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IMPORTANT:  Following changes to the American Express sign-up bonus rules in March 2019, this article is now out of date and you should not rely on it.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

  1. Just applied for the SPG Amex and approved immediately. Is there a bonus for adding a supplementary card to this account?

  2. O/T Anyone with any experience of Amex offering additional MR if a supplementary card is requested after the account is set up with one card – or might it just appear under offers tab on user account? If offered how many MR are offered on AmEx Prem Plus?

    • Genghis says:

      Yes. Whether offered or not.
      The Platinum card, earns MR = 5k
      The Premium plus card, earns avios = 3k.

    • I’ve had 3k MR from Gold and 3k avios from Prem Plus but I’ve always waited until the offer appeared in my tab

      • We got it without it appearing in our tb.
        Plus l rang up innocently asking for my extra 1k for our spg, and got it…surprised by that one..

  3. Nate1309 says:

    If you have a supplementary card holder do they get 5 x referrals too?

  4. Jon H-S says:

    I have Platinum and my wife has platinum supplementary. We both have PP (priority pass) cards and use them quite a bit. If I get a Gold card for my niece as a supplementary will she also be able to get the PP card albeit with different terms and conditions. (I think 2 free accesses per year and paid access after that). Will the other gold card benefits apply?

    • Genghis says:

      Giving your niece a free Gold supp on your Plat does NOT come with a PP or lounge club card (like if it was a main card). Terms and conditions remain the same as your Plat. It’s effectively just an extra card on your plat account, i.e. spending by her on the Gold card in USD only gets 1 point / £ spend, not 2 as if it was a main Amex Gold.

  5. Couple of questions

    So I had cancelled the shop on my gold charge card before upgrading to plat, and realised that I received the supplementary for plat too, I called and told them I cancelled it before and was going to apply for the bonus MR, which I thought was 5000, they gave 3000 as goodwill gesture.

    Can I add another supplementary for free on plat to get the 5000?

    Also I just found out from my parents they have £10,000 they want to spend on a company that don’t take Amex….is there any way I can use Amex, this would make up all of there gold (referred them) spend and help my plat spend and potentially if I refer myself to spg?

    I’d like some ideas on a non Amex card, because I will probably cancel plat as soon as I hit the spend and referral points, no brainer would have gone for hilton if it was still available, ihg…I’m thinking but can’t quite put a valuation on their points, have only redeemed free nights with them through the first accelerate promo and tbh any redemption would probably be overseas.

    Genghis, would love your ideas please.

    • Genghis says:

      Lots of specific requests today… 🙂
      1) Worth trying adding a supp. So even though you cancelled it you received one? Does this still exist? Another supp would then be £170 but like I said above, refundable prorata so worth a punt perhaps.
      2) Assuming you’re not a Curve Amex beta user, options for putting the £10k on Amex mainly revolve around Billhop. I’ve never used them, fees too high for me at around 3% but others have reported them cutting them deals with large amounts. Failing that, the IHG black card is an easy solution. For £99 card fee and the £10k spend you’d get 20k sign up bonus + 20k spend points + the free night in any IHG property + Plat status. This card is my go-to non-Amex. I have one and so does my wife. Like Rob, I value the points at 0.4p ea.

      • Thanks Genghis,
        Yep the plat supp just turned up in the post,
        Will try adding gold but can someone be a supp for 2 different accounts? Or can the person who is my plat supp also be a gold supp?
        Yep ihg maybe might just have to go down that route, is the card fee refunded pro rata? Hmmm…might go well with the 2 free night promo already on too

        Anyone on Amex beta , could you give us a heads up on when the rest of us can join?
        Thanks

        • Genghis says:

          No worries. One person can be a supp on two different accounts of different people or whatever – doesn’t make a difference. IHG black fees not refundable pro-rata (only Amex do that). I’m in the Amex beta but it’s not yet been released I don’t think when roll out is to everyone.

          @Rob do you now have a tester of the Curve metal card? How you finding it?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          the free night isn’t issued until the card anniversary.

        • With Billhop, if you call them they may offer you a reduced rate, if you tell them you have a lot of spend coming through. I got a 2% fee for a certain amount of time. Worth asking.
          Also if you need to hit a bonus early, might be worth the Billhop fee as it will balance out the card fee maybe on the bapp or plat cards. Just a thought.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If you add a gold supp (free) you will get the 5k bonus – done this a couple months ago.

      If I had £10k to put on a non-AMEX IHG Black card would be my preference.

      Platinum status, 20k points for joining, 20k for the spend and a free night in a hotel worth c£200-300 a night in a major city. Its a better return for £99 than most other cards.

      Value 1 IHG point at 0.4p so

      • Thanks TG, will add a gold supp and see if it triggers the 5000
        Thanks Genghis and TG for the ihg card recommendation, need to think it over, esp as the free night would be a year from now, but if all else fails will probably go for it for something better than nothing

  6. Does anyone know whether adding a supplementary cardholder to an Amex Plat card creates a “financial link” between the main cardmember and the supp cardholder for the purpose of the credit reference agancies, in the same way a joint bank account or loan does? Would the supp cardholder’s credit rating impact the primary’s credit rating or vice versa?

    • Genghis says:

      No and no. But a supp going crazy and spending loads on the card, which is then not paid off by the main card holder, would.

      • Only if you’re crazy enough to give the sup the card.

      • “But a supp going crazy and spending loads on the card, which is then not paid off by the main card holder, would.”
        Surely this would only serve to benefit the credit score of the main cardholder? Nothing untoward….

  7. Can you self refer from Amex Gold credit card to SPG amex?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      A Gold Credit Card holder can refer a number of other AMEX including but not limited to BA, Nectar and SPG.

      With Self Referral you take the risk of getting no referral points as it’s not in the spirit of the promotion and highlighting it to AMEX would be a major error.

  8. I did a self referral from my Amex Plat to SPG.

    Have not got the 18,000 bonus for referral.

    When I called Amex they said you can’t self refer!!!

    Is this correct ?

  9. 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.

  10. 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…

  11. 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.

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