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)

  • Joe says:

    Slightly unrelated, but credit card related and probably of some interest to some.

    I applied initially to the free BA AMEX and received the sign up bonus (9000 avios or something) and then after a month I upgraded to the premium version. Now fast forward 3 years, I was trying to hunt down some Avios and I noticed the fairly significant difference between the sign up bonus. So I sent a little email to Amex and whilst they didn’t give the entire difference (as per their T&Cs) they did give me a nice little 5,000 avios bonus. I was expected naught so kudos amex!

    This is probably been done before and been reported but I just thought I’d bring it to attention.

  • David says:

    Thanks for clarifying some questions I had – great article.
    Bet that kept you busy today

  • Laura says:

    I do bank with Lloyds and have had credit card with them for ages, after being referred by a friend for the Lloyds avios card I still managed to get the refer-a-friend bonus as it is that rewards it.
    However, it was lots of hours spent chatting and emailing the customer service team to get the bonus for me and the friend who referred me.

  • Toby says:

    I presume this is implicit in the first Q+A, but presumably being a supplementary cardholder doesn’t prohibit getting a sign up bonus on a card?

  • Chris says:

    Few slightly OT questions if that’s ok:

    1) For the Amex gold, can the airport lounge passes be used if I cancel the gold card?

    2) It says that with the card I receive 2 lounge visit passes per year. How does it work if I cancel the card then reapply later in the year. e.g. get gold card in month 1 with 2 passes, cancel in month 4, then get another gold card in month 10. Do they send two more passes that can be used immediately with the new card?

    3) I have the tesco clubcard mastercard with 0% on purchases for 17 months. At the moment I’m using this card for stoozing i.e. just making the minimum payment each month in order to earn interest on money I’d be using to pay the balance. My question is does this uncleared balance come up on credit checks when applying for credit cards in the future and would it affect me negatively?


    • Nate1309 says:

      1) Yes the lounge card is cancelled with the AMEX.
      2) I would imagine a new lounge club card is sent out.
      3) Not sure sorry. But I would imagine it does show up. Whether it affects you negatively is debatable.

    • Robbie says:

      On 3) Yes it will show up and yes it will affect you negatively on applications whilst you hold the balance as one of the main contributers on credit scoring is your credit utilisation (How much of your credit you are using.) however once you clear the balance it will become a positive to your rating as this will build your credit history (Providing you never miss a payment)

      • Chris says:

        Cool, thanks to you both.

        • Waribai says:

          From trying this at Xmas, after I cancelled my gold card, the lounge card wasn’t cancelled i.e. it still got me into the lounge BUT…I was subsequently billed by Lounge Club for the visit. i.e. the free passes had been deleted.

      • David says:

        I’m doing similar with the Tesco card, though in my case instead of putting the money in savings I’m clearing my mortgage a few months earlier than I would’ve been able to otherwise, to avoid another year’s interest payment (and then using what would’ve gone to repayments in the months after my anniversary dates).

        When considering this I did a bit of googling on the affect on creditworthiness and what I read suggested that the % of your limit that you use has a lot more impact than the absolute balance. So if customer A has a balance of £7.5k with a limit of £15k on that card and £40k total; and customer B has a balance of £4k on a limit of £5k with that as their only card, customer A would see a bigger negative impact from this factor.

    • Brighton Belle says:

      Yes the uncleared balance is visible to lenders.You can see it for yourself. Get a free Noddle account and it shows the entire history of your credit card balances on every card by month. There is no hiding place. You will be amazed at just how much is recorded.

  • Anon says:

    Slightly O/T but a hat tip for Rob’s council tax article, tested using AMEX at Coop Paypoint to pay some of Council Tax, they maybe receiving more of my grocery shopping custom over next few weeks. 🙂

  • Sundar says:

    What would also be beneficial is to know which credit reference agencies are hit by which Card-companies ? (even by crowdsourcing based on people looking at their credit files )
    For example, Amex typically hits Experian, Creation hits Equifax and Call-Credit and so on.
    This would help people in evaluating their applications’ (potential) impact on their scores.

    • Rob says:

      You are overthinking this. The UK system is not like the US, it is far more fluid.

      • John says:

        To be fair, for certain people, this information would be very useful.

  • roger says:

    While we are on CC, would like to know success story of cancelling and reapplying for the same card again and still managing to get the bonus.
    If so what was the minimum time between cancellation and reapplying?
    I know many people have indicated in past like reapplying within couple of months of cancelling card.

    • Graham Walsh says:

      6 months for Amex issued cards is what I think. Not sure what is it for non Amex cards such as Virgin (MBNA)

      • Laura says:

        Hi, bit of a pedantic question – but do you know if this is 6 months to the day or 6 calendar months? I last applied in October (31st) and I’m wondering whether I need to wait until the 30th April or if I can get the sign-up bonus for Virgin which ends 3rd April. Thank you!

        • Genghis says:

          For Amex cards it’s when you last cancel. I’ve reapplied at 6 months and a day before and got bonus. Ie. Cancelled 13 Jan, reapplied 14 July.

        • Genghis says:

          For MBNA Virgin cards I’ve only churned once but left it about 3 months between cancelling and reapplying.