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. Peter 64K says:

    Your 3 months to get the bonus on the gold starts when you get accepted for it, not when you activate it.

    • Thanks, Peter 64k, good point. Maybe just get the referral bonuses (boni?) on both but just pump spend onto one that will be kept for 24 months, then.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Logically Gold is the only card worth spending on and keeping every year.

  2. SQ deval. No more 50k to ME in J. Now 58k. In effect from 16 April.

  3. Tom Cook says:

    Other half cancelled her gold card today – AMEX chat agent tried a few times to get her to keep the card open, wanting her to speak to a retention team. Might be some scope for people to get bonus spend as I’m sure many are cancelling their Amexes at the moment.

    Just a query, she’s had the Gold Card, and has the BAPP card – she’s not had an SPG card. I presume she would have to wait 24 months to get this and the bonus, or could she get this card and get the bonus as she’s never had that card?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      She has to wait 24 months as she had the Gold. Tbh forget about the SPG bonus either apply Plat in 24 months or if someone has a gold or plat already refer for 9/18k points while it lasts

  4. the_real_a says:

    By my calculations the insurances “just about” cover the £450 fee. JUST. But you have to use/value the PP, Insurances, car hire excess coverage and delay insurance…

    • Jimbob says:

      I find it hard to justify purely on the insurance cover, £15 per month to First Direct gives me travel insurance, mobile phone insurance, and breakdown insurance.
      It’s whether I value the referral bonuses at more than the £270 per year difference……..

      And the answer to that is yes (probably)

  5. Great articles and clarification on this topic. Perhaps I’ve missed this but I was wondering about referral bonuses. In the last 24 hours I’ve referred someone to the BA PP card. She already has the free BA Blue one. She knows she won’t get the sign on bonus but will I get anything or has that ended too?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      She already has a BA card so the BAPP is an upgrade I’m not sure you would have got a bonus before or now.

      But in general the person getting a bonus doesn’t affect the referral points.

    • You should get your bonus within few days. Let us know either way.

      • Will do. Fortunately I got a Gold referral in last week just before the deadline so can’t really complain. I was never organised enough to churn!

  6. RussellH says:

    There is some interesting reading here, but I do not think I had quite realised just how much cash many readers have to spend. Presumably the want to spend it too?

    Rob’s scheme may well work for the highly paid, but paying even three months fees for the platinum and the BAPP is a lot of cash in my book – almost £200. And it effectively writes off some 20 000 MR points. Plus spending £1K per month over two periods of three consecutive months on an Amex card? I doubt if I could expect to do that on a Visa or Mastercard.

    I also wonder how some people manage to get so many successful referalls too (Rob excluded, of course). No one I know wants an Amex card!

    So no, I shall stick with my free BA Amex and earn a few extra avios that way, and try to get a free MR Amex card too, to keep my existing MR points, rather than be forced to turn them into something else.

    Equally important though, does it really make any sense to plan an earning strategy on the current situation, when you cannot put it into effect for 2 years? I would expect to have seen further significant change by then anyway.

    • Freddy says:

      It depends on what you want to do with the points. Most would see £200 in fees worthwhile if it saves them £2000 in flights they would have paid with cash anyway.

    • Presumably Rob is restricted to the same referral limits as the rest of us, and AFAIK he was never really into churning so there is a limit to his benefit.

      • I’m pretty sure he has mentioned previously he has some special agreement with Amex such that he can refer more than the rest of us…fair enough as he would have generated a lot of new business for them. Not so much now though!

        • No I don’t.

        • Doug M says:

          It’s how he pays his Butler, footman and maids, he gives them a couple of Amex referrals.

        • My comment wasn’t intended as a slight against Rob as I genuinely value this site and the info on it, but that was my understanding from previous comments but clearly wrong. Does seem to me tho that if he didn’t have a special agreement that he was missing a trick considering the amount of referrals he much have generated for Amex over the years

          Despite the know all’s on this site, Amex knew exactly what they were doing in allowing people to sign up rinse and repeat in the same way that sky, bt et al also do the same knowing what consumers do…they have targets to meet and don’t care how they meet them. It’s all different departments and different budgets. Now the customer acquisition dept has achieved their goal, they have changed the rules. Customer acquisitions will drop and they will change the rules again in a a couple of years back to what it is now. If you worked in a big company would people would know this…

  7. Can anyone just confirm something for me.

    if we’re now focussing on just referring, presumably I can have an Amex Basic membership rewards card (to keep hold of my MR points indefinitely) whilst also holding the gold card JUST to make referrals and get MR into the same account.

    Do you have to link these MR accounts or is it automatic?

  8. Can you still take out the BA blue, spend 9900 and then upgrade to BAPP to trigger the 2 4 1? Then downgrade again to start your next year spend.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Downgrading won’t start your next year. Unless you mean waiting until original anniversary to then spend another 9990.

      Cancel the BAPP and bag a referral bonus and fresh 2-4-1 if you wait a few months.

  9. Does anybody know if the business cards offer a referral system of any kind?

  10. So Rob’s feeling is that BA will ditch Amex but do you have a feeling for timescales? Our 2-4-1 drawer is now empty and I was due to get a new BAPP next month to start spending toward the next one. I’d still be happy to do this even without the sign up bonus, but don’t want to start only to find that the BA Amex cards are pulled in a couple of months. £10k is 4-5 months spending for us.

    • Shoestring says:

      nobody knows timescale

      BA is not going to do it in the next 5 months/ without giving appropriate notice/ make it impossible to achieve 2-4-1s in the making

  11. Newbie says:

    Query – if I currently hold a Platinum card and cancelled my BAPP 5 months ago, can I keep the Platinum and apply for a BAPP in 19 months and get the sign up bonus? Or do I have to cancel my Plat card and then wait 24 months from that date to get the sign up bonus on the BAPP?

  12. Dominic Montgomery says:

    Slightly OT but Amex related. Seen that a £250 statement credit on £1000 spend at Microsoft store has popped up on some Amex cards. If you are in the market for a new high end laptop, might be a good deal.

  13. Nigel W says:

    Just for some confirmation, if I had the SPG card and cancelled 7 months ago. I cannot get the Nectar card bonus?

  14. …. except for BAPP or Platinum Charge

  15. Chris L says:

    With regards to the 24 month time interval; does being a supplementary card holder affect or reset your personal 24 month time interval or is one still considered a cars holder under this new scheme? I couldn’t find a straight answer since the new announcement.

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