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. Freddy says:

    Guess this isn’t a article paid by Amex lol!

  2. I think my plan is a bit of both. I’ll keep my BAPP and we will both continue to spend on it as usual and earning 2-4-1 vouchers but I’ll cancel my newly issued Gold once I’ve hit the spend bonus (got it just before the change!).

    The wife will cancel all her cards. In two years I’ll get the gold again, no spend bonus but I’ll refer her for the referral bonus. We then hit the spend target on that before cancelling. Then I refer her for the BAPP, I get the referral bonus and we switch spending to that to trigger the bonus before again cancelling.

    Repeat again in two years.

    This way I keep earning points and vouchers on my BAPP and every two years we get the gold and BAPP spend/referral bonuses.

    Not the most efficient strategy I’m sure but the easiest to manage for us I think.

    • If you can put 20k+ through Amex pa You really need to consider whether you need the 2 year expiry 241 or whether the 12 month would work for you, or if you need to trigger two vouchers for 4 travelling. am I right in thinking from an Avios perspective you need to put about >40k spend through the BAPP pa to offset the £195 card fee vs the ba blue?

      • It’s the 1.5/£1 earning rate I am more interested in to be honest.

        I’ll freely admit I don’t game Airmiles in the best way but it generally works for us. We get a return first/business flight to USA per year at about the same price as economy (factoring the £195 as part of the flight cost).

    • Rob, you might be better off getting the plat for the short period. Do all your referrals, as you will get 18k per referral instead of 9k. Maybe worth thinking about, and a pro rata refund. Not much outlay…then refer back for another plat in 2 yrs, and repeat.
      However, all could have changed by then again…

      • The whole “what will the rules be in two years?” question has occurred to me too. Who knows what will happen.

        I should have a look at the platinum and see if that can be better incorporated into the ‘low admin’ version of Avios earning that I prefer.

  3. Boobaholic says:

    I like my Platinum benefits but with hotel status devaluations the levels handed out with the card aren’t that great anymore anyway.

    So I would need travel insurance, car hire excess insurance (pretty cheap), priority pass or similar (or pay £25 per trip e/w) …… what else have forgotten ?

    Seems replaceable once you consider the hotel statuses pretty poor.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      I value Hilton Gold. Everything else I can secure ad hoc for less than £450 pa.

      • You could get Hilton golf though for £10k spend on the Hilton card.

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Hilton is closed to new applications (maybe 2yrs now?). If there was a Hilton card in the UK I’d probably never use Amex again.

        • I got the HH visa just before it closed to new applicants (one shred of comfort in all this lol). So it will keep me at gold and give me a chunk of Hilton points. Not many reasons to go for Platinum, or at least to keep it after referring.

  4. Frankie says:

    Please can anyone advise how I can find out when I cancelled my gold MR card in the past so I know when my 24 months is up? Or does that not matter as the 24 months will kick in from when I cancel my BA Premium regardless?

    • Gavin T says:

      Your credit report will show the account closed date.

      • Genghis says:

        This is the day it was reported as cancelled by Amex, not the day it was actually cancelled

  5. Boobaholic says:

    So if I cancel my Amex cards, can I keep my MR balance as MR’s ? And if so, will that interfere with the 24 month period ?

    Or do I have to convert them out to something because a) I won’t have an Amex card anymore & it’s not allowed b) leaving MRs in place will prevent the 24 month countdown from starting ??


    Looks like I’m binning my Amex cards and putting my spending through Visa or MasterCard.

    Will be interesting to see in Amex’s annual report how much the number of card holders declines by over the year and what impact that lack of spend has on the company, offset of course by the reduction of rewards points handed out.
    However a large drop in cardholders will not make for pleasant reading.

    Ain’t gunna kill Amex or anything but will be interesting.

    • Peter 64K says:

      You will need to spend your MRs as once you cancel your MR account card they will vanish after 30 days.

  6. Boobaholic says:

    Need to figure out exactly when to cancel my Amex Plat in order to keep the PP and Hotel statuses the longest.

    • Waribai says:

      You won’t keep PP. That pretty much goes soon after you cancel the card. So even though my PP has an exp date of 07/22 if I cancel tomorrow the plat tomorrow the PP card will stop working within days…

  7. Boobaholic says:

    So we can still get the referrals even if the person getting the Amex card (even if it’s myself) won’t get the sign-up bonus ?


    • Graham Walsh says:


      • Boobaholic says:


        So I need a good referral strategy to cover the next few months before I bin my Amex Plat.

        Looks like I’ll be self referring for a few of the free cards soon then !

  8. Jonathan says:

    Advice please . I’m sitting on two 241 vouchers and another one coming in the autumn . I have about 300,000 Avios . And at the moment have no travel plans. If I get shot of the bapp card can I pay taxes on future 241 flights using any other card than an Amex . If not I don’t have a choice but to keep an Amex and therefore forego any sign up bonus.

    • Graham Walsh says:

      Must use an Amex card

      • Joanie Mitchell says:

        Does the Amex card have to be in your name? Eg, can you get someone else with an Amex to pay your taxes then you pay them back?

    • Spurs Debs says:

      No. All other card options are greyed out it’s amex or nothing.

    • Martin Robertson says:

      You have to pay with Amex.
      Doesn’t have to be a BA one though, despite what Amex tell you when you cancel the card.

      • What if Amex is reading all this and will eventually limit paying taxes to the actual BA card only? Then you are scr*wed… the risk is too high

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Then you reapply for the BA card. Not the end of the world.

        • Worzel says:

          Mr(s) Entitled 08:51 :

          Not much fun though when you’re trying to nab a couple of seats 355 days out……

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Worzel: I dont disagree, but this is why Avios hold very little appeal to me. Too difficult to use, not cost effective, don’t always sync up with where I WANT to go WHEN I want to go.

          You would be unlucky though for AMEX to enforce the rule on 356 days out leaving you snookered. Not impossible though. Reality is most people should have a window to react if required.

  9. Mikeact says:

    I guess Rob’s strategy is one I’m happy with, assuming all three applications go through in two years time.

  10. Boobaholic says:

    So would I recieve 18k per referral from my Plat card for any amex card I refer and someone takes out ? Can I refer myself for a number of the free ones over the next few months to secure the referral points, but obviously not any sign-up bonuses ?

  11. Graham Walsh says:

    Yes. That was my plan and still is. Just no sign up bonus anymore.

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