One person on Flyertalk has been demoted, but a couple of other posters have stated that their online accounts have shown Gold status rolling over.

This is an excellent result, and far beyond anything that was expected.

Is this offer still available to new Amex Plat applicants?

Yes, is the simple offer.

It is not clear when it will end. In Amex’s ‘Departures’ magazine recently, it stated that you would be able to apply for a Cathay Gold card until 28th February 2014. However, I have not seen this date repeated anywhere else.

30,000 Amex points gets you 30,000 Avios or 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles amongst other things.

Remember that – whilst the Platinum card has a £450 annual fee – the fee is refunded pro-rata if you cancel. Your Cathay card is NOT cancelled, however, and you can continue to enjoy the benefits until it naturally expires after a year. The same applies to the hotel status cards that come with Amex Platinum.

My full review of the Platinum card is here.

The Amex Platinum website – although it purposely does not mention the Cathay card (to avoid annoying BA, Amex’s main UK partner!) – is here.  You shouldn’t apply via this link, though – take a referral for the extra 5,000 points or take the cashback.

Please post if you have the free Cathay Gold card and your status has been extended again (or indeed if it hasn’t!)

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  1. MarsBoyUK says:

    This is one benefit that makes me want the platinum card. I got amex gold at the moment but can’t warrant the cost of £450. Especially as you don’t get double points on supermarket shopping like gold

    Do travel BA a fair but but not even bronze yet! Do they openly accept just a flash of the card to use fast track/lounge or is it normally a bit of a discussion to let you through?

    • CX Gold is oneworld sapphire, which allows access to business class lounges when flying a oneworld airline in a lower class than business. So no discussion but not just a ‘flash’

  2. alan smith says:

    Is the cathay gold available to supplementary cardholders too or is it only for the main account holder? Sorry but not clear to me.

    • It’s only available to the main account holder. However the hotel loyalty cards are available to one supplementary card holder.

  3. I’ve had the Amex Platinum for almost a year now, and despite the high cost it has been worthwhile, mainly because of the hotel benefits (especially Hilton Gold, which is no longer offered).

    However there are some caveats with trying to gain access to BA lounges with the CX card. At both Berlin and Munich, they wouldn’t let me enter unless I changed my ticket to the CX FF number. Might be just excessive German rule-following, but that’s scared me off trying at other BA lounges, other than LHR where I know it’s fine. Of course changing accrual to CX is pointless, as the reward scheme is far worse than BA’s (for example HKG-TPE is 4,500 Avios or 10,000 CX miles one-way) .

    CX does indeed have a better Y product than BA (however not substantially so with the new BA interiors). However they are extremely stingy with mileage accrual on discounted tickets. I flew LHR-HKG-BKI, KUL-HKG-LHR with ZERO miles accrued with Marcopolo. Although the lounges at HKG were very nice. Ironically the only flight on CX I earned miles on was my BA Avios redemption on HKG-TPE, which must have been a mistake 🙂

    I’m going to be Executive Club Silver with my next flight this weekend, so I won’t bother with CX anymore, unless I’m redeeming my Avios on them.

    • Can you not change your FF number once you have gained access to the lounge (on the Finnair site, I have heard)?

      • Should work. I would be nervy without a boarding pass showing my BA number though.

        • The Exec Club call centre have always been very helpful in this regard. They are able to add both numbers to the booking, the CX Gold will open up seat selection but you can still earn miles on your BA card. On one occasion I noticed that my CX number was printed on my boarding card so simply asked the lounge agent to change it to my BA and re-print my boarding pass. Worst case, you can ask the gate agent to change the FFP number and re-print your boarding pass if the lounge agent is being obstructive.

        • I’ve gained lounge access with my CX gold at T5 and AMS on a BA FF boarding pass. Just told them I want earn miles on my BA FFP but use the CX gold to gain access to the lounge. I did get the impression it was not usual thing for them do so will probably just change my FF number on the future.

        • Well the lounge agent is the one who changed cpdc1030’s FF number in the first place, so they are unlikely to change it back.

          Maybe have an “accident” with boarding pass after you have changed the FF number back to BA; then ask the gate agents to reprint? E.g tear through the barcode, or soak it in water for a bit

        • I have had this at LHR and MNL. Both times I was instructed to have my BAEC number put back on at the gate! A real fag, but worked. Now I am BA silver it is probably good bye to the Plat.

    • I spent a year accessing lounges using my AA Plat card whilst flying BA and having my BAEC FF# on the booking. I never got refused entry (although they tried to in Mauritius of all places).

      I just hand over my boarding card and AA Plat card. Every time the agent asked if I would like them to put my AA FF# onto the booking but a single sentence explaining I have AA Plat and am now going for BAEC Silver was sufficient.

      They do have to make a manual (paper) note that they are letting in a passenger under a different program though, but I never got refused. I mainly fly MAN, LHR and all over the US, so haven’t tried it with those strict germans.

  4. I have just logged in and I am Green so the renewal is not happening automatically.

    My year expired on August 31st and I have not logged any flights to CX in the last year though do fly them in J using BA card.

    I recieved the original card and was then renewed last year so had about 2 years of membership via the Amex route, only actually using it once or twice to get access to a lounge. This would have been my 3rd year but it is not to be a very stern letter will now go to Amex as the benefits of membership dwindle annually.

    Cant blame CX but will also now cancel membership entirely.

    Good luck to those who do get it.

  5. I dont get why Amex don’t just sign a deal with BA directly – surely the £450 fee is hefty enough to cover some costs of it.

    Also if you think about it, if you had silver BA you are more likely to use BA to fly, so they would get more money surely.

    • That would massively undermine BA. You can tell from the way that Amex dare not mention this benefit on their website how happy BA is about it.

      • Because of the BA credit cards? Those have quite different benefits, the reward for spend is much better. I’d see that people would be more likely to have both Plat and BA.

        • It isn’t about that. It is about Amex desperately trying to stop MBNA winning the BA credit card, which is up for renewal.

          As I wrote in the post, I have cut back on BA spending because I know I can get the benefits of status via Cathay and I’m certainly not the ony one.

  6. Its a shame we do not know if this benefit will be official continued or ended, as it does make chasing a few extra points for status in BA pointless if we knew that Sapphire status would be continuous with this card.

    I am a BA silver and am off on a CE TP run next weekend for the final 80 points to get me to Silver, a trip I probably would have avoided, if I knew I’d have Cathay Status for at least 2 years.

    I will be applying for the Cathay card in January, as I am highly unlikely to maintain status next year

  7. Kevin Young says:

    Have used my CX Gold on a couple of BA flights through Gatwick and every time hey change my BA FF number to CX. Used the CX website to reserve business seats on an Avios redemption (AMS- HKG) next year and his causes the reservation to disappear from the BA Exec Club web site totally. Does anyone no if it is possible to change bookings back to BA FF and save the tier points and Avios (where applicable)?

    • Yes, you can change it back in the lounge at the ticket desk. They are being over zealous though as it is not necessary in the first place.

      Actually, it is possible for the lounge person to enter both numbers, one to credit the flights to and one to confirm your status. You will rarely find someone who knows how to do this, though.

  8. Thanks to Raffles I managed to apply for the Platinum card, hit the spend target to achieve sign-up bonus & get the card cancelled all within a month so I had the whole membership fee refunded.
    However I’ve not received any of the ancillary cards.

    • Did you apply for them via the website? They don’t come automatically. Only Priority Pass comes by default.

      • Drat! I didn’t realise (ie: didn’t read p4 of the big silver book they send with the card grrrr) that I had to individually apply for the others. After the PP arrived I assumed the rest would follow.

        Darn it. I’ve gone & cancelled my Platinum card already too so now can’t apply. Oh well lesson learned…..just have to get my hubby to apply & ensure he does everything correctly!

        • It is possible they haven’t fully cancelled it yet … nothing to lose by trying to apply.

        • Totally agree – as soon as I saw you first mention I had to apply myself I was straight back on there to try…..but nope, they’ve been super efficient & locked me out 🙁

  9. Ok so I need to go to Sydney next August and will be flying with BA. I need to take 2 suitcases. 2 x £55.00 for that each way. so £110.00

    I might as well cancel my gold. wait 6 months. Apply for platinum and hit the spend in a month and cancel the card getting points and the CX Gold Card – just wondering Raffles how long did the CX gold Card take to come out. Based on my maths it starts being less worth it for me after 2 months.

    One more question I would assume I would get 2 suitcases on my Quantas flights in Australia as well with the CX Gold?

    • Bit of a risk, because you are assuming the Cathay Gold continues to be offered after the Feb 2014 application end date they state.

      However, upgrading Gold is also an issue because the Plat fee of £38 per month will kick in and you won’t have a sign up bonus to offset it.

      Nothing to lose if you were going to cancel Gold anyway of course.

      You can apply for Cathay as soon as you get your Amex Plat, will arrive in 10-30 days based on experience.

  10. Dear Raffles,
    Thanks for this very educational post – an annual £450 Platinum charge card fee to get Oneworld Sapphire status is certainly a lot cheaper than clocking up 600 tier points on purchased BA flights! It seems to me that BA tries to encourage its Executive Club members to attain Silver status by preventing members at lower tiers from being able to pre-select their seats at the time of booking, unlike just about every other airline out there. By the way, you know the “secret” Platinum credit card (earning Membership Rewards, not cash-back) for which Platinum charge card holders are able to apply… if one were to cancel one’s Platinum charge card and keep the credit card, do you think one would still be entitled to all the extra goodies?

  11. Got my renewed Marco Polo Gold Card (which expires July 2014). I booked BA flights to Ibiza, entering that number, and got my free seat selection – though the flight is on August 2014, so will Amex issue a Gold Marco Polo card, for the third year?

    I’m BA Blue. I then logged onto my account, and entered the booking reference, and the booking came up, and shows up under my BA Exec Club account. Shame I’ll miss out on the Avios points.

    I would normally redeem my Avios points to go Club Europe, as a Reward Saver flight, though there was limited availability – so by using the CX Gold, I would still get the priority boarding and use the CE check in desks. I’ll just have to miss out on the hot towel and champagne on board…

    Also anyone know of a One World or a Priority Pass lounge at London City or Ibiza, as I can’t seem to find any! What are the chances of an upgrade on this flight anyway – will there be a note that I’m CX Gold on the passenger roster?

    • Now you’ve made your seat selection you can change to your BAEC card – just use the Finnair website 🙂

      LCY doesn’t have any real lounges, just one at the gate for BA flights to JFK. I doubt Ibiza will have one given presumably mainly holidaymakers on that route?

      • Thanks, will do!

        I suppose LCY is a small airport anyway, though given there are plenty of BA flights departing there with a Club Europe cabin on board, thought there would be a BA lounge. Hmm, at Ibiza, I’d also imagine there’d be at least an airport operated lounge (and/or an Iberia one?). Surely business travellers with status go on holiday too!

        However, the seat I selected, is not coming up on my BA iPhone app, will it come up nearer the time, or when I check in?

        • The mobile app only shows your seat once you’ve checked in and downloaded your boarding pass, the only way to see your selected seat prior to this is in MMB on the BA website.

    • I read somewhere about a year ago (probably Flyertalk Wiki) that BA does not comp upgrade any other FF scheme than BAEC. I think that is what you were asking about? And of course that info could have been interpretted or remembered incorrectly. But I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

      • Yes, thank you. Oh well, won’t miss much by going economy anyway – I believe it’s 2+2 seating in both cabins anyway, on the E90 jet, so will still be sitting next to my partner. Got my seat in row 8 anyway, first row after CE.

        • Yep on the E90 all you miss out on is the cooked breakfast. On my flight back there was only one passenger in CE on the E90 MAD-LCY flight!

        • Thanks for your replies Alan. Changed to my BAEC number of the Finnair website, easily done. Checked my booking on the BA website, to see that I’ve got my 1,750 Avios and my seat selection in economy (first row behind CE) still there!

        • No probs – glad it all worked out and enjoy Madrid, I really enjoyed my brief wee trip there!

  12. Looking through the September Departures, I didn’t see mention of the Marco Polo Club card – does one need to call to request this?

    • I haven’t got my September issue yet!

      You order the Cathay card (and the hotel status cards) at – they don’t come automatically

  13. Alas, this must be limited to UK Platinum holders – the UK site won’t allow me to log in, and the US site doesn’t list the Cathay card.

    • Yes this is – although you get things like $100 to cover Global Entry fee, airline credit, zero foreign currency fee!

  14. Hoorah – my renewal just came through! 🙂

    • If you upgraded a Gold card to platinum, ordered the Marco Polo card & then cancelled… £38 for it? Anybody tried it?! Just a thought!

      • And if you did do this, would it burn a bridge with Amex?

        • Eventually, yes. So far they are deliberately letting it continue, but I can tell you from discussions I have had with them that they are not happy about it. They appear to have aggressive new business targets to meet, though ….

        • Well if they do decide to crack down I trust it’ll only be on the fee refund element and not the sign up bonus side (Lloyds-style)!

          In your discussions with them have they shown any appreciation of the devaluation they’ve made to the product in the past year or so?

        • The only people I’ve met are on the signing-up side – different bunch of people for product benefits.

        • Ah OK – try and get them to pass the message on – better MR earning rate and no forex fee would be my top requests!

  15. good bargain

  16. Forgive me but i have just been accepted for my first ever AMEX Platinum card and i am waiting for it to arrive in the post this week.

    I understand from reading the above that the Platinum card enables me to get the Cathay Pacific Gold card. what i have not been able to identify is how i go about getting this freebee extra? is this something that i have to apply for or sill it land in the same envelope this week?

    I am UK based and my next business flight will be this coming Tuesday, where i will have to travel through Heathrow T5. Will i be able to gain access to a lounge with just the AMEX card or will i have to hope that i can get a CPGold card processed in time?

    Sorry for the rookie question but hopefully someone can put me at easy quickly.

    • Hi Iain

      You need to apply separately for it via the Amex Platinum website ( – it’s under the various benefis and you fill out an online registration form.

      Although stranger things have happened, I think one week is pushing it to get things processed – you certainly won’t hve hte physical card by then, so once you’ve filled out the registration form you’ll need to keep trying the Marco Polo website and using the ‘forgotten login’ option to get it to email you your account details.

      • Thanks Alan,

        I agree, it is going to be impressive if it works out. I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope to get all processed in time.

        if not, i’ll practice my hitchhiking skills and see if i can thumb a guesting into the T5 lounge 🙂

        really appreciate the speediness and simplicity of your response. only a little embraced it was that simple an answer.

        • Not a problem, you’re very welcome! There’s a thread on FlyerTalk that might be worth a look if it’s just you and you’re looking to be guested in.


  17. StudentDigs says:

    Hi everyone, this is hugely interesting, thanks for the article!

    I’m a student, and for a 21 year old I fly a fair bit and have been treated, on occasion, to OpUps etc. Having lounge access / extra luggage allowance etc would be a big help.

    That said, no way I earn over £40,000 a year, though my household (parents) does… I’d almost certainly be applying for the card, applying for all the ancillary cards, and then cancelling ASAP.

    Anyone think of any way for me to get in on this?


    • You could apply via your parents address and use that household income. However, you would need to have some bank accounts or something still registered at your parents address, so that you showed up on the credit files as living there. Similarly, if you were still on the electoral roll at your parents address it would make acceptance easier.