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.

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. Couple of Q’s as relatively new to this
    : I took out a BA Amex in May 2018. Got to within £500 of hitting the 20k 241 voucher in Nov 2018, so applied for a Amex preferred Rewards Gold card and have been spending on that since to earn rewards and convert to BA Avios. Currently have 84k Avios with approx. 30k or more to come from flights/hols booked in March/April.
    I plan to swap back to BA Amex in early May to trigger the 241 voucher and then hopefully book flights for April/May 2020 to KL.

    Am I doing the right thing by continuing with this strategy, or should I be looking at an alternative?
    And what should I do after may 2019 – swap to BA Platinum or remain with regular and Amex gold?
    Grateful on any advice.

    I have a partner who I could refer if it helps. Not used them yet, but happy to do so if it assists.

    Thank you in advance

    • Genghis says:

      Best advice I can give is not to bother with the BA blue card. Voucher only valid for 1 year and as BA flights released at t-355, makes booking hard to get flights when you want them nigh impossible. As such, cancel and get BAPP in 6 months’ time.

    • Firstly Rob makes the case that you never spend £20K on the basic card, if you spend that much you get the BAPP card and get a two year voucher at £10K rather than a one year voucher at £20K, along with abextra 10K Avios on the spend and 25K Avios as the signup bonus. If you’re happy to churn, then refer partner to Gold, then cancel you card, and become sup on partner card. 6 months after you cancel, get partner to ref you, they cancel and become sup on yours. Repeat until Amex decide to end this. Don’t apply for sup cards until Amex offer you points for doing this. Aside from doing this with Gold cards you can separately do the same with BAPP cards if you wish and have sufficient spend.
      Alternate tactic Is to keep Gold if you spend £15K and get extra 10K points and pay the fee after first year. You really need to work the numbers and decide for yourself. Remember Amex Rewards can convert to things other than Avios, and this has value.
      Also think about Platinum. £450/year puts people off, but you don’t need to keep the card a year, and the referrals from Platinum earn 18K, you get some hotel statuses, and good insurance as well as 3rd party lounge access. The sign up bonus is 30K, but if referred it’s 35K, you’ll be offered a su card at no cost for the first one and an extra 5K points. Get this, spend £2K, and you could earn 42K points in a month, refer partner for Gold andBA from this and you could get an extra 36K points. It really is worth consideration.

      • Thank you for both your replies. If I cancel the BA blue card then I wont get the 241 voucher in May? I am able to be flexible on dates, so was hoping that I would find something avail with the voucher at least. Can I upgrade now to the BAPP and would it trigger the 241 as I have already spent over 10k? Or would I have to spend another 10k before I get the voucher? (and pay the annual fee presumably)

        • You get the voucher when you pass the target, not year end. Never done upgrade, sure someone will answer. 2 years so much more flexible than 1.

        • Genghis says:

          Don’t cancel yet! Trigger the voucher first.

          If you upgrade now you’ll trigger the voucher immediately it should then be valid for two years (but in reality might not be so would require some chasing).

          KUL can be a popular route if you have specific dates (and you kind of do given the blue one year 241 validity) so might be worth upgrading.

  2. I was only waiting until May to trigger the voucher, as we don’t want to travel before April/May next year, so didn’t want the clock to start ticking any earlier.
    I realize now that the BAPP is far better with a 2yr validity, but was already well on the way to reaching the 20k before fully understanding (wish i had discovered HFP earlier 🙂
    Am I right in thinking then, that I should upgrade to a BAPP now. It’ll trigger the 241 (but have a 2yr validity, so still allow me to travel in April/May 2020)
    Will I also get any Avios benefits by doing this?
    Should I upgrade by phone to confirm this, or is online ok?

    Mnay thanks

    • Yes upgrade to bapp now, it will trigger your 241 with 2 yr validity. You just have to travelled outbound before the voucher expires. So well worth it. But b4 you cancel refer your OH for a bapp too, or gold or spg,
      And upgrade on line, it will ask you for your bapp no. Once your oh has their new card, stop spending on the bapp. Concentrate on the new card spend bonus.
      Don’t cancel till both your 241 and final avios have transferred to your baec.

      • I thought if you upgraded and had already gone over the 10k spend the voucher will only have 1 year validity…

  3. berneslai says:

    Is it possible to refer for a card that I don’t own (but have previously)? I’m a Platinum card holder and would like to refer a friend for a Gold credit card. I’m sure I’ve done this before but can’t seem to do it now.

    • Yes, as per other comments they just need to click ‘other cards’ when they receive the referral link – you can try it yourself so you can see what steps they need to take. If it doesn’t work try a different browser. Doesn’t matter if you’ve held the card previously or not.

  4. I’m booking Heathrow to Santiago on a 2 for 1 voucher and also for a third person on a cash booking. If I want all 3 to be on the same booking do I have to do this over the phone? There doesn’t seem to be a way of doing this online without having two separate bookings.

    • Definitely can’t do online but I’m not sure they’ll be able to do it on the phone either – my recollection is there are issues with being able to create mixed points/cash PNR. (three people as 241 + a straight Avios redemption is fine though)

    • 2 separate booings am afraid, but always possible to call up and link them later.
      Over to you, Harry on that one..

      • You can’t mix cash and redemptions in single PNR. You can only link bookings if you’re Gold and even then it doesn’t always do much by all accounts.

        Does anyone have a useful level of BA status that gets seat selection etc? If only one person, put them on 241, if two have status put one on 241 and one on cash booking. Remember you have to have the person whose 241 it is on the redemption.

        • Thanks for the responses. None of the 3 have any status.

          I know someone who works at BA so I might be able to get the seat selection sorted out a couple of days before.

  5. ScienceTeacher says:

    OT: Had a vehicle tax reminder though the door today. Went on the website and saw that they accept Amex! A tidy £210.00 to put through…

    • Haha yeah takes the sting off slightly when paying these sort of bills!

      • ScienceTeacher says:

        Indeed. Didn’t realise the government website accepted them! I believe the Post Office blocks Amex on car tax too.

        • I noticed car tax payment accepted Amex in December. Could even pay my car insurance with Amex!

    • RussellH says:

      That must be new, I think. I have always paid by debit card. But only £20, so not a great points yield. Due to renew soonish, so will see what happens.

  6. Alan Shelber says:

    I have an Amex Gold Charge card and my wife has a supplementary card, for coming up to two years now. Neither of us has held another Amex card in the last 6 months.

    What is the best strategy, with using referrals and possibly referring each other, to maximise sign up bonuses?

    Would it be best to cancel the supplementary card before proceeding?

    My suggested strategy is as follows:
    1) Wait until a month after anniversary for points to post for spending £10k
    2) Upgrade to Platinum using referral link for 20k MR, add supplementary after upgrade, meet spend in month 2, cancel in month 3 after receiving bonus
    3) Self-refer to SPG and BAPP from Amex Platinum (if I can meet the spend), cancel once targets hit
    4) Refer wife to Amex Gold CC in month 2, meet spend by month 6, cancel in month 10
    5) Wife can refer me to SPG and BAPP from Amex Gold CC 6 months after 2), cancel once targets hit
    6) Wife refers me in month 9 to Amex Gold CC – meet spend by month 11
    7) Refer wife month 16 to Amex Gold CC again
    8) Repeat 2 & 3
    9) Add and cancel supps as required for each new sign up

    Genghis, another one for you perhaps? 

    • Genghis says:

      By the look of it you know what you’re doing. I suggest you sit down with a pen and paper / excel spreadsheet and work it out based on
      – which points you want to earn
      – risk appetite of how many cards you want to apply for
      – how quick you spend cash (ie £2k a month is 5 months for BAPP 241)
      – the 6 month min fallow period.
      – appetite for spending cash (eg if you crunch numbers are you willing to accept a higher cost of obtaining avios if it means spending more money, eg holding Plat for longer)?
      – at each stage eek out max referral bonus and the supp additional points.

    • Hi Alan, not sure if just a typo, but the 10k bonus MP post after having spent £15k, not £10k on the gold card.

  7. Stephan says:

    Looking to use the companion voucher to book an open jaw business class to New York and Chicago, are all BA business Class flights equal in quality or is it possible to identify which ones are better?

  8. OT: AMEX Gold

    I am currently holding AMEX Gold (charge card) and my first card year is approaching (1 month away). If I switch it to Gold credit card, does it mean that I am not going to be charged the annual fee until Jan 2020? If correct, do I just need to phone them and ask to change my Good Charge to Gold CC?

    • Genghis says:

      Yes, but no sign up bonus.

    • Best option is to do the platinum upgrade for the 20k points then cancel

    • Jumble Tales says:

      I asked Amex the very same question as my gold charge card anniversary is Feb but I also hold two other Amex credit cards. They said I’d have to fill in a fresh application for the gold cc, then when approved , to cancel the gold charge card. I’d receive no bonus and I’m wondering if I would be better off with one of the fee free MR cards….

      • Well, you still get the lounge access and double points on flights, so some small perks? But probably not worth the hassle of a new application.

        • Genghis says:

          I like to make £100 profit from each credit search. In say Tom’s shoes, it seems he he wants an MR earning card and doing this would save £140.

  9. Spurs Debs says:

    I’ve got a gold credit card can I apply for platinum charge card at same time and recieve the sign up bonuses?


    • Not until 6 months after you cancel the gold

      Same family (ie Membership reward points) which was kind of the whole point of the article

  10. Applied for a Gold Card on Sunday (having been referred by my wife, of course), still not had acceptance confirmed 🙁


  11. Hi, On the AMEX platinum page, it states: ‘You can also ask for a second Platinum Card (an Additional Card) for yourself, to separate your expenses’ How does this work? I’ve asked live chat and they say use the ‘Add someone to your account button’ but this is for supplementary card holders – Does this ‘additional card’ count as a supplementary?

    • Yep, you just use the supp cardholders bit. As it’s in your own name you’ll just get a card with ‘A.C.’ at the end of your name (additional card). Will be Plat too but doesn’t count as your free Plat supp. Can be handy for Amex Offers – off to use the 2nd £200 off £600 I had on that!

    • you use ‘other’ as the relationship when you apply

  12. Quick Q, how long do I have after I receive the card in the post to activate it? ( I am assuming the first 3 months target only starts after activation). And what if I don’t activate at all, what happens to the points the referrer received? Thanks!

    • Referrer gets the points as soon as accepted. Clock starts from account opening rather than activation though.

  13. Slightly OT but are there any points cards with 0 FC fees? The only thing I can find is a Barclaycard Cash back Card.

    • All the app-based banks (Revolut/Monzo/Starling) offer zero forex – if you top-up from points-earning card then you’ll still be earning. Curve have 0% forex too. (although remember Rev & Curve both do slight exchange rate loading at weekends)

  14. Can I receive the bonus with a gold card if I already own a Lloyd’s Amex/MasterCard?

    • Yes as they’re not Amex-issued cards – see the 3rd paragraph of the ‘few points’ section in the article…

      “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.”

  15. Amex-related – as posted in comments recently, another data point to confirm it’s definitely cumulative spend for the Amex Travel offer. Made a hotel booking then a few hours later an Amex Experience one – the latter immediately triggered the email confirming successful redemption. The Experience options are actually pretty decent, just booked in for Gardens by the Bay in Singapore at cost price, so a handy way of triggering the offer.

  16. 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.

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

        • 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 ?

    • 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.

  19. 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?

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

      • 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!

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

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