The beginners guide to whether you qualify for an American Express sign-up bonus

We don’t do very many ‘first principles’ articles on Head for Points.  A number of recent emails, plus a discussion in the comments section on Saturday from a reader who had been refused a bonus on an Amex Business charge card, made me feel that this one was a useful exercise.

As I wrote recently, Amex is believed to be planning some negative changes to the rules on UK sign-up bonuses.  You may want to act sooner rather than later to pick up additional bonuses whilst you still can.

The question we are looking at is:  what are the rules regarding earning a sign-up bonus when you take out an American Express credit or charge card?

The simple answer is:  you will receive a bonus (subject to hitting the qualifying spend target) if you do not have, or have not had in the last six months, an Amex card which earns the same rewards currency.

Let’s look into this more closely.

The rule does not relate to just the card you are applying for.  It also applies to cards which offer the same kind of reward.

American Express sign-up bonus rules

For the cards we cover on Head for Points, the main rewards currencies are:

Cards which offer Membership Rewards points:

Cards which offer Avios:

Cards which offer Starwood Preferred Guest points:

Cards which offer Nectar points:

Here are a few observations:

To clarify, you cannot get a sign-up bonus on a card if you have had another card in the same ‘family’ above in the last six months.  If you have or recently had an Amex Platinum, you cannot get a bonus if you apply for an Amex Gold, for example.  There are NO restrictions on you getting a British Airways, Starwood or Nectar card as they belong to a different ‘family’ on my list.

The six months rule only applies to cards on which you were the primary cardholder.  Being a supplementary cardholder on someone else’s American Express card does not matter.  If you are currently a supplementary cardholder on your partners BA Amex, for example, you WILL still get a bonus if you apply for your own BA or BA Premium Plus Amex.

Cards which are not issued directly by Amex have no impact on this discussion.  If you have the Lloyds Bank Avios credit card, you WILL still get the bonus on either of the two British Airways American Express cards.

Just because you have previously converted Membership Rewards points into Avios, Starwood or Nectar does NOT block you from the bonus on the dedicated British Airways, Starwood or Nectar American Express cards.  A lot of people are confused about this in my experience.

More importantly – and a common mistake – you cannot get a bonus on a Gold Business or Platinum Business if you have or recently had a personal Gold, Green, Platinum etc.  This is because a company cannot have a Membership Rewards account, only an individual.  The Membership Rewards account for a Gold Business or Platinum Business is in the personal name of the individual who applies and so the standard rules apply.

You cannot, in any event, have both the free British Airways credit card and the paid British Airways Premium Plus credit card.  However, upgrading or downgrading between the free and paid BA cards will not trigger a bonus because you will have had an Avios-earning card in the last six months.

Similarly, if you downgrade from Platinum to Gold (although you can also have both) you will not receive a bonus on the Gold.  You should also note that you do not get your first year of Gold free if you downgrade to it – the £140 kicks in immediately.

You can apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex – and gets its generous sign-up bonus – irrespective of what other Amex cards you have.  The only no-no would be if you have cancelled an SPG card in the last six months.  The bonus is 10,000 SPG points which is worth roughly £150 of free hotel stays or 10,000 Avios or other airline miles.

Similarly, you can apply for the Nectar Amex – and gets its generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 Nectar points – irrespective of what other Amex cards you have.  The only no-no would be if you have cancelled a Nectar Amex card in the last six months.  This card is free for the first year.

I hope you found this helpful in clarifying any confusion.  Please post any further questions in the comments – I will add the best ones back into this main article.

If you want to know more about any of the cards above, here are my reviews:

American Express Preferred Rewards GoldAmerican Express PlatinumAmerican Express Rewards (ARCC)British Airways American Express (BA Amex)British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex), NectarStarwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex)

I also look at Gold Business here and Platinum Business here.

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.

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  1. Gold to platinum upgrade question: If I’ve hit the £15000 spend on Gold for 10000 MR at anniversary, and then upgrade to platinum midway through the card year before reaching the anniversary for the 10000 MR to post would I still be eligible for the 10000 MR?


  2. I’m still waiting for my lounge club card about a week after receiving the gold card. Is this normal? Previous comments indicated that both should arrive at about the same time?

    • menachem says:

      i have a gold card , is there any offer to get 5k points by adding additional user and spending 500 £? as well if I upgrade the card to platinum , will I get a bonus?

      • You might get a bonus if you add a supp. It’s not definite.
        But yes if you do the upgrade to platinum you should get 20k MRs for a 1k spend. Use the link that’s floating around here. And it might appear as a banner on your Gold card account.

    • Mine were slower arriving this time – about 10 days after the Gold card – turned up last week.

      • OK thanks, hopefully they’ll arrive at some point this week then. I see on the website it states that it can take up to 28 days from the date of card activation.

    • We didn’t recieve them at all when my gal got a gold and added me as a supp.

      Not that we care as I’ve got PP on my plat and her as supp

    • Yes in my experience, took about 3 weeks from application

  3. I had the Amex Gold credit card – one which i opened via moneysupermarket. It was a MR collecting card with no fee.
    i had got it because at the time they had a decent sign up bonus. i acheived the bonus and forgot about it. a year later i wanted to open a PRGC and a Platinum Charge chard and quickly closed down the old amex Gold card. despite being told by amex CS that i would need to wait 6 months to open the prgc and platinum to get the sign up bonus, circumstances forced me to apply and get both cards less than 2 months after closing down the free gold credit card.

    yet i got the sign up bonuses for both the pgrc and the platinum – within months of each other after hitting spend targets. Cant complain about amex screwing that up 🙂

    also how many amex cards is one allowed to have?

    i have:
    platinum charge
    BA free card
    platinum cashback

  4. Why is that platinum Amex offer in the UK is far inferior to the offer in the States. No competition I guess? I am surprised with no good rewards cards offered in the UK on a recurring basis. You are basically stuck with limited options. These European banks need to get more competitive and learn from their US counterparts. Agree that they are limited by the .30% cap by the EU ruling but they can still come up with annual fee and try to incentivse people to stay longer.

  5. I am due to cancel my Gold Amex this week. On the basis of the rumours am I better upgrading to Platinum taking the MR bonus being offered to upgrade and then cancelling? I don’t travel enough to justify paying the fee for the platinum card. Plan was to cancel gold card and reapply in 6 months…

  6. Slamberry says:

    SPG Question: Just added an SPG to the family AMEX arsenal following Robs comments that its days are likely to be numbered following the intechange cap decision and also due to due to the partnership ending soon anyway.

    Successfully referred myself from Mrs Slamberry’s BAPP to earn the extra 1000 starpoints and her 9000 referral avios.

    Is there are a bonus on the SPG for adding an AU? Platinum Chargecard gave me 5000 bonus MR points for adding Mrs S and I gather she earned some bonus avios for adding me as an AU to the BAPP.

    Is there a similar bonus for adding AUs to the SPG and if so, does anyone know what?


  7. james vincent says:

    full of shoppers excited by 10p off baked beans at Morrison – Says the man that wrote an article about £5 off an ALDI!!!! got love that!!!!

    I seem to remember Harry providing the info for everyone to get FREE Aspire lounge access….which was the best tip I’ve seen on here that couldn’t be worked out yourself.

    so a long way from just Rob and Anika advice……..

  8. Ba amex basic / Ba amex PP so am i right by thinking if i wait till month 7-8 then upgrade to premium plus i will get the avios sign up points ?

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