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. Assuming the sign up bonuses are the same in two years. They could halve, and I personally think Amex will change the rules again to favour loyalty.

    It would be nice to see a yearly bonus that increases with each year you use your card.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      American Express are a very large global company operating in lots of markets. Have you seen them offer increased loyalty bonuses in other countries?

    • Yes, agree that could be an idea. MBNA did that a few years ago. A staged spend, 10k aa miles for the 1st 1k,spend, followed by 20k miles for a further 10k spend, and another 20k for a further 10k spend. A lot,of us got those 50k aa miles then. In fact we added to,them, as plan to,use them for Hawaii at some point. However, as declined as usual, so had to keep adding to the pot from spg. But we have enough now.
      Amex could do something similar.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        They could do something similar, but based on the information we have to hand a determination can be made on the probability.

    • Drennan Duplooy says:

      Yes. Valid point. There’s too much talk on here about abusing the system rather than maximising loyalty. Cancel all your Amex cards in the hope that they’ll welcome you back in two years with the same loyalty bonus?

  2. Geoff Chapman says:

    Confused to say the least. Cancelled my partners ba classic card in Aug with a view to getting back premum after 6 month. Checked with amex on morning of 21st and told bonus still in play. Applied at 08.00 and was approved. Saw article on bonus shortly after. Rang amex their staff seemed as confused about “family group” entitlement.
    Have been told by 2 people at Amex (on the 23rd) that we can apply for Amex preferred rewards gold credit card and still get the bonus, even though I still hold a BA classic card and my partner held one 6 months ago, as this is not in the same “family” as the ‘BA cards’.
    I was told they would confirm this in writing.
    Someone seems to have their facts wrong.
    Give it a try ring them on 0800 917 8047.
    Can anybody provide the correct I found please.

  3. Diane Green says:

    Thank you so much for information.

    Just checking whether the Tesco credit card which offers avois points through MasterCard is another additional card worth having? This is really on a spending only basis when Amex is not accepted. More an everyday card.

    Would love your views and whether extra points from cartridge recycling etc is actually worth it.


    • It’s such a poor earner, but if needed just for non amex spend, it’s ok, but not the best, of course. Just make sure to always double dip in Tesco, pay with amex, and scan clubcard or credit card for your clubcard points.

    • Andy S says:

      I use Tesco debit card for any non Amex spend. Works out 1 avios per £3 for non Tesco spending (worked out in multiples of £8 increments £15.75 only 1 avios £16.25 2 avios ) Also paid my tax bill with it.

      Were getting 3% on £3000 monthly interest, dropping to 1% in a few months time

  4. Discount Mike says:

    Just curious, why would Amex incentivise you not using them for 2 years?

    • Because they are losing money by paying you to get the same card over and over again, not just the signup bonuses but they also need to make you a new card, post it, send you all sorts of letters, and do some internal accounting etc

  5. Does this change affect the gold -> platinum upgrade bonus?

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      The Gold is now a Credit Card, the Platinium remians a Charge Card. Because these are two very different products there is no upgrade and therefore no bonus unless you still happen to hold one of the older Gold Charge Cards.

      • And yet Amex treats both cards as part of the same family

        • RussellH says:

          They both earn MR points.
          And Amex can define its families as it likes, I would have thought.

    • TheSkintTraveller says:

      If you still have amex gold charge card you could only upgrade previously to plat, not sure now..

  6. Freddy says:

    Shame the visa/MasterCard earning levels are low. For example, I don’t understand the interest in the IHG card. Looks like a 0.8% return on spend.

  7. Richard Bate says:

    Quick question – I had the Gold Charge Card and then applied for the Companion Gold Credit card, for the bonus. I’ve now cancelled the charge card. Do I get any referral bonus on the free Companion Gold Credit card? If not, (or it’s a rubbish amount) could I get the new Gold Rewards Credit Card for free (how long do you have to wait, not to pay the first year fee). Thanks in advance!

  8. Let us hope that if a new Hilton card ever appears it is Creation not Amex

  9. Jonathan says:

    Regarding travel insurance to have either of the HSBC Premier credit cards requires a Premier current account that also comes with free worldwide travel insurance. So if people go down that route it does cover some of the big ticket items that are in the Platinum card.

  10. Is it still the case that you need to pay you taxes etc with Amex when redeeming a 2 for 1? If so, that keeps you tied in until you’ve secured your redemption flights.

    • It has to be “a” Amex. I’m in that situation currently. Holding just short of the £10k spend, waiting to trigger it until the last minute. It’ll then be another year or so before I use it probably, so I can’t cancel my card (as it will be my last remaining Amex) for a long time yet.

      • Does the AMEX have to be in the name of the person holding the 2-4-1 voucher? Just wondering if I have the voucher but pay taxes with my wife’s AMEX is that acceptable?

      • Pug206 says:

        I’m planning on getting one of my daughters to open an Amex account then use her card to pay taxes on the 2 4 1 I’ll have in about August but won’t use ‘til Dec this year for travel Christmas 2021. Then i’ll have started the 24 mos clock for me running in Aug rather than Dec IFSWIM.

        God, talk about wishing your life away!

        Also, will sign her up for all the allowed cards to get bonuses and have supps in my name so I can rack up the spends for her. She’s in our HHA so we’ll get the Avios… eventually!

    • True. Article amended to reflect this.

  11. Rob may know other stuff he cannot tell us so perhaps the smart move is to see what he is telling us…I wonder 🙂

  12. Rob – all this sounds sensible except it doesn’t cover the issue of needing not only to pay the taxes/charges on a BA Amex card but also to continue to hold it at the time of travel which generally will greatly extend the 24 month period. It sounds like this rule is going to come in to play even if it has been ignored up to now.

    Also, assuming people want to earn the 2-4-1, in any event the 24 month period only starts from the date you cancel, so in practice the period of being ‘out of the market’ is greater than 24 months and there is no card other card than BAPP that earns as many Avios (specifically) during your ‘out’ period which should be factored in to the calculation.

    Finally, it seems that the new 24 month waiting period is something of a compromise vs the position in the US (lifetime) and in some other countries where it is up to five years, so I don’t know that you can be that confident of getting the ‘welcome’ bonus in the next cycle if they extend the look back period again. Of course, they may also increase the sign up bonus and ongoing earning rate which ought to be the corollary of what they are doing now.

    • Not only does Amex not do name verification, is incapable on seeing what sort of Amex you are using.

      • Correct that they don’t do name verification, but the card and type (eg BAPP vs Gold) is easily identifiable. From the BA end, the voucher number is in fact linked to a card number. We book a few F open jaw tickets with 2-4-1 requiring a call to BA. Although I am authorised to speak with BA on her account to use her voucher, I always pay the taxes on my own BAPP card, but last month was told I had to use the card number linked to the voucher… regrettably I think their IT is getting savvier.

        • Shoestring says:

          but is it them just saying that without checking the ‘card number linked to the voucher’?

          When I get refunds on her shop purchases for my wife, the cashier nearly always says it has to be back onto the card used for the original purchase (and that can usually be checked on the receipt) – but 9 times out of 10 I just stick in my own debit card and there’s no check, no issues arising.

        • They are telling you the Ts and Cs, not whether their IT will detect which card you use. What’s interesting though is – did they let you use her card to pay the taxes?

        • 9 out of 10 cashiers compare the card to the 4 digits on the receipt when I try that. For the 10% who don’t, I obviously stick in a debit card. If you really want to be sneaky I guess you could use some sleight of hand to swap the card after showing it.

  13. Andy S says:

    Am I being dumb.

    Been reading with interest the comments on this recent change and the talk of the new 24 month cycle. In reality is it not a lot longer.

    Get BAPP card, spend 10k to trigger 2-4-1 however long that takes, take any number of months to book and fly, all this time having to keep the Amex card. (surely you need to keep card until after you fly as you might want to change existing booking as we have done recently on out current 2-4-1)
    Cancel card then wait 24 months from date of cancelation. Possibly up to 5 years from getting one card to the next with the new 1 Amex policy?

    • Chabuddy geezy says:

      Keeping the ba amex until you fly is a complete red herring in my view. As Rob has pointed out Amex do not use name verification when you pay so you can use any amex.

      All these rumours have come from Jeff who has a rationale that he was right about the end of churning so he must be right about keeping the ba amex too. I think most people could see the sign up bonuses were unsustainable for amex but making you keep the ba amex until you fly seems less clear from a business and payment technology perspective for amex.

      If people make enough predictions some of them may become reality eventually. (While they casually ignore all of their incorrect predictions.) As an example we all know all frequent flyer schemes devalue in the long run. The people who predicted 2 years ago that avios would devalue imminently were clearly wrong.

      • I really hope you are right about the red herring, but personally don’t fancy the risk. These things don’t seem to get better.

        • Amex is almost certainly losing the BA contract anyway, so it will make little difference medium term.

      • ankomonkey says:

        As soon as they stopped the welcome bonuses in the US it was always likely that something would happen here before too long. I feel most on here could have predicted some sort of change…

    • No, because you can ignore what Amex says – as soon as you’ve triggered the 241 you can cancel the BA card. You will need AN Amex to pay the taxes when you book your 241 flight but it doesn’t have to be yours, yet alone a BA Amex.

  14. Does the Kris Flyer scheme allow you to buy airmiles. I was collecting Marriott points to eventually convert to KF but if they don’t allow you to buy miles I will have to abandon that strategy. Was saving for a future trip back to Oz and wanted to do the SIN-BNE leg on Singapore. Now they have increased that leg to 62k we will struggle to reach that. May end up converting what we have saved already to Avios. I have 90k and hubby has 44k Marriott pts so far. My long term plan is now out the window me thinks.

    • Hey Liz I’m saving up for krisflyer too, I think the other option besides marriott and the bonus when moving a large amount, is Heathrow rewards…might be worth a try if you know someone going to Heathrow? Not entirely sure how it will move to your krisflyer ,but Heathrow to spg, spg to krisflyer might work.

      • I’ve already got 3800 Heathrow rewards sitting for transferring and hope to do another 3000 bonus offer in June when enroute home from USA but still won’t be enough without huge amounts of Marriott pts. We don’t stay in Marriotts – was just storing the points because of the KF 3 yr rule. Dilemmas dilemmas dilemmas!

        • Mikeact says:

          We managed to get rid of ours last year on a couple of shortish flights while on our way to/from NZ/AUS. Only a few hundred left which we won’t be adding to…I need to check if KF will take them back for charity use.

        • How do you move Heathrow rewards points is someone else’s account to your krisflyer? Is it through spg?

        • You can move KF miles direct from Heathrow Rewards to your own KF account. No need to go via SPG.

  15. There’s a few comments above about self-referrals. Not something I’ve come across before. Is this for real?

    • Freddy says:

      Apparently it does work but the bonus has been declined on occasion. I just refer my wife and vice versa

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