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IMPORTANT:  Following changes to the American Express sign-up bonus rules in March 2019, this article is now out of date and you should not rely on it.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

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

    • 747 Upper Deck is a CW mini cabin which is a favourite of mine, 777 is my least fave.

    • 747 UD for sure. Sadly my last three bookings in that cabin all got switched to the rubbish 777, but it’s worth trying for them if you can!

    • Fly out on BA1 from London City. Its an amazing experience. Max 32 pax and three cabin crew. Typical load about 20 pax.

      If using a 747, make sure its a “super hi J”. These are the ones with 86 J class seats, and they have been refurbished to A380 standards.

      Although everyone wants the upper deck (and you are unlikely to get it unless you have status), I like the forward mini cabin on the lower deck. Only 18 seats. Two rows of 2-4-2 plus an odd pair.

      14A is a good seat with no one climbing over you.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

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


    • Genghis says:

      If accepted, your cards will just turn up in the next few days.

    • I applied on Jan 1st and still not heard anything! Just hoping they are not getting stricter as recent comments suggest.

    • Dougie Forde says:

      Check your wife’s account and see if the referral points have landed

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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)

  10. 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.”

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

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