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. krys_k says:

    Business cards are an interesting proposition. I’m a director of three separate companies. Does that therefore mean (on paper) that I can get three cards? And then churn (I’m not really into churning – have had my Lloyds and BA for over five years; I go for spend)?

    • Yes you get the card, no you don’t get the bonus.

      The MR account is PERSONAL. If you already have an MR account you won’t get the bonus. If you’ve not had a personal MR account for 6 months you’ll get the bonus on your first SME card but not the 2nd or 3rd.

  2. To check I have this right 🙂

    Currently on SPG card which I will cancel next month.
    I was planning to go on Amex gold and BA Amex in May this year when my 6 months is up.
    Now have to wait until Nov 2020 – 18 months + 6 I’ve waited already – to go back on Gold and BA.

    But would need to wait to April 2021 I wanted to do 3 cards (gold, Ba and spg)?



    • If ive read it correctly you would need to wait 24 months in total for Gold or apply now for platinum. You can apply now for BAPP

      • Shoestring says:

        yes cancel SPG & wait 24 months to get Gold
        no can’t get Plat as have to wait 24 months after cancelling Gold (so another 18 months wait for Jim)
        yes can get BAPP now

    • No, you need to wait until April 2021 to get a Gold, assuming you cancel SPG next month.

      Correct for BAPP (I assume you meant BAPP) and Gold. Wrong for free BA – you need to wait until April 2021 for that. You also couldn’t get free BA and Starwood in April 2021, only one of them.

  3. Can I check I am correct in my thinking? My wife and I both currently hold platinum and SPG cards. I have the free BA card. Additionally I have a 241 voucher expiring in May 2020 which I earnt from a BAPP. Wife needs to cancel platinum anyway next month to avoid the annual charge. She has never held a BA card. We are both self employed as sole traders.
    Wife cancels platinum, in 6 months time I can refer her for gold business card and I get the referral points, she gets the sign up bonus. As she has never held the BA card, I can refer her at any point for the BAPP and also get the referral bonus and she gets the sign up bonus.
    In order for me to get a sign up bonus I have to cancel platinum, wait 6 months and then sign up for gold business card.
    I can use my 241 voucher before May 2020 as long as I pay taxes using my BA card; assuming they don’t decide I must use a BAPP card to pay them as that was the card I earned the voucher with (which I no longer have!)
    All correct?!

    • Qwerty Bertie says:

      Why not, in six months time, refer her instead for the platinum business? I know the spend target is much higher, but after the application she can issue you a supp. card (might get you her 5k points; I don’t know if that works with business cards) and you can spend to help her hit the target.

      Vice versa if you’re canelling your personal platinum and getting a business card.

  4. Freddy says:

    Anyone thinking of jumping to the virgin card may want to hold out for them to boost the initial bonus like they’ve done on a couple of occasions in the past – hope that helps!

    • Qwerty Bertie says:

      Absolutely. I signed up in the last quarter of 2018 when Rob highlighted the offer. Received 25k instead of 15k.

  5. Julian says:


    Something tells me that your current good relationship with American Express UK is unfortunately going to crash and burn if you are all in seriousness suggesting that their current customers give up all Amex spend for two years just so that they can earn more sign up bonuses only to then do the same thing all over again.

    Result is they won’t be doing very much spending on Amex at all in a five year window, which Amex is simply not going to like. So if I were them i would increase the bonus exclusion period for previous card holders to five years to stop this very thing from happening.

    You saw how harshly they acted against Curve when they didn’t like the high value of transactions coming in through that route so want makes you think they won’t act in the same tough manner towards your readers if they continue to abuse the intent of offering the signup bonuses by Amex and its business partners in the highly systematic manner that you are now proposing????

    • Shoestring says:

      They stopped Curve because a responsible bank or credit provider can’t allow credit cards to be paid off with different credit cards.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Which you couldn’t do with your Amex balance.

      • Julian says:

        Shoestring surely you aren’t implying that the many banks who issue Visa credit and debit cards aren’t responsible?

        Although must say that I had been considering clearing part of my significant MBNA loan balance with my Lloyds Avios Mastercard via Curve.

        Visa and Mastercard issuers must know how Curve operates and yet they so far they are not blocking card balance repayment transactions………

        • Shoestring says:

          debit cards don’t come into it as that’s from your cash balance at bank

          but sure, on credit cards getting used to pay off other credit cards – that’s another PPI claim scandal in the making! though not on the same scale 🙂 – it’s *not* responsible banking, it’s not much better than a Ponzi scheme

    • Freddy says:

      I thought this website was about maximising points

    • Mikeact says:

      Good Morning Julian…I was waiting for you to pop up this morning after all the comments you received over the last couple of days !

    • Worzel says:

      It’s all best treated as a hobby Julian- as Rob pointed out at outset………. 🙂 .

    • They just did this for 2 years, what your now suggesting is people don’t take advantage of it incase they get banned from taking up the offers, news flash 2 years is pretty much non existent in earning potential

    • Julian, remember this site doesn’t do articles on churning like the US sites, here it’s called ‘maximizing Avios’ because it’s a ‘hobby’ 😉

    • I just got an email from a reader who spends £165k PER MONTH on cards and wanted advice.

      The average HFP deposit into the Virgin Money savings account is £45,000. We have the highest opening balance of any Nutmeg affiliate in the UK. Emyr is just about to hit £1m of luxury hotel bookings for our readers.

      Companies work with us because the – generally silent – bulk of our 30,000 daily readers are not poor. That will not change.

      Amex will be delighted if I keep sending them the £165k per month types.

      We have this discussion on a regular basis with companies. We had a complaint this week from someone whose product we had said was ‘better than the competition but not perfect’. They had wanted us to declare it the greatest thing ever, period, and formally complained.

      People read HFP because we are generally balanced on the pros and cons of your card / airline / hotel etc. Companies cannot have it both ways. We only have the audience these companies want to reach because of our editorial approach.

      • I would think most people who spend 165k a month on cards would probably manage to find their own way to Amex without being sent there by anyone. Maybe he/she emails people about how to dress himself/herself also though so who knows.

      • Freddy says:

        What on earth are they spending 165k a month on

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Has Amex offered him a Centurion card yet?

      • Wheres the LIKE button

    • Peter 64K says:

      Hi Julian. Good to hear your balanced views and insightful reasoning again 😉
      I’d love to read a blog written by you on points and miles 😂

      • He has a point though, just wait till the referral bonuses get pulled / reduced too due to abuse. When sites promote taking the p**s it’s only a matter of time before it goes away. Sure it’s in the T&Cs that you can do it, but I can walk out of McDonalds with 100 ketchups and an armful of napkins without paying for them but sooner or later they are going to catch on and put a stop to it.

        • Mikeact says:

          Totally different, that’s blatant stealing.

        • Stealing, how’s that then? They are complimentary. I mean if they wanted to restrict them, they would just put them behind the counter right?

        • They already have at our local McD’s – sauces are in large bottles and distributed in thimble sized containers on request!

        • Lady London says:

          Yes but if you walked out Of somewhere like Harrods and a known good spender there they might take note but unless something else went wrong you’d be unlikely to be challenged

      • Lol me too – come on Jules don’t let us down!! 🙂

        • Maybe he could do a site on ‘maximing’ Tesco point offers due to all the recent offers that can be exploited to acquire Avios, oh wait…. why did 99% of those Tesco offers disappear again?

  6. krys_k says:

    That’s an interesting overlap. So to get the Business Plat bonus, 6 months will have needed to have elapsed from when I last owned a MR card eg Personal Plat. Got it.

    Is it one card per business or per company officer ?

    • Qwerty Bertie says:

      Double check the terms & conditions, but I think you have it right. No matter what anybody on the internet tells you, always perform your own personal due diligence, to ensure you don’t get stung courtesy of somebody else’s mistake.

      The business cards are still based on the individual, i.e. MR account in your name, application will show up on your personal credit files etc.

      • the_real_a says:

        I’m still smarting over losing £70 in Zeek 🙁

        • TGLoyalty says:

          lost £30 myself. Luckily I was smart enough to save my last gift card details as website is now dead

        • the_real_a says:

          Just an FYI to anyone else – the virtual gift-cards are actually clickable from the order email to via a third party site that provided the gift cards.

  7. Alex D says:

    So if you were to keep the BAPP and have no other Amex card for 24 months. To clarify I could still receive the sign up for the Platnium card and the spg card also?

    • Waddle says:

      Yes but you have to get the SPG first. Have ANY amex blocks you from the SPG bonus but the the BAPP and Platinum are only blocked by the 24 month rule. So you can get the BAPP and Plat bonuses if even if you have another amex.

      • Waddle says:

        To clarify you can get the BAPP and Plat bonuses even if you have another Amex as long as that Amex is not one of the same family.

      • Alex D says:

        Okay, thank you! For us it makes sense to keep the BAPP, swallow the fee to be able to earn Avios all year round at a decent level. Then every 2 years, I get platinum and spg then refer my partner for all 3. Slower process but works just as well. Non-Amex spend on the virgin+ card.

        • Waddle says:

          Good plan. You will be able to get the Platinum bonus every two years but not the SPG unfortunately. However if your partner doesn’t have an Amex in their name then refer to SPG, then Plat/BAPP and they will be able to get all three bonuses. Good luck.

    • No. You can get Plat but not SPG.

      • Alex D says:

        Good thing my partner has never held any AMEX cards – she will be sucked into this hobby now though!😂

  8. Waddle says:

    I have the BAPP and just got Plat. In either rules scenario I would’ve got the bonus. Only now I’m blocked from getting the bonus on the SPG/Nectar. Oh well.
    My strategy now is to trigger the 241 on the BAPP, then either cancel it or downgrade it to the BA blue for a partial refund. Then move to Gold. I understand I won’t be getting a sign-up bonus but I never would have in the old world either but I can still focus on 10k MR @£15k spend.
    My question is is it worth it for me to cancel my BAPP instead of downgrading? I will them be eligible for another bonus in 24 months. Meanwhile I’ll have Plat and its benefits, be building up to a Gold bonus and I can also earn point on my HSBC WE. I should shouldn’t I?

    • Is there any point in having the free BA and Gold, Waddle? I can’t see the benefit, as you’ll surely want to direct spend onto the Gold to achieve spend targets…

  9. Be interesting to see how BA reacts they must of been selling large quantities of avios to Amex, which is undoubtedly going to drop going forward. By how much isn’t anyone’s guess, but surely a significant amount.

    • Waddle says:

      Very interesting indeed. On the one hand it might be a loss because they generated some revenue through sale of Avios to Amex but on the other hand it could lead to less redemptions or redemptions on shorter flights and they might sell more cash tickets…

      • Aside from the guaranteed redemption seats per flight they have complete control over what they add to the redemption inventory, so I don’t see it having much impact on how many seats they sell for cash per flight.

    • That is irrelevant.

      What IS relevant is how BA, Nectar and Marriott feel about restrictions on who can get their cards.

      You can only assume Amex is walking away from these deals.

      • Alex D says:

        That would reduce amex’s offering by a large margin to a big group of people though… who would pick up the deal/partnerships?

        • 2 reasons why BA will walk:

          With Amex fees capped, it is just silly having a partner not accepted everywhere

          BA wants full wallet control. If you have a Virgin Mastercard alongside your BA Amex it isn’t helping BA at all.

      • Mikeact says:

        How about a global type ‘One World’ Visa/Mastercard card, issued locally, but also based on you current tier level.

      • the_real_a says:

        You would think that would logically lead to more MR redemption partners (who could turn down the free cash?) or fairer reward valuation into Marriott from MR when SPG is removed.

      • I rather imagine Amex will complement this change with targeted offers to existing cardmembers. I’m sure they haven’t lost interest in upselling, and currently they have no clear strategy for upselling the Platinum card anyway, since the Gold credit card is not eligible for the upgrade offer.

        I’d be astonished if they don’t have some plan in the works… If it’s primarily targeted offers, though, then you can be pretty sure those offers won’t be coming the way of the heavy churners.

  10. Does this also apply if you are a second card holder? My husband is an additional on mine but he has not had one of his own so could he open his own? My BA card and gold card are still open.

    • Alex D says:

      Yes he can get all 3(with good credit of course) as an additional card holder you are a nobody as such to Amex – they don’t have you as a customer in their database yet

    • No

  11. OK. So I have the BAPP and Virgin+. My Wife has a Virgin+ too.

    I’ve not had any other amex in the last few years and I have a business so what do you guys think my best plan of attack is?

    • Waddle says:

      Keep the Virgin+. You can get the personal Plat bonus NOW. If you cancel your BAPP you can get a bonus in 2 years. Or you could get Biz Plat and that’s chrunable every 6 months as long as you don’t get a personal Plat or Gold.

    • Gold Business or Plat Business, and then personal Gold or Plat. Must be in that order.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Why would you get a personal? Aren’t you blocked from having a sign up bonus for 24 months?

        Just churning the business you can have one every 6 months and get a bonus

      • Can i refer myself for the business card from my BAPP

    • Only joking says:

      Keep the Virgin, lose the wife.

  12. Business Card Questions

    I assume you would still receive a referral bonus if you refer from a personal card to business card? Example 18000 points referring from a personal plat.
    Does the business card have opportunities for further referrals as the personal card – example 5 x 18000 points for 5 referrals?
    Can you use the card for normal spending or is the card less accepted as its a business card?

    • Qwerty Bertie says:

      Yes – I’ve seen it come up as an option for the new customer when I’ve been referred
      Believe so but can’t confirm as never held it
      Yes, exactly the same acceptance, and the card is based on the individual not the business

      • Thanks Qwerty Bertie
        Does the business card have opportunities for further referrals as the personal card – example 5 x 18000 points for 5 referrals?

  13. I tend to just get the 22,000 gold card bonus every year. For those of us in that group, surely it would make more sense just to refer two other people, 9,000 points a pop, cancel the card and vice versa every year – and then you still get 18,000 points, which is close enough?

  14. My husband owns a small business so can apply for the Amex Gold Bus card. However, he has a NORMAL amex gold credit card. Will he have to have NOT had this for 6 months before he would be entitled to a spend bonus?

    • Yes

      • ok thanks. He has lounge club card free with the gold card which we intend to use at Gatwick in June. I presume that if he cancels Gold card now the lounge club pass also cancels despite not having used it yet?

    • If holding the normal one does not impact on the bonus for the Bus one could he refer himself for a referal bonus? Or could I refer him from my BAPP card to get a bonus?

    • Peter 64K says:

      Search for the article on the gold business card on headforpoints for more info but technically of you have held ANY membership rewards card within the past 6 months (personal or business) then you will NOT get the bonus on the gold business card.
      Some people have been lucky and got it anyway but don’t bet on that, especially with the new churning rules.

  15. Great articles Rob. Just one word of warning which I may have missed. When you cancel your BA Amex they remind you that you must pay for the taxes associated with using a 241 voucher using the same card you earned it with.

    I know this is not the case in reality but something they may tighten up on.

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