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What is the best sign-up strategy now for someone with NO American Express cards?

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This is Part 2 of our discussion on changes to the personal American Express card sign-up bonuses.  The main article is here.

This article was updated on 16th April to reflect changes in some sign-up bonus levels.

Despite these massive changes, the good news is that it is still possible for a couple, starting from scratch with American Express, to earn 130,000 Avios fairly quickly between them.

For most Head for Points readers who are NOT starting from scratch with American Express, you are where you are.  Your activity with American Express over the past 24 months will determine what you can do going forward.  There is nothing you can do to change it.

Even if you cancel all of your existing American Express cards today, you will need to wait 24 months before you can start on the strategies below.

The only exception is if you qualify for an American Express Gold Business or American Express Platinum Business card.  You would be able to apply for those after a gap of just six months from when you cancelled your previous American Express Membership Rewards-earning card.

If you run a small business, there is still flexibility to earn regular sign-up bonuses by focusing on Gold Business and Platinum Business.

If I have not had a personal American Express card before, what should I do?

If you have not held a personal American Express card in the previous two years, you now need to use some strategic thinking.

(Note that MBNA and Lloyds Bank-issued American Express cards do not count in terms of ‘have you had an Amex?’.  We are only discussing cards issued directly by American Express.)

As far as I can work it out, here are three strategies which will allow you to earn more than one bonus on a personal American Express within a 24 month period.

Strategy One:

First card:  anything except a British Airways or British Airways Premium Plus – I recommend Preferred Rewards Gold (10,000 Membership Rewards points) but you could also get The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points), Starwood Preferred Guest (30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), Nectar (20,000 Nectar points), American Express Rewards (up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points), Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday

Second card:  the British Airways Premium Plus card (25,000 Avios) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held either of the two British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months

The reason for the order here is that if you got British Airways Premium Plus first then you would block yourself from all of the cards in the first list, except for The Platinum Card.

Strategy Two:

First card: anything except a card earning Membership Rewards points – you are allowed a British Airways American Express, British Airways American Express Premium Plus, Starwood Preferred Guest, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday

Second card:  The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held another Membership Rewards-earning card (Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards, Green) in the previous 24 months

The reason for the order here is that if you got The Platinum Card first you would block yourself from the cards in list one (apart from British Airways Premium Plus).

Strategy Three:

This is the ONLY way to get three cards with sign-up bonuses quickly:

First card:  Starwood Preferred Guest (30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or Nectar (20,000 Nectar points) or Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday

Second and third cards (order unimportant):  The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points) – because because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held another Membership Rewards-earning card (Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards, Green) in the previous 24 months and the British Airways Premium Plus card (25,000 Avios) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held either British Airways American Express card in the previous 24 months

The reason for the order here is that as soon as you get The Platinum Card or the British Airways Premium Plus card, you block yourself from all of the bonuses in the first list.

Different strategies apply if you qualify for Gold Business or Platinum Business as they can still be cancelled and reopened every six months.

Strategy Three is the most valuable option

Under the new rules, if you had not previously had a personal American Express card, you can get virtually back-to-back:

30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points from the Starwood American Express or 20,000 Nectar points

plus

30,000 Membership Rewards points from The Platinum Card 

plus

25,000 Avios from the British Airways Premium Plus card

If you converted the 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points into 10,000 Avios and the 30,000 Membership Rewards points into 30,000 Avios, you would have earned 65,000 Avios fairly quickly from sign-up bonuses.

Don’t forget your partner in all of this

Even if YOU no longer qualify for bonuses in the medium term, think about your partner.  What has he/she had and what does he/she still qualify for?

You can double up on the bonuses above.

Even with the strict new rules, a couple (where neither has had a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months) could earn 130,000 Avios between them fairly quickly if each follows Strategy Three above.

Reference information

Here are links to our reviews on each of the cards, a link to the application website and the legally required interest rate information:

IMPORTANT: Note that the reviews have not been updated with the new bonus rules yet

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – apply here  – our review is here – representative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit

American Express Rewardsapply hereour Amex Rewards review interest rate varies depending on which card variant you choose

British Airways American Expressapply hereour BA Amex review – representative APR 22.9% variable

British Airways American Express Premium Plus apply hereour BA Premium Plus Amex review – representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

Nectarapply hereour Nectar Amex reviewrepresentative APR of 28.2%, including £25 fee, based on a notional credit limit of £1,200

The Platinum Cardapply hereour Amex Platinum review

Platinum Cashbackapply hereour Amex Platinum Cashback review – representative APR of 28.2%, including £25 fee, based on a notional credit limit of £1,200

Platinum Cashback Everydayapply hereour Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday review – representative APR 22.9% variable

Starwood Preferred Guest American Expressapply hereour Starwood Amex review –  representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit

American Express Gold Businessapply hereour Amex Gold Business review

American Express Platinum Businessapply hereour Amex Platinum Business review

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Comments

  1. I keep reading conflicting comments, will having a BA card (BAPP or free) stop you getting a MR sign up bonus (after 2 years without an MR Amex of course)?

    This could still be a feasible collecting strategy, especially as I retire next week and will be able to be more organised – I may even start a spreadsheet 😂

    • Waddle says:

      Having a BA Amex blocks you from getting MR bonus on all but the Platinum if you haven’t had a MR card for 24 months.

  2. Not good news Rob, do you think there will be changes to the 2-4-1 voucher rules on BA card

    • Very much doubt it. But I also expect BA to drop Amex as soon as the contract is up – there is no point sticking with them. Capped interchange fees but weak acceptance. More importantly, all BA Amex cardholders need to carry a 2nd card with them which stops BA dominating your wallet.

      I also expect the SPG card is on the way out – as virtually no-one gets this as their first Amex this will be hit hard.

      • Thanks for your thoughts Rob
        How would that impact if you need to use Amex card when redeeming existing voucher, would BA be able to change that or would you have to maintain one as back up ?

      • Michael says:

        I presume you’d expect BA to come back as a Visa then in the future? When is the contract up just out of interest?

        • Lady London says:

          My money is on someone like Citibank grabbing it.

          We can dream about Chase…

        • Lady London says:

          However it would be better for everyone if BA does renew.
          We don’t want Amex to come under any more pressure, and thus to cut benefits again.

      • Freddy says:

        What would happen with existing cardholders?

  3. Brighton Belle says:

    I’m on a bus going past Amex HQ. I given them a very annoyed grimace.

  4. Waddle says:

    I know on Platinum you can get one complimentary supplementary Plat for a different person and one additional Plat for yourself. Can you do this on Gold?

    • Only one free supp on gold, but the only benefit is that you get the card offers twice.

  5. I recently got my first Amex and have not yet referred. I have a BAPP – is it that I can only refer a friend to apply for that particular card in order to get the referral bonus or is it possible that I make a referral to a friend and then they can choose whether to apply for the BAPP or Gold or Platinum etc?

    Thanks

    • Yes, you can refer them and they then chose whichncard they prefer. You get the bonus points once they are accepted.

  6. Are there any catches with the business card apart from the 6 month waiting time? ie. does it have to be paid off from a business account etc?

  7. Are you doing an updated capital on tap piece?

  8. So I guess with this news nobody really cares about Curve/Amex any more?

    • Curve? That company that keeps running out of money, and was going to sue Amex for billions…

      • Yes, that company, but the point was that even in a fantasy world where Curve manages to get Amex back on side, nobody will care given that the majority of commenters seem to be cancelling Amexes in disgust.

  9. Nick Saunders says:

    I took out the basic British Airways Amex card over December and have just got the 5k point bonus. I don’t spend enough to trigger for the paid card to be worth it.

    I was thinking of upgrading for the companion voucher. That aside is there a way to get another signup bonus with a different card?

    • Shoestring says:

      sure – you fit Strategy 2 in the article above. (You can still upgrade to BAPP to get the companion voucher if you like.)

      So you are free to apply for the Amex Platinum card & its associated sign-up bonus. Downside is obvs the £450 annual fee – but this is refunded pro rata when you cancel. Get in a few referrals @18K for you each time, max 5 referrals like this per year.

      You could get your plan together, enlist the help of mum & dad, bro & sis, best mate perhaps – hell, just throwing out ideas here: maybe you could refer them each for a free card then use it yourself as a supplementary! and mum & dad etc could join your BA household a/c and give you their welcome bonus as Avios! Then cancel Plat within a couple of months for low fees.

      Sounds like a plan 🙂

  10. Does adding someone as a supplementary cardholder affect their ability to get any sign up bonus?

  11. I cancelled my BAPP this Jan 2019 once I got the 2 for 1 voucher. When does the counter for £10k spend start again? Can I apply for the card now and start spending towards the 2 for 1?

    • If you make a completely new application for the card then obviously you just have to spend £10000 on the new card. If you switched to the free card and want to switch back to the BAPP then it may be different, but should say on the Amex site.

      • TheSkintTraveller says:

        Can you switch from BAPP to free ba card, then back again to BAPP from the ba free card?

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