We don’t do very many ‘first principles’ articles on Head for Points. However, I ran a version of this article a year ago and it was very popular. More importantly, I’ve ended up emailing the link to at least one reader per day since then so I know it is a key topic.
Many of us will be taking advantage of the New Year to make a fresh start on their loyalty credit card strategy. A lot of people do not fully understand the rules on what American Express sign-up bonuses they can get, which might mean that you are missing out on some free points and miles.
IMPORTANT: Following changes to the American Express sign-up bonus rules in March 2019, this article is now out of date and you should not rely on it. Please click here to read an article outlining the new Amex bonus rules.
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.
For the cards we cover on Head for Points, the main rewards currencies are:
Cards which offer Membership Rewards points
- Preferred Rewards Gold credit card Representative APR 57.6% variable inc fee (free in year 1)
- Platinum charge card
- Amex Rewards credit card Representative APR 22.9% variable
- plus Green, Centurion, Gold Business and Platinum Business charge cards
Cards which offer Avios
- British Airways credit card Representative APR 22.9% variable
- British Airways Premium Plus credit card Representative APR 76.0% variable inc fee
Cards which offer Marriott Rewards points
- Starwood Preferred Guest credit card Representative APR 39.7% variable inc fee
Cards which offer Nectar points
- Nectar credit card Representative APR 28.2% variable inc fee (free in year 1)
Here are a few points you should note:
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 only have the Lloyds Bank Avios credit card, you WILL still get the bonus on either of the two British Airways American Express cards or any other card listed above.
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 card 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 have both the free British Airways credit card and the paid British Airways Premium Plus credit card. 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 switch from Platinum to Gold or vice versa (although you can have both) you will not receive a bonus on the new card You should also note that you do not get your first year of Gold free if you downgrade from Platinum – 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 30,000 Marriott / Starwood 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, worth at least £100 – 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 Gold review, American Express Platinum review, American Express Rewards (ARCC) review, British Airways American Express (BA Amex) review, British Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex) review, Nectar Amex review, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex)
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – February 2024 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
Virgin Money is offering double points on spending until 14th April (£5,000 cap) to new customers when you apply for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard. Click here to learn more.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend 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 offers:
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.