Bits: change coming to Amex sign-up bonuses?, change already here at Tesco Clubcard

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News in brief:

Changes may be coming to Amex’s sign-up bonus criteria

Two readers have contacted me in recent days to say that they have been told by the American Express call centre that imminent changes are coming to the way sign-up bonuses are earned.

The two stories are contradictory.  It doesn’t really matter which is correct, however, as the end result in both scenarios is worse than the current requirement to leave a six month gap between cancellation and re-application.

All I would suggest is:

If you are planning to cancel a card this month with a view to reapplying later, you may want to hold off.  There may be no point in cancelling if you do actually want to keep the card long term.

If you are planning to re-apply for an Amex card which you have had in recent past, you may wish to re-apply sooner rather than later.  You may not be eligible to receive another bonus if the rules change.

Let me stress that this is all speculation and that nothing has been officially announced.

My review of the key Amex travel cards are here:  American Express Preferred Rewards GoldAmerican Express PlatinumAmerican Express RewardsBritish Airways American Express (BA Amex)British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex)Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex)

Application links are here:   American Express Preferred Rewards GoldAmerican Express PlatinumAmerican Express Rewards (representative APR 22.9% variable), British Airways American Express (BA Amex) (representative APR 22.9% variable), British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex) (representative APR 76.0% variable), Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex) (representative APR 39.7% variable)

Separately, a third reader was warned by the Amex call centre that the free British Airways Premium Plus card currently given to long-standing American Express Platinum cardholders is being withdrawn.  This feature was stopped for new Platinum cardholders a few years ago but many readers – including myself – still benefit from it to the tune of a £195 annual saving.  I should note that I only have one data point on this and Amex call centre gossip can often get confused as it passes down the line.

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.

…. and changes have already come to Tesco Clubcard

Tesco announced a pile of changes to the Clubcard scheme yesterdayWe have covered these in detail on Shopper Points today – click here.  We covered them for The Guardian as well – see here.

In general, the changes are bad.  Some little-used ‘two times’ deals will now give 3x face value, but a lot more deals which used to give 4x face value are dropping to 3x.  This mainly impacts restaurant and days out vouchers.

From a travel perspective, it is actually positive to neutral:

National Express, Megabus and redspottedhanky.com (train tickets) credit now gets you 3x the face value of your Clubcard vouchers, up from 2x

There is no change to the Avios or Virgin Flying Club conversion rates 

You have also gained Uber and hotels.com as new 3x face value redemption partners this year.  Uber is now my preferred redemption as we use it heavily and it is a genuine ‘3x’ value.  If I took Avios instead I would be giving up £3 of Uber for every 240 Avios I earned which means I would be ‘paying’ 1.25p per Avios – and I don’t value them at that.

To do this without ANY notice at all stinks, however.  It particularly stinks that we are just 9 days from the end of the current Clubcard collection quarter.  People have 10 weeks of points locked up inside Clubcard which cannot now be spent at the old 4x redemption rate.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. Anthony says:

    Can a Amex Gold business card holder refer someone for the normal Gold card?

  2. The streets says:

    I received a new AMEX platinum at the weekend – just over six months since cancelling the previous one. however, after activating the card, it is not showing my welcome sign up bonus on my account page (or anywhere else). luckily i found my previous cancellation letter and spoke to AMEX. they said that i was entitled to the bonus but would take some time to appear on my account page…. i really hope this is not the end of repeat sign up bonuses !

  3. Rob, you don’t actually say what the two people told you! (Though I know there was a comment mentioning changes to the 6 month rule a few days ago).

    No more sign up bonuses would leave me with a measly 40k or so avios per year from card spend so I desperately hope the end of churning is not nigh, however if it did happen I would think that Amex are going to lose an awful lot of customers.

    • Couldn’t agree more, right now I’m start/mid 6 month break with both me and my Mrs now not eligible for any bonuses so this change would hit me badly and would mean a real Avios re-think

    • Genghis says:

      Do Amex really want customers like me who they make no money from? I doubt it. My best guess is that the vast majority of people would be unaffected by any changes.

      • Exactly; they lose money on me too. This is exactly what I would o if I were a senior manager at American Express.

    • Best case scenario is that it’s all rumour. If it’s true, a good result would be retaining current system but extending reapplication period. Worst case scenario would be one bonus per card per custoner ever. Whatever, I cannot see them scrapping bonuses because they need them to drive applications as I suspect most people still see amex as some type of niche card compared to mastercard or visa.

      Also, don’t forget that amex has a much simpler tool at it’s dusposal to deal with the likes of me and other serial churners here who are just costing them money.

    • Why would amex lose customers? Even with no churning their ongoing earning rates beat everything else so there’d be no reason for anyone to close accounts.

  4. When cancelling the free BA card, do I need to wait 6months to apply for BAPP to get the signup bonus?

  5. Just got my Hilton Honours Gold via my amex platinum…. And about to book Hilton Sa Torre in Mallorca on Rob;’s recco….. Is it right that you dont get the Hilton Gold benefits (ie free breakfast) if I book via a travel agent. Amex Travel are coming in much cheaper (c 25%), and the hotel direct will not match it….

    • As a diamond I found this hotel very unwilling to provide any HH benefits (no upgrades, no late check out, weeks to post points which were wrong) – aside from breakfast which to be fair was good aside from lack of and variable quality of staff. In fact I’ve never experienced ruder staff in any hotel from front desk through to one particular waiter and junior management. Very clear indication that they Don’t buy into Hilton Honors. I’ve never got over it! Miles from anywhere too.

      • Thanks Leo. Was going to book 5 nights here then move to Jumeirah Port Soller for another 5 nights. Have hired a car too… Seems such a shame that Mallorca in general has no decent hotels for family holidays besides the 2000Euro a night places…..

        • Smart thing to do is buy Hyatt points in a promo and then book the Park Hyatt – cuts a huge amount off the cost.

          Fine Hotels and Resorts will earn Hilton credit, Amex Travel probably won’t. Losing free brekky is expensive at Sa Torre and you are miles from any alternative, Upgrades in peak season are unlikely unless you are on a very short stay.

      • Thanks Rob. Amex is £340 a night for a family suite with brekky, which seems a steal for August. Struggling with other alternatives in Mallorca

        • That’s not bad, as long as it is clearly the same level of room as shown on the Hilton site. It is a decent hotel, I would go back (and we paid cash, it wasn’t points). Worth trying Hilton BRG though just in case as long as Amex Travel accept all credit cards. If they only take Amex the BRG is rejected as it is a ‘membership’ site.

        • We’ll have to keep agreeing to disagree on this one Rob. Worst experience I’ve had in a hotel in the Med. I was paying cash and it was mid September so no excuse for any of it! Far better hotels on the island but I appreciate August is crazy price-wise.

    • If the room and cancellation conditions etc are exactly the same you could book direct and claim under their BRG. They will match the rate and give a further 25% discount if successful.

      • Looked at doing this last year at the Waldorf in Dubai. They get round it so easily by claiming the room/package/conditions are very slightly different…..

      • Good luck with that!! BRG is, with most chains, just a con. They generally find some way to get around it, even if it’s only waiting until prices change before processing the claim. Unless one is happy to pay the more expensive rate and sees the potential discount simply as a bonus, it’s not worth going down that route.

        • You will find that one has a 2pm check in and one has a 3pm check in, or one has a ‘windmill view’ and one has a ‘tall tower with blades on it that go round’ view which they will claim is different.

        • I’ve done BRG with Hilton 4 or 5 times and all got approved very quickly without a hassle.

  6. Will suck if there’s no churning at 6 months. I’m currently in the waiting period for both a PRG for my wife, and a BAPP for me.

    Was wanting the BAPP in about May or June so I could pay my large BA holiday balance with it for many bonus Avios, as well as instantly hitting the spend target.

    Please don’t spoil my plans, Amex!

  7. I agree the Tesco approach to these changes stink. They tend to hurt people on low incomes most, many save their vouchers for a long time for days out to give their kids a treat. It was the same with double up in store,, people saved for most of the year with intention of buying toys for Christmas only for the double up to be scrapped, halving their spending power.

  8. Does anyone know when Amex stopped offering the BA PP card for free to Plat holders?

  9. Is there a way of checking which date I cancelled my Amex Gold card, as I am struggling to find any record that they sent over of cancellation?

  10. Diydegsy says:

    Hi if upgrade now from gold to platinum card do I miss out on the 10,000 bonus points for spending £15k on the gold card in the first year? I have already hit the target but my 2nd year with the gold card doesn’t start until end Feb?

    • Yes

    • Yes you do – last year I was waiting for my bonus points and they pulled the Platinum upgrade offer while I was waiting – points arrived 31 days after my anniversary date. The upgrade offer came back a few months later but only after I had cancelled the gold and taken out the SPG. You win some you lose some.

  11. Optimus Prime says:

    I guess the chance of switching to the US model and getting just one lifetime bonus but as huge as theirs with those impressive earning rates is almost zero here due to no surcharge fees, caps on co-branded cards, etc.

    What would fellow HfP readers do if they removed signup bonuses and kept current earning rates? I don’t think I’d keep my Amex Plat. Can get travel insurance through a premium current account such as Nationwide. Hotel elite status benefits seem to be hit and miss…

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Just to clarify – I’m only voting for US model if they remove the existing one! Though extending the “waiting period” from 6 to 12 months as someone pointed yesterday sounds like best alternative to me.

      • If they extend to 12 months then that wouldn’t be too bad as long as you can still cross-refer to different cards. Just means stacking other cards in the meantime. For example I can get my Gold, refer my wife to Gold and cancel my card. Get wife to refer me to BA – she cancels her Gold card, wife refers me to BA (and cancels her BA card, I refer her to Gold (after 12 months).

        Bit of a faff but not impossible to do.

      • Would love 12 months! In Germany it’s already 18 month.

    • It isn’t just the bonuses though it’s the ongoing earning’s rate + benefits. Take Hilton’s new amex card for example, holders are going to receive far more benefits than we are for paying the same £450 to amex for the platinum card.

      • Don’t forget that in the US they get to charge merchants whatever they please, but with co-branded cards in the EU it’s capped at 0.3%

  12. Seems what’s happened here is a case of “let’s introduce the ARCC card to try and curb churning” back in September, that failing and now, unsurprisingly moving onto extending bonus renew periods like they’ve done in the States…

    • If they intended to curb churning with the new card then they should really have waited a year. I will be applying for that card eventually, but haven’t had the opportunity to cancel or open any Amexes in the past 4 months…

  13. Is there a consensus on self-referring to get the referral points ? I know there has been a couple of comments recently but seems like it might be luck of the draw whether you get them or not.

  14. Tesco are also cancelling several of their hotel partnerships at the end of the month.

  15. Sandgrounder says:

    OT- this news has just given me the push to cancel my IHG Premium- I think I will be needing to hit a few Amex spend targets in the next few months! I have just passed my anniversary so the voucher should drop soon, plus I now have Platinum for the rest of the year. I was a bit sad they didn’t try to retain me though. Has anyone else had a retention offer from Creation?

    • I believe Rob previously posted that he thinks Creation are losing money every time you use the card, so not surprising if they don’t try to keep you

      • Sandgrounder says:

        True. I suppose the ones they want to keep are the people who buy it for the status and put it in the desk drawer.

        • I’ve had IHG Spire status since they created it, and to be frank, it’s a joke.

        • Who does that? I don’t think anyone would shell out £100 just for platinum. I used to use it to stick my tax through so hit the “free” night immediately. I may ditch it now. I’ve got so many IHG points I can’t find a decent redemption on as it is.

        • £100 for Platinum plus 2 points per £1 plus a free night for £10k is probably the best bargain around, if you can use the £10k.

      • Craig Strickland says:

        I must be costing them a fortune then, 89 nights at IHG last year. My employer foots the room charge but all incidentals go on the IHG card.

        • Why would Creation sign up to a credit card deal that costs them money?

        • Because you have to make assumptions about spending and interest charges which are potentially wrong.

          Take the Premium card. I have put £50,000 through my wifes in the last month to cover VAT, PAYE, personal tax etc. If Creation is paying IHG 0.4p per point then she has cost them £400 in points in a month. The interchange fee was 0.3% so £150. The £99 annual fee is already wiped out and that is before Creation funds the free night voucher and before it pays all of its operating costs.

          On the free card, the maths is crazy from Day 1 because IHG is almost certainly charging more per point than the 0.3p interchange fee per £1. Creation needs people to be paying interest on their balances to make a profit. If they have only attracted financially sound customers they are losing cash.

        • Thanks for the clear explanation. It seems that Creation will not be able to (or should not) finance this card at the current benefit levels for too long if they are mainly attracting customers who pay their statement in full each month.

          If that is the case, how does a card like this survive?

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