Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Amex USA bans card churning …. UK to follow?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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)

  • Farringdon says:

    Presumably the US bloggers who make a living from referral fees (including some number of churned accounts) will take a hit from this.

  • Jordan D says:

    Very interesting debate, not least as that now I’ve completed the car hire I had on the books and got some points of a Platinum referral, I’m about to shut the card and wait my 6 months … in time for my holiday in November.

    Will I get the Platinum in 6 months time? Who knows … depends on the offers available and – as Raffles has mentioned – what the actual card benefits will be. Time will tell.

  • RIccati says:

    The flaw in the logic is that most people would have already had these credit cards throughout their life if not the last couple of years, indeed!

    Assuming someone who never had an AMEX card, earning 110-120k in Avios accumulated over a couple of years would give a return in J to Asia. That’s it.

  • Charlie Whiskey says:

    I don’t think we can complain at all if the rules change. Amex clearly knows what is happening on the churning front (my iPhone app when downloaded showed all of their cards I have ever had) and they make a business judgement as whether they want me and my wife to have their cards or not. I took almost all my advice from the amazing Raffles over the years – ever since the heady days of the Marriott > Tesco Clubcard > BA Air Miles trick which got me started.

    A complete stop to a second points bonus would affect some more than others. When I look at my BA Flightpath record that has just appeared on my BAEC account I see that over the past 10 years Mrs Charlie Whiskey and I have done 8 return long-haul trips in First, 3 in Club, 6 Club Europe plus about another 6 in Business within the USA and Southern Africa. In this time I have not earned a single tier point and all flights have been done on Avios from Amex cards, Tesco and some ad hoc sources such as hotels.

    If it all stopped tomorrow I will have had a great ride whilst retired, and I would still have oodles of Avios in the kitty plus the chance to get BAEC two-for ones until they ran out. I have a conscience but don’t think I would feel guilty as a possible contributor to bonus-demise: Amex can tweak the rules to serve their purposes, and I can work within them to serve mine.

    Oh! and we should lay off Raffles: he is a paragon of virtue, a superbrain and a source of much happiness.

  • Frenske says:

    Credit cards in the USA are often ridiculous generous. Not only AmEx is doing, but for example Club Carlson Visa is bordering too madness.

    • Stripy says:

      Have you seen the state of Radissons in the US? That’s a big part of the reason why CC has to be generous. There are a large number of competitors offering rooms at similar rates, in better locations and with better amenities…CC has to offer some sort of carrot to make up for that.

  • Martin says:

    I’d be interested particularly for a platinum card what loss of revenue amex would see if these bonuses stop for people who have already had a card, chances are you wouldn’t take it on again. I’d question if the platinum perks are worth £450 a year.

  • Anon says:

    Rarely post but felt compelled to do so…

    Malibu Stacey – Do you have problem with Raffles having a wee income from a few refferals and his his sterling efforts via this site?

    Its a great service that we get for free, “good on yer” is what I say for Raffles

  • Georgie says:

    I would say in the context of this article (after all we weren’t talking about the weather) it would be a disaster. 110,000 lifetime sign up miles are not much use to anyone. I suspect there are loads of serial churners just because they don’t post on here or flyertalk doesn’t mean they aren’t reading, many that do post brag about how much churning they do, putting in their new application after 7 months. That’s the trouble with spelling things out so people don’t gave to work at things for themselves, hence the collapse of the clubcard scheme as well. Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all over in a years time if AMEX deem it a success in the US, or maybe even if they don’t, they are not stupid. Don’t think it will go to one or two years, it will either stay as it is or go, not worth their while just tweaking it. We will all be saying it was good while it lasted and talk about the golden days and lament their loss – ours not AMEX .