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

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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.

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.

(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.)

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. Craig Strickland says:

    I do wish we could get some clarification from Amex if there is going to be a change in the rules. Currently working towards the 241 on t’other half’s BAPP and the renewal date in mine is in 4 weeks, I was hoping to cancel and reapply in six months after we hit the target on the first. Ho hum.

    • I`m sure HFP readers will be the first to know! There`s no point getting stressed about it until we know for definite that there`s even going to be a change. And if there is, there are enough creative people on this forum to come up with alternative earning strategies!

      • Craig Strickland says:

        I know Anna, I’m certainly not stressed. The countdown clock at the moment is working towards the ‘boss’ reapplying for Gold and then upgrading to Plat following a referral. I’ll hold the BAPP until I know what’s happening, two 241 are much more important than the sign-up bonus.

  2. OT (American Express Rewards Card AERR) I applied over the weekend but did not get an immediate decision, is this normal?

    • If Amex cannot validate all your data electronically then you get that message. It doesn’t mean there is a problem, it just means someone has to manually look at it.

    • I think it is totally random. I used to always get it, for every application (not just amex). Despite excellent credit and reasonable income etc.
      And my partner use to always get auto accepted electronically.

      Then the last 2 applications it was the opposite way around.

      We have no idea why. Don’t worry, I don’t think it means anything.

      Interestingly I gave them feedback before that when they would look in to it, they would not tell you yes (or no) until you got the card about a week later – and that was annoying. But last time I applied I received an email to say that I was accepted the following day. I like to think it was directly related to my feedback.

      If you want to know you can call them, almost 100% of the time you will have been accepted by 10am the following day.

    • Jumble Tales says:

      Ditto here with same card. I applied last Tuesday. I phoned to chase it on Friday and their adviser (unusually sounding as if they were in an overseas call centre) told me to wait up to ten working days.

  3. OT: Is the two complimentary Lounge Club visits with the Preferred Rewards Gold Card include a guest per visit or would you have to use both comps for you and your guest?

  4. If you get the blue BA card, spend £9k on on, upgrade it to the black and then downgrade again once hitting the £10k spend, do you get a companion voucher valid for 2 years?
    Thanks 🙂

  5. Do you know what Basic Card means in terms of referring a friend? I have a platinum card and wondering which cards can give 18k bonus if i refer a friend who already has gold card.

    • Any card that your friend applies (and is accepted for) for by your link will get you 18k.

      Basic Card isn’t an option. Neither are the new MR earning credit cards. (You cannot apply for them via a referral link for some unknown reason)

  6. “You cannot, in any event, have both the free British Airways credit card and the paid British Airways Premium Plus credit card” – This isn’t true, maybe you’re not supposed to be able to, but both myself and my wife have had both cards simultaneously for several years ( and earned 2 for 1 on both cards every year ).

  7. How do you judge the date of account closure for the purposes of the 6 months gap? Is it the date of request to close the account, last statement, last payment or what? I usually err on the side of caution but because of the supposed additional delay that is about to be introduced, I need to know exactly when I can open Gold and trigger the bonus (Mrs will refer, obviously!).

    Where can I find this information?

    Many thanks.

    • 6 cal. months to the date +1 day to be safe.

      • James, thanks, but to the date of what? 🙂

        • You should get a letter with the cancellation date on it, so 6 months from that. It is the date you phone up to cancel (or use the irritatingly slow online chat)

        • Ahh, ok, thanks. So basically the date I made the phone call then? I will need to dig out the letter or search my call history then!

        • Quicker just to call and ask them what date you closed your account.

        • Always useful to note the date you called to cancel in your card envelope. But better to keep the letter in same envelope. Best be it can get confusing. They may not have cancelled it for a couple of days after you called.

        • I used the date on my credit report for my Gold charge card…. Waited six months and reapplied for the card and do not have the offer. My only bonus offer is spending £15,000 and getting 10,000 membership points. I must’ve been off by a few days.

          I’d phone and check.

        • Should application offers show alongside the £15,000 spend offer on the online dashboard? Nothing else is showing here for me? The wording of the ‘Show Details’ bit implies that a welcome bonus will not show a tracker (“Excludes any additional offers advertised at the point of application. If you were recommended by a friend, your additional points will be applied separately if eligible”), but now I’m wondering if I haven’t qualified for the bonus for some reason? It does seem a little odd that you are required to remember how much you have to spend, and when by, to achieve the welcome bonus – especially when they go to the trouble of making a big thing about the renewal bonus.

  8. O/T : how long does it take to convert Tesco Clubcard vouchers to Uber credit please?

  9. I have the paid BA card and have hit the spend bonus (but not the £10k spend for 241), can I downgrade straightaway, retain that avios bonus and receive a pro-rata refund (I appreciate my 241 target would change to £20k spend)?

  10. I have a Gold and added a supplementary card which got me the 3k bonus. I am planning on upgrading to Platinum. Has anyone had any experience cancelling the supplementary before upgrading, then applying for a supplementary on Platinum for the 5k bonus?

    • No reason why not. You might decide you don’t want this person on a supp. Then you changed your mind once you got the plat…

  11. Rob – Whilst the ARCC earns Membership Reward points, didn’t you recently write that you can hold and earn both points, with an ARCC + Platinum/Gold?
    I currently have Platnium, and recently got the ARCC. The letter received said I’ll receive bonus points on expenditure within 3 months.

    • There is also a Gold Companion Credit Card earning MR – possibly with a 5k bonus for adding it to your Gold. They are supposed to share the Rewards account, but sometimes they set them up as separate! First agent said couldn’t combine, but quick push back and a second immediately linked them. Need to canx the Gold to pro-rata refund the £140 (after using the lounge cards next week I hope) but wasn’t ready to transfer all the MR points out.

    • No, ARCC rules say you don’t get a bonus if you’ve had an MR card recently. You may get lucky of course.


    Please can I ask about the two complimentary Lounge Club visits with the Preferred Rewards Gold Card – can I give my 2 to my daughter who also has the Preferred Rewards Gold?

    • The lounge passes are connected to the actual person who has the card. They need to be travelling. Has she not got her own 2 passes? Or is she a supplementary on your card? She can only use one if you are travelling too.

  13. I got the Gold companion credit card for the bonus and when I phoned up to cancel my Gold Card they let me keep the credit card for no fees. Would this stop me from being able to reply for a bonus?

    • Yes, you can’t get the new bonus if you if you already have the card. Only if you cancel and re apply fterb6 months of not having an MR card.

    • Yes, as you still have an active Membership Rewards account.

  14. Hi,

    I have a preferred rewards Gold Card, and my fiancee has the basic BA card. As per the above, I assume we would both be ok in signing up for the card which the other has (I would sign up for the basic BA, she could go for the Gold charge card). But could we also refer each other and get the referral bonus?

    • Optimus Prime says:


    • Better that you first apply for gold companion card, hit £500 quickky and bank 5000 MR points, cancel the companion card, upgrade gold to platinum and spend £1000 for 20000 MR points. Refer your fiancee for gold to bank 18000 MR points. She then follows the same pattern after getting her gold 22000 MR and ultimately refers you for BA card from platinum. Depends if you have enough spending though. If you do then don’t forget to appky for platinum companion credit cards too..

  15. OT – BA have just done their annual mucking me about and cancelled our 1400 connecting flight from LHR to MAN on September 1st. They’ve re-booked us onto the 1810 service which means 4 hours longer waiting at LHR after a 12 hour overnight flight! I’ve called the overseas CS team but they say there are no other flights that day. I’ve checked online and the schedule looks very odd indeed. There seem to be only 4 LHR – MAN flights that day whereas on the next day (Sunday) there are at least 6. Is it possible that BA are in the process of changing their schedules and more Saturday flights will be added back to the schedule at some point? It seems bizarre that they would cut the number of flights on a single day. I’ve tried calling the UK based CS centre but just getting a message saying they are too busy to take calls, presumably dealing with all the other mucked about passengers!

    • Jus checked again and it looks like they have removed the 1400 and 1545 LHR to MAN services that day, leaving only half the number of flights they are offering the day before. Can anyone think of a reason for this or is this BA starting a major reduction in regional offerings from the autumn?

    • 12hrs…..China/Japan?

    • Lady London says:

      Is this a bit daft but as you’ll all be so exhausted after your 12-hr flight, could it be worth asking if BA will give you a hotel for the night as you simply won’t be able to stay awake if forced to wait so much longer at LHR and may be a danger going home from MAN etc..? Then request to be booked Sunday connection instead.

      Flights defo do get moved and cancelled but I would say more in March, than February. Sadly I think Rob’s idea about taking aircraft off a quiet afternoon schedule for flights to Manchester, in favour of being seen to use the Monarch slots at Gatwick, may be what’s going on on this one. If BA won’t budge I’d seriously consider paying for a night at the Sofitel myself and asking BA to book you to the following day rather than subject you to such a long wait to connect after your already long journey.

  16. Where’s Harry these days? I read the site everyday and noticed he’s not here anymore

    • About once every 18 months Harry goes a bit crazy, starts randomly insulting people / genders / sexualities / races, and then disappears for a period to physically or metaphorically sober up, before returning. I see him as an overall positive to the site and hope he returns.

      • lmfao.

      • insulting people / genders / sexualities / races “once every 18 months”?

        Rob, are you being intentionally disingenuous?

        Your professional business and reputation is mightily enhanced while he is offside.

      • I respectively disagree with you on this point Rob. His bigoted views, made clear in a number of his comments (am surprised sometimes they have not been deleted), have no place on this site or any other.

        I for one am glad to see the back of him.

        • They do get deleted, but obviously it is not instant.

        • I am also enjoying the peace and quiet. And as for the “snowflake”comment below – I don’t need anyone’s help in taking on Harry’s outdated and offensive views when he makes them. And they can indeed be very sexist and very homophobic. If he comes back and makes those kind of comments again I will continue to call him out on them. Fact there is there are very many people here who regularly contribute and go out of their way to help and they manage to do so without being offensive to others.

      • True, he contributed some useful tips. But we must protect the snowflakes.

        • Yes.

          I imagine that Squills will return at some stage.

          Furthermore, I’m sure that Rob is perfectly capable of protecting his professional business and reputation, along with deciding what has or has not a place on HIS website.

        • Bring back Harry ! – I would rather hear from Harry than protect a snowflake

      • I may be wrong but I always thought the offensive Harry was talking through drink. Reading through many of his comments there was little evidence of offensive language or views, rather a keen analytical mind and a desire to be helpful. Personally, some of his comments hit close to home but I care little about being offended through ‘drink’, it is much easier to deal with and understand than the real thing. Always gave Harry the benefit of the doubt. If he has battles to win I hope he does and I hope we see him here again.

        • Hope to see him again. He was forever contributing stuff we could all learn from

        • Lady London says:

          I’m very disappointed that I’ve apparently missed such comments, then.

          Or, maybe most of us are quite capable of weighing up other people’s comments and deciding what to take seriously or not.

          I was beginning to miss Harry although not aware of any issue, and I really really hope he returns. He adds such value to this site.

      • Geoffthesaint says:

        Harry is/was the most savy poster on here by miles…

        • … albeit within a very small circle of expertise, much of which was more Shopper Points than HFP. Where he scored was that he is also plugged in to what is happening on the deals sites none of us bother to read because they are full of shoppers excited by 10p off baked beans at Morrisons but which would have the occasional travel-related gem.

        • I was assuming he was just away at his ‘place in the sun’ and didn’t have internet access 😉

        • He posts on HUKD still, i picked up lots from his comments on here, helped me out a few times

        • Gotta love Harry.. He is the kinda guy I could have a beer with. I might not agree with his thoughts 100% but me and he could paint to costas red…

          Come back soon…

        • Sorry to go against the Harry love in, but I read this site daily and there are a lot of helpful contributors, he wasn’t with regards to airline points (he was more suited to HUKD/ MSE). His comment In January was so homophobic, I don’t think anyone could defend him and it wasn’t his first. I certainly wouldn’t go for a drink with him (unless you wanted general racist/ homophobic/ xenophobic conversation) and I personally don’t think the site is any worse without him. HFP works beacuse of the Rob’s/ Anika’s interesting articles and the related comments.

        • Hmmm. This thread has got me worrying about myself. I never really noticed all of these outrageous postings so either..
          a) I just didn’t see them or
          b) I am so insensitive that it didn’t register with me to be outraged.

          Hopefully the answer is a).

        • Geoffthesaint says:

          BLT – that’s got to be the most ridiculous post I’ve seen on here and I’ve been here a very long time too.

  17. Just done a bit more digging and it does indeed look as though BA have drastically reduced their Saturday LHR-MAN capacity. Worth knowing for anyone trying to book a cash or redemption seat as these are now going to be severely reduced. The cash price for my one-way, 45 minute flight on Sep 1st is now £292, which makes my redemption look like a very good bargain, even though it’s now going to be hellishly inconvenient.

    • Though I could possibly forgive them if they used the Monarch slots to re-start the Gatwick-MAN service.

      • Lady London says:

        Wonder if you could use this as an excuse to ask them to re-route you directly into Manchester by changing your incoming longhaul flight routing?

        • I seriously doubt it as I think all they have to do is get us to Manchester, which they are doing.

    • I don’t know if they have done so this winter but BA had a bad habit of selling tickets for the 18XXh LHR-EDI service only to cancel it and leave a big hole in the evening service, even during the week. Was horrible for incoming longhaul connections.

  18. OT Can I use Curve to buy foreign currency at a bureau in the UK and it go through as a purchase?

  19. I cancelled my AMEX gold 3 years ago but I’ve still got a £7 credit on there that I keep forgetting to claim. Long story. Moved country.

    Does this mean my account is “open” and if I wanted to re-apply for a bonus would mean closing it today and waiting 6 months?

    • Scallder says:

      That’s fine to have a credit on there – so you can apply for another card now if you like

  20. Sorry if already mentioned but there’s a great documentary about singapore’s new first class on channel 4 right now – presumably will be available to watch on catch-up:

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