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free British Airways Premium Plus card currently given to long-standing American Express Platinum cardholders is being withdrawn.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 (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 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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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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%

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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?

  11. Shame if true. I had just convinced my gal to churn as much as possible this year. She has never held an Amex account before and her PRG application just went thru. I had many other cards on my mind.

  12. Andrew M says:

    Certainly not unanimous view within Amex CS that sign up bonus eligibility is going to be changing. Me: “Are you aware of any upcoming changes to sign up bonus eligibility on the range of Amex cards and, if so, are you able to tell me anything about such changes?” CS: “Yes, there has to be a gap of 6 months from the date the old card was cancelled and the date it was opened.” Me: “As far as you are aware, that will continue to be the case? As in, you have not been told that is changing?” CS: “Yes, correct.”

    • The Amex call centre people are switched on. You’d be surprised how many emails I get from people who were referred to HFP by the Amex call centre! I am pretty sure there is something going on, but I accept that I would get advance notice so it will not happen overnight.

      • Rebecca says:

        I hope not, I’m about 3 weeks off being able to apply for the Gold card again!

  13. Scottydoggiom says:

    This will be bad news for me as churning cards is my main source of points !

  14. Maria J says:

    Hi my husband has just closed his Amex Platinum and need to decide what to do with the Amex Rewards? Which program is best to transfer to? Thank you

  15. no more churning will mean I no longer use AMEX. the sign up bonuses are a huge incentive – Will avoid due to the £140 annual charge on the gold card and without a viable way to earn AVIOS to make a 2-4-1 worth the £195 there is no point.

    it will mean plenty of redemption availability for those with lots of avios earned through work but the hobbyist looking to get club world or first flights on the cheap are out of the game.

    • I wonder if there has been any pressure from BA/OneWorld? It would be natural for them to want to limit loyalty perks to the people who spend the most money with them, which is not the same as those who spend most money on Amex cards.

  16. I was under the impression that Avios had changed the rules and that – even if there was no WTP cabin – they pretended their was? This is why the BA1 London City ‘all business’ service is now bookable.

    • Rob – I was able to do this using the Avios call centre a few months back – unless it’s changed since then?

      • roberto says:

        Avios would not let me use the lloyds voucher on Ba1 from LCY when I called a couple of months back. I hung up and phoned back a few days later and got the same news.

      • Genghis says:

        When I last checked you can price it up online.

    • Yes – the system charges a notional WTP 40,000 avios each way for using this route.

  17. It’s the flights that use the mid haul ex bmi 321’s – mainly middle eastern routes
    From the top of my head it’s:
    – tel aviv
    – Cairo
    – Amman
    – Beirut
    – Moscow

  18. Can I ask a sort of related question here please? With the 10K bonus MR points for a £15K spend on an Amex Gold card, are these only payable if you “renew” (i.e. pay the second year’s membership fee) or if you cancel before then is there anyway of getting hold of this too? Hope that makes sense?!

    • Genghis says:

      The 10k bonus will be paid a month or so after your anniversary date so you will have to pay the £140 fee (refundable pro-rata).

    • You get the points after 4 weeks. You can then cancel and get a pro-rata refund, so roughly £128 of your £140 will come back. As your Lounge Pass reloads with another 2 visits you may want to keep it for longer until you’ve used those.

      • Thanks. Have hit target but still have another six months until renewal. Based on the original article it sounds better to hold on to it rather than cancel card and get a referral (for a bonus which may or may not exist) in six months time…

    • Wait till the points post around 6 weeks after year end and you get a pro rata refund on the £140 2nd year fee.

  19. Erm… does the referrer get the points bonus even if the referred person has had the card within the last 6 months and is ineligible for their own bonus? I had always assumed both bonuses depended upon the 6 month gap, but now I’m wondering if the referrer’s bonus doesn’t since they might not know the situation of the person they’re referring?

    • Valid question. The T&Cs make no mention re: the referred must not have held the card in the past 6 months for the referral bonus to be paid out.

    • I’ve referred MrCate from my plat for a SPG card although he recently cancelled his (Nov I think) and I was credited with 18mr.

  20. Combatjohnny says:

    I guess I am probably in a much lower spending bracket than most people on this site so a change in the rules would definitely hit me hard. I haven’t even been in the churning game a year let either!

    • Lewis King says:

      Been in the game a bit over a year but definitely not a big spender by any means either. This would be very disappointing, but I have had one first class redemption to Mumbai and another soon to New York so I’ll have had my fair share of rewards if it does all change! The continued downward trend on prices for tickets is making reward flights less valuable too.

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