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Amex USA bans card churning …. UK to follow?

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Follow a number of rumours in recent weeks, American Express’s USA operation has now confirmed that card ‘churning’ will not be allowed from 2nd May.

Here is the statement that it issued:

In order to ensure fairness and clarity with our Card Members, we will be making a change to our acquisition incentive control rules for American Express Consumer Cards. Beginning May 2, 2014, welcome bonus offers will not be available to applicants who have or have had the Card they’re applying for. For example, if a Card Member once had or has a Platinum Card, they will not be eligible to receive a welcome bonus offer on a new Platinum Card application.

Amex card

Just so everyone is clear, there is currently no public statement that this will also apply to the UK market.  However, it would be naïve to believe that a policy brought in for the US market will not eventually appear here.

In general, I would not consider this to be a major disaster for anyone if it was implemented.

If Amex brought in exactly the same policy – which means that you cannot get EXACTLY the same card twice and still receive a sign-up bonus – then you would still be able to obtain the following cards over a period of a couple of years:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 20,000 Membership Rewards points

American Express Platinum – 30,000 Membership Rewards points

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – 25,000 Avios

British Airways American Express – 9,000 Avios

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express – 21,000 SPG points

(The bonuses quoted above are all current with the exception of SPG, which is offered at this rate once or twice a year.)

Assuming you converted all these points into Avios, you would earn 110,000 Avios points.

And your partner could do the same!

(Someone who was really keen could also apply for the American Express Nectar card and receive 20,000 Nectar points, worth £100 of easyJet credit.  If you are self employed, there could be a further 20,000 Avios from the American Express Gold Business card and (occasionally, not at present) 60,000 Avios from the American Express Platinum Business card.)

If that is ‘the worst case scenario’ then, frankly, it seems a pretty good one to me. 

There are a small number of people who are now on their 4th, 5th or more Amex Gold card, having cancelled and reapplied on a regular basis over recent years – each time with a 6-month gap.  If such a restriction was launched here, these people would clearly lose out.

This is a tiny minority, however, even amongst Head for Points readers.  The only American Express card I have ever had more than once is the SPG Amex, which I have had twice.  I have also had a Platinum card since 1999 and a British Airways Premium Plus since it was launched in 2002ish, so I think American Express is doing OK there.

It is also worth noting that American Express is not saying that you cannot apply for a card which you have previously cancelled.  It is simply saying that you cannot receive another sign-up bonus if you are accepted.  All other benefits will still be provided.

To clarify again – there is currently no formal plan to change the rules in the UK to match the new rules in the US.  But it would not be the end of the world if they did.

(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.)

Comments (94)

  • needroos says:

    Sorry for the off topic Q: If I recall correctly some people were mentioning that you can now use CX Gold to use fast track security at T5. Is that only at T5 or can I use it at T4?

    • Polly says:

      Your BP has to be coded, they forgot to do mine in t4 the other day so was turned back from an empty track! Not nice, so make sure you ask at check in, worth a try. I was on QR.

    • CV says:

      I recently had a boarding pass which showed no status on it, but just showed my CX Gold card and went through fast track without comment, this was at T5.

      If using Fast Track at T5, use the south security and keep to the far right line, it is actually quite fast.

      • needroos says:

        Thanks for the feedback, will give it a go and report back…

      • Josh says:

        I’ve breezed straight through fast track – with a status-less companion – just by showing my CX Gold luggage tag. Ditto boarding, actually

      • Alan says:

        I’m not convinced the IT system at LHR even checks properly for Fast Track eligibility – I was guesting someone through last week but the system let us both through without an issue and I’d never said to anyone I was guesting them in!

        • Needroos says:

          No joy, QR did not give me an invite for Fast Track and neither did they accept the Gold Card CX at Fast Track entry either

          • Polly says:

            That’s what I mentioned above, weird sit… Annoying as fast track was v empty, chap wouldn’t let me though, said take it up with your airline, as if we could be bothered at that point. Think it depends who is guarding the gate, they love the power of refusing us!

          • SQUILLS says:

            I have often waggled my library card at Fast Track and they just wave e through 😉

  • Graeme says:

    I think for those of us more casual collectors (ie. those mentioned above who don’t travel for work), the biggest loss will be the BA 2-4-1. I haven’t churned a card yet, so I suppose I’ll be disappointed to miss out on that.

    Still, I’ve got a lot out of this, on my own initially, and then through using the excellent advice/ideas on here. For all the travelling I’ve done in my life, I’ve never travelled in First Class – but thanks to HfP, I’ve got my first First Class experience coming up in June. Can’t wait (and also need advice on how to make the most of it!).

    • Rob says:

      Exactly. Most people forget what an incredibly valuable perk the Amex 241 is. THIS is the thing that needs protecting!

      • Martin says:

        You don’t need to be churning to get the 2-4-1, unless BA move from amex (ie to MBNA as they are touting for it) the 2-4-1 would be unaffected by Amex potentially stopping new card sign up bonuses

        • Graeme says:

          You don’t need to churn to get it, but you do need to churn to get it more than once!

          • Martin says:

            Not at all, spend 10k a year and you’ll get it every year

          • Polly says:

            Think they mean keep churning annually with a partner and get the bonus points plus your new 241

          • Trevor says:

            Yup, 2-4-1 fairly pointless if you don’t even have enough points for 1 cos there aren’t any bonuses available. You going to have to spend a lot more than £10k to get enough points to go anywhere more than an hour away, or be doing lots of flights which most people won’t be, certainly if they are footing the bill. So back to my original response, for the collector who doesn’t fly much except on redemptions, it woul dbe game over, and the 2-4-1 which I already find over-rated would prove useless.

          • Martin says:

            Fair point, my response was aimed at the thought that you need to churn to get the 2-4-1 which is not true but using it when you only fly a few times a year is another matter I suppose

          • Graeme says:

            No, I was under the impression that it was a one-off perk! Blow me down. I haven’t quite hit the £10k spend yet so hadn’t read into it fully, but I had assumed it was a one-off bonus.

            Educated yet again by HfP!

      • Alan says:

        It’s an OK perk in my view – obviously of little use for those without partners and restricted to BA-metal only. I’ve still found UuA to be potentially more valuable as thanks to the underlying WTP cash fare you still earn some TPs (with 20TP each way on domestic connections), it hardly costs hardly any Avios when you factor in your Silver or Gold tier bonus, and the cost is often not that much more than a straight redemption given the amount of taxes/fees involved.

    • CV says:

      Yup, those that have the 2-4-1 are better shielded from any reduction in points earning opportunities. When I first started collecting last year my target was to get 80,000 avios per year and combine with the 2-4-1 voucher for an annual trip in Biz class to NYC. However my forecast for points earning was a bit low! Having already earned and redeemed about 150,000 points just with Avios, and just as many in reserve, if earning opportunities were cut back then the 2-4-1 would still keep me in the game (subject to BA reward availability, which at the moment is very poor).

    • Polly says:

      Make sure you get to the lounge early, have a facial! Lot of fun! And really enjoy! ESP enjoy the fab champagne! Am jealous….

  • olybeast says:

    This would be a game changer for points collecting in my opinion.

  • Mr Bridge says:

    all companies that have offers that work on averages, or budgets
    as long as take ups fit the criteria the companies are all happy.
    they expect to win more hands than they lose

    • Mr Bridge says:

      with the dan brown books, tesco were probably given a budget by the publisher to promote the books, when thats spent you would expect the offer to drop pout

  • Georgie says:

    The 2 4 1 is a bit of a red hearing on this thread. The game changer would be doing away with the sigh up bonus on churning. Not much use in a 2 4 1 if you have few miles. Plus you need to spend either £10,000 or £20,000 to get it each year. Hardly worth it if you only have enough miles for a reward saver to Europe

    • CV says:

      Between Amex spend, Tesco points and conversion bonuses it would still be possible to rack up enough points (say 80K avios) to allow a 2-4-1 redemption long haul. So the target is then to earn 80K instead of 160K for 2 pax to travel.

      But even if its not possible to earn so much in one year then remember the voucher is valid for a couple of years, and avios points don’t expire – so still a great perk for a longer term strategy. My issue with the 2-4-1 voucher is the complete lack of redemption availability with BA even looking many months ahead.

  • Georgie says:

    Lol what conversion bonuses ? They are as rare as availability.