Should you leave American Express for 24 months until you can get a new sign-up bonus?

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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.

New AMerican Express sign-up bonus rules

Under the new rules, if you had not previously had a personal American Express card, this strategy will earn you:

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


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.

New american express sign-up bonus rules

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:

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard – annual fee £0 – earns 0.75 miles per £1 – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Virgin Flying Club miles – our review / apply

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – annual fee £160 – earns 1.5 miles per £1 – sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Flying Club miles – our review / apply

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

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard – no annual fee – earns 1 point per £1 – sign-up bonus of 10,000 IHG Rewards Club points – our review / apply

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – annual fee £99 – earns 2 points per £1 – sign-up bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points – our review / apply

HSBC Premier Mastercard – no annual fee – earns 0.5 airline miles per £1 – no sign-up bonus – our review / apply

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard – annual fee of £195 – earns 1 airline mile per £1 – sign-up bonus of 40,000 airline 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.

New American Express sign-up bonus rules

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.

New American Express sign-up bonus rules

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.

Appendix:  Important interest rate information for the cards discussed above

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard – representative APR 22.9% variable

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard – representative APR 63.9% variable including £160 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit

IHG Rewards Club Mastercard – representative APR 18.9% variable

IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard – representative APR 41.5% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit

HSBC Premier Mastercard – representative APR 18.9% variable

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard – representative APR 59.3% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit

Nectar American Express – representative APR of 28.2% including £25 fee based on a notional credit limit of £1200

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

(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. “I would see the Starwood option as the most valuable”

    This is not consistent with your 0.5p valuation of Bonvoy points or your 0.75p valuation of avios. It equates to £150 of value at Marriott or £75 of value at avios less the amount of the £75 card fee expended. However, the ability to transfer to other airline schemes such as Lufthansa that are otherwise more difficult to collect confers greater value than avios. I would argue that the nectar card is the best value as it has no fee, and with patience it is possible to get double the face value (0.5pnp/£100 total) on Sainsbury double up, LNER or eBay should past offers continue. Not only that, if applicants can wait until autumn when nectar frequently offer an additional 10000 points for applications, there is an additional £50 base value on offer with potential for £100 on above mentioned offers.

    While I appreciate and share your misgivings about Nectar, the landscape has changed on the store schemes due to the difficulty now in collecting large numbers of clubcard points. Collecting large volumes of nectar points is comparatively easy and feels painless due to frequent bonuses, and there are much more lucrative offers often available on financial product when compared to clubcard too. I feel it is time you revisited Nectar and gave it a fairer hearing.

    • Slight clarification on the above. The Amex Nectar card is free in the first year and £25/year after. It’s a useful card to have for Shop Small but by holding it you are still blocking yourself from getting a bonus on most other Amex cards under the 24 months rule.

  2. If this is the path Amex are to take then I feel in order to make me keep my cards they need to offer better anniversary bonuses or monthly spend targets for extra points etc.

  3. Frenske says:

    For the 2-4-1 voucher does the AmEx card have to be in your name to pay for taxes? Or can it be in your partner’s for example. The problem is that after earning the voucher you want to cancel the card ASAP to start the 24 month clock. A good tactic would be to get BAPP, earn voucher, refer partner, cancel card. Use voucher partner’s card.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Amex/BA never used to check the name, just that it was an Amex card. Not sure if that is about to get tightened. Lots of chatter, perhaps unfounded, that the T&Cs of the 2-4-1 are to be enforced.

    • Jonathan says:

      You only need to pay on an Amex card, there is no name check or even Amex card type check. So any Amex in any name is fine.

  4. Linda Dunbar says:

    Don’t you need to have an Amex card open if due to travel on a 2 for 1?

    • eddie mcdonald says:

      I would like this answered also.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:


      Need an Amex card to book. Supposedly a BA Amex, but not at the time of flight. T&Cs do not give them the right to revoke your voucher and/or booking.

    • Jonathan says:

      As per the T&C’s yes, you’re right – you need the card. But in reality no, once you’ve paid the taxes you’re fine.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        I disagree:

        Only thing that could be construed as such is point 26 to remain eligible at time of travel. However, “eligible” is not a defined term.

        The requirement to book using a BA card is clearly defined. If Amex wants you to have the card at time of travel that should be clearly defined and not open to interpretation.

        To me eligabilty with regard the flight pertains to BA. If you have been expelled from the Exec Club I dont want your chances of the reward booking being honoured.

        • inalso read eligibility from an Amex perspective that you’ve not triggered the voucher with a spend that has subsequently been refunded. I.e. spent 10K on a large purchase, booked 241 flight, then taken said purchase back to shop for a refund.

        • And by extension, change is not the same as book AFAIK, but cancel & rebook? now there’s another question.

  5. Nick G says:


    You seem to be missing the point that your strategy involves spending several hundred in fees to get 65000 Avios. For me it isn’t worth the cost or time taken.

    We as collectors were used to gaining the points for very little outlay. My strategy is going to change from now on. And no I’m not revealing it it’s a dog eat dog world I’m afraid!

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Fees can be prorated so the actual spend may be less than “hundreds”.

      For me, Avios simply arent very attractive so my stratergy will be different but the point stands. The ongoing spend option does not look attractive at all.

    • Frenske says:

      Rob is really focused on the 2-4-1 voucher. To make optimal use of that voucher you need to earn a lot of Avios so basically the voucher sort doubles the value of earned Avios. If you already a pile of Avios you probably should get the BAPP only and not pay for Platinum.
      Furthermore it only makes sense if you actually would pay for upper class long haul flights. Using Avios for long haul economy is not recommended.

    • Fees are all refunded pro-rats.

  6. Mycity says:

    I should be able to get the Plat Business card, I know you can refer from the personal cards. My question is can you refer from the business card to someone for say a personal card?

  7. Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Hello Amex employees!

    I am referring now then canceling everthing shortly after.

    I think this may well turn out to be a two stage process. I see the number of Amex users falling alongside new applications doing likewise. I think Amex expect this and will counter with better sign up bonuses.

    I do not think they will annouce such anytime soon as it would incentivise those on the fence to cancel. There is no point annoucing them in the short term (for example 6mths) because a lot of people will still be within the 24mth window.

    My gamble is that in 24mths bonuses have improved (not to US levels) and I want to be able to take advantage of that. In the meantime spend will go elsewhere.

    • Yeah I agree, Amex announcing bigger sign up bonuses now would pee people off as most would need to wait another 24 months.

  8. Brighton Belle says:

    I don’t churn hard but Amex have made their cards pretty unattractive now. What is the incentive to spend on them, swallow the fees, when the ability to collect enough points to redeem is so extended. At my age I have only a few 2 year churn cycles before travel insurance gets punitive.

    I will wind them all up and cancel. IHG, Virgin and Hilton ( if it ever happens ) will be in my wallet. Without a flow of 000’s points and Avios into users hands the demand to burn them is going to shrink.

  9. I have not held Gold, Starwood or Plat for around a year but cancelled BA in January this year, does that mean I can’t go with strategy 2 because I have held BA?

  10. How does Amex consider non-activated cards? I ordered an Amex Nectar cars in January (to get a Platinium referral bonus) but never activated it. Should I activate it and cancel it to reset the 2 years period?

    • Still counts as issued. Activation is purely a security thing.

      I know readers who applied for Gold, changed their mind and called 24 hours later to swap it for Plat, and got no bonus as first app made them an existing cardholder.

  11. Option 1

    65k avios worth £487.50 at your 0.75ppa valuation so holding cards is more attractive than it might first seem. I am sure virtually all of us can better this on amex offers over two years (Liz has probably beaten it using shop small alone in onr year!). Furthermore, holding the cards makes it easier to gain the referral bonuses. As I mentioned a few days ago we need to avoid knee-jerk reactions and think twice before cancelling all ouf existing cards.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      For referral though you could still get in and out within a month. Save on fees and put the spend elsewhere. Just do that every 12mths and forgo the sign up bonuses. No need to hold the cards if that is your thinking.

    • I currently have BAPP and SPG and nothing in hubby’s name at present so will likely stick with these 2 till hubby is eleible again. Away in van ATM in sunny Stonehaven so can’t check my dates. Glad I didn’t follow the strategy of earn and burn as I have 330+ Avios, 180k Virgin and £700+ Clubcard points saved for future trips. We tend to only do one big redemption trip per year so we are ok for the next few years. My fear of cancelling the BAPP would be that it gets pulled before 2 years are up. I will take out the Plat card next month instead of hubby for the insurance, car insurance then cancel again shortly afterwards. Will also continue to use IHG card and start using Virgin and Hilton cards a bit more.

      • I’m also thinking longer trips away as hubby and I both retire within the next 3 years, e.g. a month-long road trip with a J or F flight at either end using a 2 4 1. My BAEC account is showing 400,000 avios this morning, I don’t think I’ll see that again…

        I would consider taking out Platinum once a year for hotel status and car insurance, but I don’t see the point of keeping it for more than a couple of months if there’s no sign up bonus, it just doesn’t justify the fee. I wonder if there will be a big dip in uptake and retention with this card.

      • Graham Walsh says:

        Don’t forget the 5 x referrals when you hold Plat. That’s the best bit going forward.

        • I don’t have anyone to refer except each other and that is now severely restricted.

        • Yes, we will still hold the plat, referring each other, for all 3 cards ( Plat, Bapp, SPG) on a reasonable rotation, which will keep the earning levels up enough for a J 241 to Asia annually. Plus double dipping in Tesco. As most of our spend goes via amex.
          Will drop the WE MC down to Premier mc, so still earning .5/£, but no fee then. But may move back to the new Lloyds mc when we get it, as it will earn 0.4/£. And drop the hsbc mc entirely. So thinking it through atm.
          And of course, curve is linked to our hsbc mc, very useful too. Council tax etc etc.
          As conscious of fees, can take £450 pa, with pro rata refund, as we will have the referrals out of it. And use the PP when on ryan air etc from Dub. Use T5 to fly to Dub ongoing tho.
          And usually get a good whack of the fee back w offers.
          But yes, serious loss to us…but not the end for sure.

        • Polly, why not apply for 2 other Amex cards such as Nectar too to max out the 5 referrals? Need to read my Lloyds letter as that arrived last week informing me of my cancelled Avios Amex

        • Graeme says:

          I’m the same Liz. Good strategy would be to team up and refer between 4 (or 2 + 2 partners ideally) every 6 months.

          That way you have the platinum benefits for 1/2 the time, 1 in every 2 years.

      • I have not yet decided, we will probably split the difference witn me holding and my partner cancelling. Also ok here through end 2021 with no devaluations. Not sure if you would consider renting out your van but be advised The Ooen us at St Andews next year so there vould be rewarding opportunities.

        • No way would I rent it out! It is our wee cosy home from home and would hate for it to get trashed! Spending the week exploring the Aberdeenshire area which we would never normally do if we had to pay for hotels or B&B’s. Making the most of our investment and seen more of Scotland in the past 2 years than I have my whole life. Need to start going further afield though in the next few years.

        • Mikeact says:

          Liz. You need to take the ferry over to Santander, and keep to the coast, Northern Spain and down through Portugal, all the way, and return totally off the beaten track where possible. No flying…Curve card plus back ups.

        • I will add it to our never ending to do list! Would love to just hitch up and go to Europe for 3 months but we have elderly parents here so need to always be going home to check up on them! Hopefully get to do this in the future though.

  12. Sussex bantam says:

    I’m not sure this is the right strategy for me

    I think my plan is to keep an ARC card for myself and my wife to keep MR points alive and then for one of us to get a gold card and refer the 90k limit during the free year. Cancal the gold having got the spend bonus and then repeat.

    Having an ARC keeps the flexibility of MR points and as I’m not worried about sign up bonus I can keep all my points in Amex rather than transferring out

    Thoughts ?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      if you aren’t worried about sign up bonus then Plat through high travel times and Gold the rest of the year? First year is still free so you always have an MR but only pay fee for part of the year

  13. Genghis says:

    We currently have zero Amexes but a 241 to use (got access to friends’). I plan on allowing the 2 year fallow period and will run the numbers on optimal strategy then (ie most points maximising referrals but keeping costs low). In the interim:
    – HSBC Prem WE for avios earning and lounge access
    – HSBC Prem for travel insurance
    – Spend £10k on Hilton visa to maintain Gold (the only one of the Plat statuses really worth having)

    • It is a big gamble, the amex landscape may look very different in two years and you have missed the benefits and opportunities in the interim.

    • Funtime says:

      Making use of Meliá gold status in Tenerife soon, you get three vouchers each worth 20% off.

      Plat benefit worth having.

  14. How long do you need to have had the gold/plat cancelled before you can reapply and get the first year free?

    Specifically had the gold charge for a year and upgraded to plat which I now have but want to cancel and change to gold credit card, i’m guessing there’s no way to self refer to this?

    • Alex W says:

      Yes you should be able to self refer from Plat to gold credit. As this is a separate product not a downgrade you shouldn’t get charged the annual fee in the first year. Won’t get the sign-up bonus though.

    • You get first year free and lounge passes irrespective.

  15. Not got long to hit the spend targets on a few so worth keeping for a whille. Then it takes a while for them to come through. mmm. Happy with the Capital on tap business card though. Thanks for referring. Tracy

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Tracy, can you report whether the HMRC payments with the COT business card go through OK?

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