Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

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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 avios.com 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!)

Comments (61)

  • simon says:

    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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • Marco says:

    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?

  • CWK says:

    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?

    • Alan says:

      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?

      • CWK says:

        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?

        • Alan says:

          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.

    • Macca says:

      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.

      • CWK says:

        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.

        • Alan says:

          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!

          • CWK says:

            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!

          • Alan says:

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

  • Scott says:

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

    • Rob says:

      I haven’t got my September issue yet!

      You order the Cathay card (and the hotel status cards) at americanexpress.co.uk/platinum – they don’t come automatically

  • Scott says:

    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.

    • Alan says:

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

  • Tom says:

    Hoorah – my renewal just came through! 🙂

    • Sunlit says:

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

      • Mike says:

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

        • Rob says:

          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 ….

          • Alan says:

            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?

          • Rob says:

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

          • Alan says:

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

  • Veronica says:

    good bargain

  • iain says:

    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.

    • Alan says:

      Hi Iain

      You need to apply separately for it via the Amex Platinum website (http://tidd.ly/b0b957f1) – 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.

      • iain says:

        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.

        • Alan says:

          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.

          A.