Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

‘What credit cards can I get if I already have certain other cards?’ – your questions answered

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A reader asked in the comments yesterday if I could write an easy-to-understand guide to how your current credit card portfolio may impact what other cards you can get.  I thought I would put something together to answer some of the points the reader raised and some of the other questions I get asked on a daily basis.

Please note that there are always exceptions to the rules below, often caused by dodgy IT.  You can always find someone who has a personal Amex Gold card and managed to get the bonus on the Business Gold charge card.  I can show you 3-4 people who did not, however.  If you breach the guidelines below then you can’t complain if you don’t get the bonus you expect.

The questions below represent a bit of a ‘mind dump’ and are not in any particular order.

“Can I get a specific American Express card if I already have the same card as a supplementary on my partner’s account?”

Yes, this is absolutely not a problem.  As far as Amex is concerned, your supplementary card belongs to your partner, not to you.  It doesn’t treat you as an existing cardholder.

“Can I have both British Airways American Express cards at the same time?”

No.  If you apply for the other card, your first card will be automatically closed and all your transactions carried over.  Your card year remains the same.

“Can I have both MBNA Virgin Atlantic or both Emirates credit cards at the same time?”

Yes.  MBNA treats these as separate products.  You will get the sign-up bonus on both cards too.

“Can I have both IHG Rewards Club credit cards at the same time?”

I don’t know the answer to this.  My best guess is that you can’t – although the comments below suggest I may be wrong.

credit cards

“Can I apply for an Amex Platinum if I already have an Amex Gold, and get the sign-up bonus?”

You can get the card, but you won’t get a sign-up bonus.

“Do I get a pro-rata refund of the annual fee if I cancel an Amex-issued American Express card?”

Yes.  This is in writing in the terms and conditions.

“Do I get a pro-rata refund of the annual fee if I cancel an MBNA, Lloyds or Creation credit card, Amex or non-Amex, with an annual fee?”


“Can I apply for a Business Amex Platinum / Gold if I already have a Personal Amex Platinum / Gold (or vice versa) and get a sign-up bonus?”

Yes, you can apply.  No, you can’t get a sign-up bonus.  This is because the driver of whether you get the bonus is whether you already have a Membership Rewards account, which you do.

“When can I re-apply for the same American Express card after cancelling it?”

You need to wait 6 months after cancelling an Amex card before you can apply for another card in the same “family” and get the sign-up bonus.  Amex Gold and Platinum constitute one ‘family’ because both give Membership Rewards points.  The two British Airways cards are one ‘family’ as both give Avios.  The Starwood Amex and Nectar Amex are not part of any family.

“Can I apply for, and get a bonus on, a card from a different Amex ‘family’ if I already hold another Amex-issued Amex card?”

Yes.  If you have a BA Amex you can get a Gold / Platinum, or Starwood, or Nectar card and qualify for the bonus.  If you have a Gold / Platinum, you can get a BA, Starwood or Nectar card and qualify for the bonus.

“But the American Express rules say ‘you cannot receive the bonus for a Gold card if you have held a Membership Rewards card in the last 6 months’, and I have a British Airways card”

I get an email a week on this point.  When Amex mentions “Membership Rewards” they are talking about the proprietary “Membership Rewards” points scheme that it operates for Gold and Platinum charge card holders.  They are NOT talking about generic ‘membership rewards’ issued by the BA, Starwood or Nectar cards.

“Can I get the British Airways Amex if I have the Lloyds Avios credit cards?”

Absolutely.  Amex doesn’t really care about what non-Amex issued cards you own.  This also works vice versa.

“Can I apply for the Hilton credit card – issued by Barclaycard – if I already have another card from Barclays?”

There are some rumours that the Hilton card is being dropped by Barclaycard, but these are not confirmed yet.  Barclaycard is known for changing its rules on a regular basis about how your existing cards impact and it is not possible to say with certainty whether you will be accepted if you have another Barclaycard card.

“Can I re-apply for the Lloyds Avios cards and get the refer-a-friend bonus if I have had the cards before?

No.  Lloyds won’t even give you the refer-a-friend bonus if you bank with Lloyds, Halifax or Bank of Scotland, or if you have ever had any other Lloyds credit card.

“Can I re-apply for an MBNA card and get a bonus if I have had and cancelled the same card before?”

Yes, for the Virgin Atlantic cards (the wording changed recently).  No, for their other cards – but check the specific wording for each.  That said, I have had the bonus on the Miles & More cards three times now, but this is over a period of 10 years with a multi-year gap each time.

“Can I apply for, and get the bonus on, another MBNA card if I already have a different MBNA card?  eg I have the Virgin card and want the Emirates one too.”

Yes, not a problem.

“How many American Express cards can I hold?”

There is no published rule.  There is a widely repeated mantra that Amex is happy for you to have two charge cards and two credit cards at the same time, but you will not find this on paper.  Your own personal credit situation – ie the number of cards you have, the total credit limit across them, your annual income etc – is more of a deciding factor.  Lloyds or MBNA Amex cards do not count towards these totals.

Find out more:

Here are links to all of our Head for Points credit card reviews if you want to find out more about any of the cards above:

American Airlines, American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Platinum, British Airways American Express (BA Amex), British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex), Emirates, Emirates Elite, Etihad, Flybe, Hilton Honors, HSBC Premier, HSBC Premier World EliteIHG Rewards Club, IHG Rewards Club Premium, Lloyds Avios Rewards, Lloyds Choice Rewards, Lufthansa Miles & More, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex), Tesco, Tesco PremiumUnited Airlines, Virgin Atlantic White, Virgin Atlantic Black

There are also reviews of the Nectar Amex card, Amex Gold Business and Amex Platinum Business.

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending 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:

American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

Comments (81)

  • Beefy says:

    Re: IHG readers with the fee paying card are (weirdly) being targeted for the free card and applying and being accepted so you must be able to hold both.

    I wish they would properly target new customers as well!

  • Genghis says:

    Can I have both IHG Rewards Club credit cards at the same time?
    Yes. @Roger and I have the IHG black and applied for the white over the weekend and got accepted. I’m just waiting for card delivery which takes an age with Creation.

    • Trev says:

      Do you know if it’s possible to upgrade from the free IHG card (white) to the paid IHG card (black) and receive both bonuses or are they treated as separate cards (as per MBNA Virgin Atlantic cards)?

      • Genghis says:

        It seems they are discrete. I’ll only know for sure once I’ve got the card and get the sign up bonus

    • Gareth says:

      I have also applied for the white card while holding the black card, accepted, will wait and see what arrives

    • roger says:

      Yes, applied and waiting.
      Will update if I get bonus on white card while still holding black card.

  • Anon says:

    Rob – Impressive analysis and FAQ. 🙂

    Any update or user experience on the rumours for Hilton Visa would be useful, was intending throwing some serious spend on it to retain HH Gold after April.

    Or maybe there’s a fast track deal out there?

    • Genghis says:

      Get Amex Plat for a couple of weeks? Much easier

      • mark2 says:

        Thanks, true.
        How long does the Hilton Gold last for? to next March or the following March? does anyone know what the cut off date is?

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Earning year is Jan-Dec I believe, you keep it all of that year until end of next. So if you become Gold now, you’re Gold until end of March 2019.

  • Nick says:

    With regards to Barclaycard, I hold a Barclaycard Platinum card, I recently applied for the Hilton card and was declined based on the fact I already had a Barclaycard.

    • DJF says:

      My recent experience differs, I hold a Barclaycard Platinum which I rarely use and have had for a number of years, I applied for the HHonors Card a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t get instant online approval but they emailed the following day saying approved and card was on its way.

      • Daniel Evans says:

        I have a Barclaycard on a 28 Month Interest-Free Balance Transfer deal. I then applied and got a Barclaycard HHonors card a few months later. So in my experience you can hold 3 though the Hilton card has quite small credit limit.

      • Michael Jennings says:

        My experience is almost exactly the same as DJF. I have a Barclaycard Platinum that I have had for about 15 years and which I use occasionally. I applied for the HHonors cards several weeks ago, and didn’t get an automatic online approval, but was told at the end of the process that they would get back to me within five working days. Seven working days later, I received an e-mail telling me that the card was approved, but again with a fairly small credit limit.

        (Applying for a second card with the same provider and being given the card but with a small or smallish credit limit has happened to me with American Express, Halifax, and now Barclaycard, although they have generally been happy enough to increase the limit on the second card later. My experience with Creation and MBNA has been the opposite – they have been willing to give me a second card with a large limit immediately).

    • JP says:

      I also have the Plat Barclaycard and the World Barclaycard (that came over from Egg). I never use the plat and sometimes use the world one (used to use it alot). I was instantly approved online. My wife has the plat card and was approved after a few days.

      So holding other barclaycards is not a reason by itself to turn you down (although I did seem to end up with a different user id, so perhaps they didn’t match it against my existing cards….)

    • Mark says:

      I also had a Barclaycard Platinum which I had for years that I closed down as I wasn’t using it or getting any rewards from it (I’m quite new to all of this). I then decided to apply for the Hilton card a couple of weeks later and was declined.
      Called them up and they said it was because I had had another Barclaycard within 6 months. He also mentioned that the 6 months would start counting from the date I made the failed Hilton application and not the when I cancelled the original card – not sure if that is correct or not.

  • Tariq says:

    Worth sending an online message to Amex if you already have Gold charge and ask for a bonus for switching to Platinum. I was offered 10K MR points. Clearly more lucrative to cancel for 6months and do a new application but I’m currently time pressured and need to renew my Hilton status (and got a few trips coming up where Priority Pass will be useful).

  • Neil says:

    You can have both IHG cards (through Creatiin) at the same time. I did and have kept the premium one. I got both bonuses too.

  • Kevin says:

    One thing to note here: If you have a platinum, you can get the gold, but as you state, you won’t get the sign up bonus.

    HOWEVER! If you refer yourself via your own referral link, you will get 9000 point for absolutely nothing.

    I did this last month, and can confirm that it 100% works. No transactions on the gold card are necessary, just refer yourself and get the referral points!

    • Ro says:

      I wonder if you could upgrade your gold to a plat… get another bonus. Then refer yourself to gold again and cancel both cards?

    • BigDave says:

      handy to know that one thanks… I want to jump to gold from green but don’t want to wait the 6 months to get the bonus – its a shame to miss it and 9000 points will make it less sour – I am not in it to churn

      • John says:

        The main reason we churn the Gold is so that we never pay the annual fee… (except when waiting for the 10000 bonus for spending £15k)

    • roger says:

      Not sure how would this work in practice.
      As you say if you have platinum, do a self referral get 9000 MR points, but where does it go?
      Does it go in the same MR point pot or in the different pot?
      If Amex found out surely they can take those points back?

  • Crafty says:

    OT: For those who are planning to continue the BAPP churn strategy, but are concerned by recent rumours regarding the outcome for your earned companion voucher, here’s another data point. I downgraded to the free card a month ago, then cancelled that card this week. I received a secure message back stating in writing that “Any Companion Voucher earned is now Void”. I have yet to see any change in my BAEC account, where the voucher sits; but will update if anything changes. Fingers crossed this is still Amex “official line” rather than genuine change to policy.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Why not respond ask them to point to the wording in the T&C’s that allows for this eventuality?