Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Why American Express Gold is back in the No1 spot for sign-up bonuses

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For the last 5 months or so, the long-term title holder of the ‘best miles and points credit card for newcomers’ award has been in flux.

Between November and January, I was encouraging people to focus on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card.  Whilst this card had a £75 fee, it made sense to apply because of the ‘limited time only’ bonus of 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points.  That would have got you around £350+ of free hotel stays or 25,000 airline miles.

Once the SPG offer dropped back to its more usual 10,000 points, focus switched to the American Express Platinum charge card.  As anyone who successfully applied for that card would receive Cathay Pacific Gold staus – equivalent to British Airways Silver and good enough to get you into BA airport lounges – it became my core focus.

The Cathay Pacific offer has now ended.  So, with that deal gone, the natural order of things reasserts itself!

This means that American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is yet again – without question – the best ‘miles and points’ card for a newcomer to this hobby.

The reasons are numerous:

There is no fee for the first year – and even if you forget to cancel in time, your £125 fee for the 2nd year can be refunded pro-rata at any time

You get a whopping 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for signing up!  These can be converted into 20,000 Avios, 20,000 Virgin Flying Club miles, 60,000 Club Carlson points, 40,000 Hilton HHonors points, £100 of retail gift cards or many other things.

The Gold card also has a superior earnings rate in some categories:

Supermarket, petrol, travel and foreign spend earns 2 points per £1.  That is equivalent to 2 Avios per £1.  No other card can beat this earnings rate.

All other spend earns 1 point per £1

You also receive a Lounge Club card when you join, along with two free passes.  This will allow you two free visits to over 600 airport lounges around the world (or one visit for you and a guest).  There is nothing in Heathrow Terminal 5 but most other airports – and the rest of Heathrow – have something.

All in all, the combination of no fee, a fat sign-up bonus, the ability to transfer your bonus to various different airline and hotel schemes and the ‘2 points per £1’ earnings rate on key spending categories makes it a great card to get started with.

These are the key things to consider before you apply:

Do you understand that this is a charge card and not a credit card?  You MUST repay the balance in full every month, without fail.

Do you have HOUSEHOLD income of over £20,000?

Can you spend £2000 on the card within three months, which is what is required to trigger the sign-up bonus?  (You can pull some spend forward by, for example, buying supermarket gift cards in advance.)

Have you cancelled a Gold, Green or Platinum charge card with Amex in the last 6 months?  If so, you won’t receive the bonus.

For the avoidance of doubt, you WILL receive the bonus if the only other Amex products you have are BA, Nectar, SPG, Platinum Cashback, Blue, Harrods or Costco Amex cards.

You will find full details here – and the application form – on the American Express website.

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 (32)

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

  • kevin cottrell says:

    If you have MBNA or Lloyds Amex do you still get the deal?

  • Michalis says:

    Hey raffles,

    Do you think it makes sense to keep the gold card long term (instead of e.g your recommendation of BA Amex) given that the majority of my spending i put through is on supermarket, restaurants and travel?

    Given the fact that if you put £15000 spending per year on the gold you basically earn 1.5 MR (plus the bonus categories) which can easily tip it to 2 MR. Plus you gain the flexibility of being able to transfer to a program that fits your travel plans. Also it’s cheaper than the BA Amex.

    Also how do you feel about letting the card renew get the 7,500 points and ten cancelling bagging in those extra MR

    • Britbronco22 says:

      Michelle, you only get the supermarket bonus in the first year, however the card can be justified long term if you spend a lot on travel and foreign spend (if you can claim it back on expenses, otherwise the 3% charge is not good). Also by keeping the card you have the possibility of referring people for the card earning 9000 points a pop. Once you run up a decent MR balance, if you keep the card open a transfer bonus may come along, this can also justify the fee for another year, e.g close now and transfer 40k to 40k Avios, or pay the fee and in 6 months time you may be able to transfer 40k to 60k Avios, no guarantee of that though. Finally you sometimes get money off offers on the card to help offset the fee, like the recent £5 cash back at Tesco and £20 off at World Duty Free.

      Ultimately though it is tough to beat the BA voucher, but if the voucher isn’t of use to you, or you don’t want to be constrained by its restrictions, or if you don’t have a UK BAEC address, than the Gold Card can be a solid option.

    • Dev says:

      I have the same dilemma, my avios balance is severely depleted after a recent splurge on flights and I do not think the BA voucher is worth it until I replenish the stock so I have been focusing on the Amex gold. You cannot knock the 2x supermarket spend, 3 x fuel spend and 2x foreign spend. the question is whether the multipliers still apply in the second year and onwards?

      • Jason says:

        My wife has just downgraded to gold and we’ll keep that card until the year is almost up and then she can recommend me. The bonus on supermarket spend etc is too good to miss. However we will also keep both BA Amex’s for the voucher, as we use both vouchers each year to travel as a family.

      • BlackberryAddict says:

        I’ve kept my gold card for a couple of years now. Supermarket spend has gone down to normal (so use BA Amex for that), petrol, travel and foreign still at two times. Sometimes the travel and foreign combine. Also got an additional challenge for an extra 2.5k MR points for 2.5k spend, as I hit the normal spending requirement quite quickly this year.
        So 10k bonus MR, plus only spending on petrol, travel and foreign gives me around 3 points per pound.

  • Nick says:


    Thanks for the update!

    I have a Lloyds AMEX and my wife cancelled her gold card 2 months ago (same address but it was in her maiden name) – will we be eligible for the bonus?

    Also, does being self employed have any impact on the min income requirements?

  • Peter says:

    Good morning – Am I “allowed” to have an Amex Preferred Rewards Gold (PRG) card if I am already a (many years) holder of the Amex Platinum charge card? Furthermore, will my Amex PRG application be compromised by my having cancelled last month my new SPG Amex card following receipt of the limited-time only bonus of 20,000 SPG points? Finally, given all of the above, if I am approved, for the Amex PRG card, will I be “entitled” to receive the 20,000 Amex Membership Rewards sign-up bonus points? Thank you for considering my request – and, of course, Raffles I will use you through the “refer a friend” process for all your hard work dedicated to HfP.

    • Rob says:

      No, unfortunately not. If you have Amex Plat then in theory you cannot get the bonus.

      (You would be approved for the card – and, to be honest, Amex’s IT is a bit ropey and you MAY get the bonus anyway – but the bonus should in theory fail to turn up!)

      The safest thing to do is to apply in the name of your partner.

      Of course, as the card is free anyway, you may want to risk applying anyway since you will still get the ‘2 points per £1’ earnings rate. Having recently had the SPG card is not a problem.

  • Philip Hart says:

    Any inside track on what AmEx are going to do to replace the Cathay Gold card?

    Once that expires, my wife will no longer to get herself – and more importantly, me – into the BA biz lounge at T5. And even though she has the Priority Pass to fall back on, there are no third party lounges at T5.

    Since this “universal lounge access” was one of the main reasons she signed up for the Platinum AmEx card, there now seems little reason to continue paying £450pa for the privilege.

    • Rob says:

      My gut feeling is nothing. I have had Platinum since 1999 and there was no equivalent to Cathay before they started offering it in 2012. Even if they did offer something (say, Etihad or Lufthansa status) it would be of minimal use to most people.

      The problem with Platinum is actually all the other benefits that have gone – Hilton Gold, the ability to transfer to IHG, the ability to transfer to Marriott etc. Accor, Carlson, Etihad and Emirates cards / transfer options are not of the same calibre.

  • Stewie says:

    Slightly tangential – how long after cancelling an MR-earning card do you have to clear out the MR account? I’m coming to the end of a year of plat and can’t see the value going forward, but not sure right now where to direct the points….

    • Jason says:

      I asked Raffles the same question recently and he suggested clearing the account before cancelling, otherwise you lose the points.

      • Rob says:

        Correct. If you have another Amex-issued Amex (BA etc) they give you a short grace period but it is best to empty it out. Remember that Nectar accepts transfers from 1 point so if you have a few hundred left over after moving most to Avios in chunks of 1,000, the remainder can go to Nectar!

  • Off Topic says:

    Hello – Off topic a bit

    My Tesco Credit Card arrived two weeks ago and the chip was so badly damaged on arrival it couldn’t be used, I therefore for 2 weeks had to use my normal clubcard and lost out especially on a couple of hundred pounds of fuel additional points – what do you think my chances of complaining to customer services about my loss of additional points? do you think they would compensate me with additional points?

  • Simon says:

    Love the gold, it’s my perfect card. In my 2nd year now and I will be keeping it

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

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