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American Express removes the minimum income requirement from its cards

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I had advance notice on Tuesday that American Express was about to make changes to the minimum income requirements to apply for its cards.

To be honest, I assumed that they were going to go up.

Instead, Amex has removed minimum income requirements altogether.

These were the previous HOUSEHOLD minimum income figures for the travel cards:

Preferred Rewards Gold (charge) – £20,000

Platinum (charge) – £40,000

British Airways (credit) – £20,000

British Airways Premium Plus (credit) – £20,000

Starwood Preferred Guest (credit) – £30,000

If we’re honest, these figures were probably too low.

Let’s take the British Airways Premium Plus card.  This comes with a £195 annual fee.  Someone on a salary of £20,000 will take home £1,397 per month.  That is not necessarily a good income base for shelling out a £195 annual card fee.

Similarly, a £40,000 salary gives you take home pay of £2,530 per month.  A £450 fee for Amex Platinum is a disproportionately high percentage of that.  I’m not sure that this works in favour of Amex when it comes to recruiting cardholders who will stick with it for the long term.

This is why I expected the minimum income numbers to increase.  Instead, they have gone.

I can see the logic here.  After all, a single person living at home on a £20,000 salary has a totally different disposable income profile to someone who is married with two kids and a mortgage taking home £20,000.  Taking a strict cut-off level is a blunt instrument.

It remains to be seen if American Express will, instead, make their application forms more complex and start digging deeper into your personal and financial situation before accepting you.

Do let me know if you decide to apply for one of the cards above, where you would previously have failed to pass the household income test, and are now successful.


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Comments (91)

  • luke says:

    Min. income for gold charge was 30000 not 20000. And you are probably right with tighter checks- my gold charge approved straight away but when i recently applied for BA credit card (which require lower income than amex gold), I was refused despite decent turnover on my gold charge account…

  • Matt says:

    Income plays a significant role in most credit decisions, including FCA imposed affordability checks. I wouldn’t conclude that the removal of an arbitrary income cut-off means it is playing any less of a role. It is more likely, as Rob suggests, that Amex have become better at assessing individual financial circumstances.

  • James says:

    What you haven’t considered is that spend might not be disspossable income spend but other types of spend such as work-related expenditure. It was my work-related expenditure which first attracted me to getting a credit card with benefits. It made my cash flow easier and rewarded me for the inconvenience of not having a corporate credit card.

  • Henry C says:

    I think household income as a concept is ridiculous in the first place.
    I’ll put forward my stance. I’m 21 and live with my parents, and I work in IT.
    My household income is therefore about 5 times my personal income, which is a crazy way of establishing whether it would make sense for me to have one or not.
    Personal income would be a better base, but really I’d favour credit checks more as even on a relatively low income my work travel and also ad hoc IT spend at work gives me lots of opportunity to put expenses through the Amex for points.

    • Genghis says:

      In many cases household income is a valid check. Ie. Wife earns £100k, husband earns £15k, the husband would be able to afford the card based on overall couple income

    • takke says:

      Often the definition of household income would not include your parental income. Not sure what AmEx used to define it as, but I have seen definitions that only include spouse/partner.

      • harry says:

        It would Never include parental income!

        Household income is quite simply principal + spouse

        • Simmo says:

          I might be completely wrong but I could never find any additional
          Information on this. Households we’re not defined in the T&Cs.

    • Leo says:

      Are you still in your parents’ “household” at 21 for credit card purposes?

      • KMN says:

        Realistically speaking, many people are still living entirely off there parents in their twenties, and even slightly dependant on them beyond that point – especially if their parents happen to be well off. This of course makes the calculations solely based on your and your spouse’s income irrelevant in all those cases.

  • Marsh says:

    I am delighted the income requirement has been removed. I am a director of my own (limited) company and don’t take a salary but the company pays me a dividend. Amex did not allow my dividends to count as income.

    • Ralph says:

      Let us know if you now get accepted.

    • Tom C says:

      This has never been an issue for me. I have the Platinum, Gold, Starwood and BA Premium cards right now, with a £60k available credit limit on the latter, all whilst having an official salary < £10k a year, yet dividends making that 6 figures.

    • Talay says:

      They have no way of knowing your income. You could put down £1m and if you consistently put that on all your applications for all credit etc. then £1m would become the norm for you.

      Of course, if you rent a room in your mate’s flat then you are still going to run into issues but it is spend patterns, paying it off (for example, you cannot put £10k a month onto a card and pay it off each month if you are earning £20k a year can you ?) and so forth which build out you profile.

      When we took out a deal on my wife’s new X3 it was about £55k but they let her drive it away for £2k down and nigh on £900 a month at about 3% or so. On the finance forms, which I filled in, there was no “how much do you earn ?” question at BMW and I pulled them up on this. I am not even sure if there was a job question at all.

      Thus, with BMW at least, it is not necessarily the information you give them that makes the decision but rather the anecdotal and probably hidden information they and the credit reference agencies already hold on you that influences the decision as to whether you fit their acceptable credit risk profile.

    • Barnaby100 says:

      That is not accurate. I am a director and have had multiple amex cards during that time. I have always stated that I am a director and put down my total income. The only credit card to ever question was the Virgin Atlantic mbna and I sent them the company bank statements and they were happy with those.

      • Liz says:

        I was recently rejected for the VIrgin White card which put a spanner in my miles collecting plan – I don’t have income but husband has very good income – I phoned the application through to explain this as it asks for your income and not household. He put me down as zero income but noted the household income. Got rejected so I appealed to MBNA sending payslips bank statements for joint account etc but still got a standard reject letter referring me to my experian credit report which is at 999 – so I am none the wiser as to why I got rejected. Hoping to upgrade my husbands gold to platinum soon then refer me for platinum – makes me nervous to apply again though.

        • James67 says:

          Liz, do you have any other mbna cards in your own name or was this your first application? If you have another card the simplest thing to do is just call and ask if you can split the credit limit with virgin white. If no other cards I suppose you could try calling (but better write) again and tell them you will refer it to ombudsman if they don’t approve card for you within a month given your excellent credit score. You probably don’t have a leg to stand on by raising it given your lack of income but the mere threat with associated time and cost might bounce mbna into approving you a card with low limit.

          • Liz says:

            No I don’t have any more MNBA – I am a suppl on husbands black card which we were going to cancel but have decided to keep on now to give options for Virgin/IHG/Hilton. I was hoping to get the MBNA AA card next time there was a bigger bonus but that’s not going to happen now. Our credit limit on my husbands card is higher than I would like but that doesn’t count for me.

          • James67 says:

            You could get your husband to set up a monthly standing order to a current account that is solely in your name. You then have an income. Next time the virgin card (or other cards of interest) comes round with extra bonus then try applying again. Be sure to put your employment stats as homemaker or housewife, not unemployed.

          • Liz says:

            James, I already have 2 current accounts in my name only in order to get some interest and have ready access. Both have standing orders from our main joint account. So could I declare this as income?

          • Liz says:

            Thanks not really income as I am just recycling money in and out to gain interest. Not sure I could declare that as income?

          • Liz says:

            *that’s*

    • Mr Dee says:

      The definition of income is ‘money received, especially on a regular basis, for work or through investments’ so based on I would not have a problem as declaring dividends as income.

  • Luke says:

    What a good idea. Having minimum income rules discriminates against the financially independent.

  • Trickster says:

    Related to this, does anyone know whether the Hilton credit card uses household or personal income as a retrial? Thanks.

  • Oyster says:

    At current prices I will like retire on less than £40k per year. But hopefully I will have other cash and investments available to draw against.
    An example, along with the Ltd company director above, where pure income isn’t a great indicator of credit affordability.

    • Mike says:

      Ditto I will retire at 55 with just under 40 k pension rising with inflation and an uplift at the state pension age plus whatever state pension is still around. But should have no real outgoings so was concerned that I would have to give up the platinum card. The announcement clarifies that.

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