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

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IMPORTANT:  Following changes to the American Express sign-up bonus rules in March 2019, this article is now out of date and you should not rely on it.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

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.

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 Marriott Rewards / Starwood Preferred Guest (now the same thing) 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 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. OT but Amex related – I’d appreciate some advice on strategy / card choices to assist with paying for hotel accommodation in NYC in May this year. I am sitting on c. 55k Avois in a HH account and 30k MR having done Gold card – I’m ~ £10k in spend (and 11 months) from hitting the additional 10k anniversary bonus.

    I was thinking of referring myself for SPG for an additional 9k MRs and the 30k SPG points and then transferring all of the MRs to SPG (roughly 90k SPG points after the transfer and sign up bonus) and seeing what that can get me.

    Presumably I can’t make use of the Avios in conjunction with the MR or SPG points?

    • Sorry I should have added that monthly Amex spend is ~ £2k

      • Genghis says:

        I don’t fully understand the question.

        With Amex spend at £2k a month, £24k a year, that’s almost sufficient for 1 BAPP 241 and another for bonus (£13k), 4 Plats (£8k), 4 SPGs (4k) = £25k.

        As such, I wouldn’t spend 3% FX fees on your NYC hotel spend (I presume in $) in order to hit any sign up.

        The question is then what you want to do with your points. Your current level of points isn’t going to get you too far in NYC.

        • Genghis says:

          Is the Melia points package still for sale on Amazon ES?

        • Apologies – it was more of question of what to do with the points I currently have and whether I should switch card now to collect sign up bonus points that can be used to part pay for hotel accommodation.

          For reference I (we) have already done BAPP and have used one 241 with another one in the ‘bank’ – I’m about 3 months away from being able to apply again.

          The other option is that I just pay cash for the hotel and continue to churn cards for the avois and the 241s which will come in handy for other trips.

        • Meila rewards are still available on – 55k points for E214.50 or 35K points for E136.50

        • The Melia Points offer is now €264 on the ES site or £205 on the UK site, so cheaper from the UK.

    • Melia is only a good deal if there is availability – sadly for me no basic rooms when I want in August.

      Don’t forget you can refer yourself and “other half” for the SPG card and collect 2 lots of referral MRs and 2 lots of SPG/Marriot bonuses on the spend. You can transfer between accounts with a phone call.

  2. Is there any trick to lower flight ticket booked via AMEX Travel?

    Trying to use AMEX Travel offer on Platinum Charge Card but when booked via other OTAs the savings are almost wiped out.

  3. Andy Morgan says:

    Can you help Genghis?

    I have an Amex personal gold credit card, and would like to apply for Amex business platinum charge card for the great sign up bonus. However, I assumed I wouldn’t get the bonus due to having the gold card. Have just spoken to Amex and they said technically as my business will be applying for the platinum card, rather than me as an individual, then the sign up bonus should still apply. Can anyone else confirm or deny this before I apply?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      The rules say you shouldn’t get the bonus.

      However, if you have verbal or written confirmation from AMEX you will, all calls are recorded so note exact time and date, then you could argue that they should pay out as its been offered. You may of course need to fight for the points when they don’t automatically post.

    • Amex is wrong. Many readers have been stung on this before (some also got away with it, but they are a minority and that requires Amex to not realise you already have an account).

      • Andy Morgan says:

        Yep, Rob’s right. Just double-checked with Amex Corporate, and I’m not eligible. So gold card just been cancelled and I’ll apply in 6 months.

  4. Genghis

    Can you please share any Excel churning template if you have any?


    • ohhhh yes please

    • Genghis says:

      Sorry, not willing to share. It’s simple to build your own, however, driven off how much you spend (use historical data as a proxy), which then drives fees and how long it takes to do things.

      • PC illiterate says:

        So ‘simple’ most won’t even begin to try! (thats their fault I hear you say!)

    • What I use is:
      column A: name of card
      column B: holder
      column C date cancelled from letter
      column D: six months later (can be a formula but CBA)

      After the first cycle it manages itself

  5. Does the 6 month wait also reset the ability to get the 241 voucher?

  6. Gerry H says:

    Rob, good article.
    I am coming towards the end of my first year with Amex Gold Preferred Rewards card. I have spent over £15k on it.
    My wife is a supplementary card holder.
    If she applies for a card in her own right, does she receive the sign-up bonus and free year 1 membership? Would she need to exit my card as supp. before applying?
    If I then cancel my membership in month 2 of 2nd year, can I then become her supplementary card holder? And we do this each year, not paying an annual fee (apart from a pro-rata month or two? And spending similar amounts.
    Is there something I have missed here?

    Before I cancel any card, I need to transfer out my rewards into whatever other scheme etc? Is that correct?

    • Gerry pretty much yes to all of that, obvs your wife should sign up using your referral link.

    • Benilyn says:

      does she receive the sign-up bonus – yes
      and free year 1 membership? – yes
      Would she need to exit my card as supp. before applying? – no

      Being supp doesn’t have any impact on signing up as main account holder.

    • Is there something I have missed here?

      Yes – why wait for a full year:

      You apply month 1 – meet spend by month 2 – cancel card month 3 after receiving referral bonus
      Refer Wife in Month 2 – meet spend by month 6 – cancels in month 10 (so can refer you month 9)
      Wife refers you month 9 – meet spend by month 11. (refer wife month 16 etc…)
      Add and cancel supps as required

      So within 12 months you have received 3 sign up bonuses, 2 referral bonuses and any supplementary bonuses.

      • Sean, I take it that you transfer the AMEX Membership Reward points to another programme like Avios/Singapore Airlines etc before cancelling the card?

    • Also do not request supplementary on initial application as you can usually get 3,000 MR on later request.

      and you can refer each other for other cards e.g. SPG

      • Rob Walker says:

        Recently with my wife’s new Platinum account, we received 5k MR for adding another supplementary cardholder despite already having added one at the time of application. They also sent the card to my home address despite the supp not living at my address.So always worth finding someone else to add even if you’ve added your partner at time of application.

  7. Another basic referral Q….

    Can you still refer from a BAPP 241 Amex to a Amex Gold MR card?

    Does the BA card get 9k Avios for doing so?

    • Yes and yes. You can (I think) pretty much refer from any Amex card to any other Amex card.

    • Yes and yes

    • In November I tried to self refer from BAPP to Platinum but it was not possible, there were no options to ‘View Other Cards’ and only BA cards displayed.

      • Amex play a bit with this referral thingy. Sometimes, the view other cards works, sometimes it doesn’t…

        • Also it looks like firefox and chrome blocks the other cards button, Edge/Internet Explorer works best

  8. Dipesh Kataria says:

    I have had instances where Amex have denied me a sign up bonus as they said I was gaming their system. I had an amex gold, cancelled and waited 7 months, and then applied again. The representative from Amex said all bonus are chosen at their discretion.

    • If you do not put spend through the card it can happen. Be careful with yiur credit score when you card applications get refused.

  9. …..on cancellations.

    1) I’ve got a BA Gold that i’ve received both my target bonuses on. If i cancel, can i reapply in 12 months time and get the bonuses again?

    2) on My BA Amex i’ve got 2 x 2for1 vouchers which i intend to use for 2 new reservations flying in Feb 2019 and Feb 2020. If i cancel my card in March 2019 , will this affect my bookings at all? Have assumed the one that will have gone is fine – the 2 x first class to KL in Feb 20 i’m a bit more twitchy about.

    • 1) You can apply again in 6 months time and be eligable for the bonuses again.

      2) The majority of anecotdal evidence says your Feb 2020 booking will be fine. As a data point, I asked this question of both Amex and BA before I cancelled my BAPP card with a ‘used but not yet flown’ 241. Amex told me the 241 would be cancelled. BA told me it had been redeemed at the point the tickets were booked and could not be cancelled. I’m due to fly in May and so far so good.

      I’ve read a number of times here and elsewhere that even if you haven’t used the 241 for a booking it will not be cancelled when you cancel the card, despite what Amex say.

      • Thanks Grant,

        your answer to two is what i thought – anecdotal evidence. I think BA saying it’s OK is the main one, right? I don’t recall when it disappeared from my account last time i used one for a booking

        I’m surprised i could get the bonuses twice in a year – i do some pretty hefty business spend on them. That said – worth a go.

        • I was prepared, perhaps foolishy, to take the BA CS agent’s word for it and cancelled by BAPP after that call. Time will tell, but so far nothing has changed on my booking in my BAEC account.

          On the timescales point, this is the key para as far as you are concerned in Rob’s article…

          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 example Rob uses is Plat to Gold, but same would apply for Gold to Gold. You could churn a card from another family in between if you wanted to leave it longer than 6 months.

        • Genghis says:

          De facto, companion vouchers do not disappear when cards are cancelled, despite what anyone tells you.

        • Please ignore both Amex and BA on these 241 issues. They stay in your ac. Only thing to watch out for is, if you cancel your flight, and you don’t have the bapp anymore, there is the slightest chance you might not have the voucher returned. But here on this forum, no evidence of that…touch wood…
          amex and ba, They don’t really know their own rules. Just ask us on here….

  10. Are there any significant differences between a personal and business cards? As a sole trade I have the choice of either for my next application (I use Amex only for business spend) I recall reading on HfP in the mists of time that the travel insurance on the business plat’ card was superior???

  11. GoldmanSachs says:

    OT – Does downgrading BAPP to normal BA blue card require a credit check?

    • Genghis says:

      Amex reserve the right to. Some have reported a search.

      • I’ve only ever had one search from amex in 5 years (for my first card) is that pretty normal?

      • GoldmanSachs says:

        Genghis comes to the rescue again

        I have never downgraded any product but I am now in a position to. Do you put through usual application on the website or call them up? assuming they will ask for same information as a normal application, then reserve the right to do a hard credit check

        • Benylin says:

          Call them, I did it over the phone

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Honestly, Why?

          If you have the 2-4-1 voucher just cancel and churn in 6 months or so for a new bonus?

          If you need to hold an AMEX card then refer yourself for one of the others?

        • Genghis says:

          I wouldn’t bother downgrading. Just cancel.

        • GoldmanSachs says:

          Part of me wants to keep the 30k limit, but i agree, will look at cancelling too.

          But as usual – thanks all

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