Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

New year, new credit card? Learn which Amex cards you can get, based on the cards you have

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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IMPORTANT:  Following changes to the American Express sign-up bonus rules in March 2019, this article is now out of date and you should not rely on it.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

Cards which offer Avios

Cards which offer Marriott Rewards points

Cards which offer Nectar points

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 reviewAmerican Express Platinum reviewAmerican Express Rewards (ARCC) reviewBritish Airways American Express (BA Amex) reviewBritish Airways Premium Plus American Express (BAPP Amex) review, Nectar Amex reviewStarwood Preferred Guest (SPG Amex)

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

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

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.

Barclaycard Select Cashback credit card

2% cashback on all your business spend for 3 months (1% thereafter) and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (275)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Colf says:

    Question as a newbie to this:

    I currently have both the Amex Gold Rewards Card and the basic/blue BA Amex. I earned the healthy bonus on the gold last year (I am about to cancel before the renewal fee kicks in) and I’m trying to work out what my best Avios earning move would be as a next step.

    Should I cancel the Gold Amex, use the basic BA for six months then get the gold again with the new bonus? Or would I be better cancelling the BA amex as well and waiting six months to get the premium card sign up bonus? Not keen on upgrading directly as I’d miss out on all those avios. All thoughts welcome!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Don’t cancelif it’s the gold charge. This is your chance to upgrade to to platinum for 20k points.

      Also have you added your gold supp for 3k? Plus another 5k for your first Platinum supp.

      • Colf says:

        Interesting, yes it is the gold charge. So the renewal bonus is 20k if I upgrade to platinum before the renewal date?

        • Alan says:

          Its not a renewal bonus its an upgrade bonus. You will get it whether you have paid for the renewal or not.

        • Genghis says:

          If you upgrade to Platinum from Gold charge card when the offer is on, it’s 20k MR for £1k spend in 3 months.

  • r* says:

    Is it still right that after hitting 10000 for the 2 for 1 on bapp, the card can be cancelled and the voucher will remain on baec acct?

    • Genghis says:

      Once 241 is in your BAEC acct it won’t be removed. Even if you then cancel a booking it’ll be returned. Just need any Amex to then book a flight.

  • Jo biden says:

    Schoolboy error!
    Got a new AMEX Plat card- a DAY EARLY!!
    I do not qualify for the bonus 🙁

    Chat will not give me an “Incentive” to cancel

    Any idea if their CS on the phone offer me anything not to cancel ?

    • Anna says:

      I would just chalk it up to experience and plan better next time. Make any referrals you were going to, wait for the points to post then cancel and wait another 6 months, unless you need the insurance and lounge passes.

  • Phil says:

    OT: All the Amex Offers have disappeared from my Amex Plat Charge Card and linked Credit Card. This includes the Saved to Card, Recently Expired and New Offers.

    Is this isolated to me or has it happened to other users?

    • Hugh says:

      Looks like it’s happened to me too on both my BAPP and Gold Card.

      • Anna says:

        Info comes and goes on Amex accounts, you may well find they have re-appeared in a couple of days. In fact I vaguely recall this happening to me before Xmas!

  • Mike says:

    So with the gold card, the spend £15k get an extra 10k bonus isn’t triggered until the end of the year?

  • Al says:

    Is it possible to transfer Virgin FC points between husband & wife a/c (i.e. same address)? I understand there’s no household account ability like BAEC.

    • Rob says:

      You can’t transfer but the call centre will help you out when trying to redeem.

  • Geoff says:

    Rob – is it worth adding any advice on which cards get a bonus for adding out a supplementary card. BA Amex doesn’t but Amex Gold does (provided you add it later and not the time of the initial application).

    My specific question here is – do we get any bonus points for adding a supplementary SPG Amex?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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