We have spent a lot of time in the last few days discussing the new American Express sign-up bonus policy. In most cases, you need to cancel all of your personal American Express cards and wait two years before you would qualify for any new sign-up bonuses.
As I pointed out on Thursday, for someone who does not have an American Express card and has not had one in the past 24 months, you can still earn 65,000 Avios relatively quickly.
This is the best strategy for maximising Avios under the new Avios rules:
For your first card:
Get the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (bonus of 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or Nectar American Express (20,000 Nectar points) or Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday. I would see the Starwood option as the most valuable.
Once you have got your first card, you are disqualified from bonuses on most of the other cards. There are two exceptions however:
For your second card (or third card, order is not important):
Get The Platinum Card (bonus of 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, Gold Business, Platinum Business) in the previous 24 months
For your third card (or second card, order is not important):
Get the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card (bonus of 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.
Under the new rules, if you had not previously had a personal American Express card, this strategy will earn you:
30,000 Membership Rewards points from The Platinum Card
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.
What are your options as an existing cardholder?
If you are currently an American Express personal cardholder, you have two options.
Option 1 is to carry on as you are, keeping one of the American Express cards in your wallet but knowing that in most cases you will never be eligible for another sign-up bonus
Option 2 is to cancel all of your personal American Express cards and start the 24 month clock on when you can pursue the strategy above
For a lot of people, I think Option 2 is pretty attractive.
Option 2 allows you, in two years time, to pick up 65,000 Avios relatively quickly via the application strategy I outline above. Your partner can do the same. Importantly, you can refer your partner for the cards using the ‘refer a friend’ programme. Add in the referral bonuses and you can still earn over 150,000 Avios between two people once every two years.
What would you do for 24 months whilst you are waiting?
Spend on a totally different card.
There are LOTS of non-American Express cards out there that you can use for the next 24 months and some are pretty attractive. Here are the most valuable options:
Miles & More Global Traveller Diners Club and Mastercard – annual fee £79 – earns 1.25 miles per £1 – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Miles & More miles – our review / apply
There are plenty of alternatives out there. It is worth remembering that KLM and Air France will soon be redeemable with Virgin Flying Club miles, adding a lot of extra options.
You get some decent long-term incentives too. The IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard offers you a free night voucher each year if you spend £10,000. The Virgin Atlantic credit cards offer a 2-4-1 or upgrade voucher each year if you spend £10,000.
If you think you prefer Option 1 – carrying on as you are – remember how hard it would be to earn 65,000 Avios via normal spending
If you cancel all of your American Express cards, I showed you above how – in 24 months time – you can pick up 65,000 Avios fairly quickly via three applications.
If you choose to keep your existing cards, you will obviously continue to earn miles as you always did. However, think about how much spending would be required over the next two years to earn 65,000 Avios:
£65,000 on the free BA Amex, Amex Gold or Amex Platinum
£43,333 on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus
£52,000 on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
Most people can’t hit these targets and are better off cancelling everything – you will earn more miles from Amex by cancelling and waiting 24 months. This also ignores the huge number of points you’d earn by diverting your spend to one of the other cards above.
The ‘elephant in the room’ is the BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher
The key problem, if you cancel all of your American Express cards to restart the 24 month clock, is not earning a British Airways American Express Premium Plus 2-4-1 voucher.
You might be happy to skip the voucher for two years, especially if you have existing vouchers to use up. If you are still earning a lot of Avios via other routes (like flying!) you may well need to bite the bullet and keep your BA Amex open.
This doesn’t totally stop you getting other bonuses. You would still be eligible to apply for The Platinum Card every 24 months and receive a 30,000 points sign-up bonus.
And you need an Amex to pay the taxes on your 2-4-1 tickets ….
Remember that you need to pay the taxes when you redeem a British Airways 2-4-1 voucher using an American Express card. Despite what the rules say, it doesn’t need to be a BA Amex and it doesn’t need to be in your name (Amex does not check names as part of its card verification) but you WILL need access to an American Express.
And possibly a Platinum-coloured elephant too ….
For some people, The Platinum Card poses a similar dilemma. What will you do for airport lounge access, travel insurance, hotel status etc during your 24 month hiatus?
Finally, do the Amex cashback offers have value to you?
Most of us have save £100+ per year via the cashback offers added to our Amex card statements. You should factor the loss of those savings into your calculations.
Ignore this article entirely if you have a small business
Forget everything you just read if you have a small business. The sign-up rules on Amex Gold Business and Amex Platinum Business have not changed and you can reapply for those and receive a new bonus after just a six month gap.
You need to decide if you are going to walk away from American Express entirely for the next 24 months.
For many HFP readers, this may be a sensible strategy. Put your credit card spend on other products and then, in two years time, return to American Express and get three cards in quick succession – earning 65,000 Avios – using the strategy above.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
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.