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. Wondering if this a good strstegy for me, I have plat and spg and have hit the sign up bonus on spg and referral points from plat,
    Am I right that I’m only eligible for the ba card?
    If I cancel both now, I’m restarting the clock for all except ba which I am still eligible for?

  2. Lord Beaverhound says:

    Wish there would be no points at all paying with any
    So if you don’t have the money you can’t fly.
    That would keep the great unwashed out of
    First Class.

  3. At this point, I’m thinking to churn BAPP every 2 years with supplementary card use and referrals to and from my wife, but still earning an annual 241, and high churn the gold cards for referral bonuses, i9k a time and I am sure we can earn 3 or 4 referrals a year, just cancelling, wait a month and reopening.
    How many people keep gold beyond the first free year anyway.
    So for gold this increases the churn incentive, not decreases it.

  4. If you decided to keep your cards could you still get the referral bonuses from referring your partner even if they have had a card in the last 24 months?

  5. “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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

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