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

plus

30,000 Membership Rewards points from The Platinum Card 

plus

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.

Conclusion

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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Comments

  1. Apologies is this has already been covered but I was looking at the Platinum International Card earlier and noticed that the 30,000 MR sign up bonus is available provided you haven’t had another Rewards card in the last SIX months – it hasn’t changed to 24 months as the others have.

    I only quickly scanned the terms (I currently have Gold so its not for me) but this *might* present an option for someone embarking on a holiday in US or Euro where they will spend 5k. I assume the bill could be paid with a FX free mastercard debit card.

  2. BlueHorizonUK says:

    Personally think the points earning on Platinum is abysmal compared to even their Gold card and not sure why this is and why they won’t fix it

  3. Sorry if it’s been asked before – but if I currently have a 2-4-1 voucher and not in the position to be able to redeem it yet, will it be logical to keep an SPG card active until the voucher is redeemed or should I reapply for a BA amex free for now?

    • There was much discussion about this yesterday in the reference article. Remains unclear if amex will move towards enforcing the terms more stringently or not. I’m tending towards the latter due to practical difficulties if nothing else. If you’re a worrier apply for basic BA, if a big worrier then BAPP.. I personally suspect SPG will be fine but if you are not bothered about cancelling to churn BA basic is probably a happy comoromise.

  4. Rob, any thoughts on where amex is likely to stand on their co-branded cards in the medium to long term? Given tbe fee cap, do you think they will be keen to offload the contracts asap or will they still prefer to tetain them simply to keep them out pf the hands of competitors?

    • No-one else wants these contracts. Creation was the only company who bid for the IHG deal. Look at the dog’s dinner of a structure that Lufthansa has got. It is more likely the minor cards die.

      • Thanks. How are you getting on with the LH card in practice? In light of these amex changes I would probably now be tempted if they bring the 10k bonus back.

        • Works ok but no app, no postal statements and no option except direct debit payment for full amount. Not deal breakers and I am using it at the moment.

        • Cheers, I could live with that and keep my amex cards solely for spend on BA and offers. Meanwhile my partner can cancel his amex cards and start from scratch.

      • Could we possibly see Diners Club introducing new offerings in light of the major expansion in acceptance by Barclaycard? I’m right in assuming that just like Amex they’re not limited by the interchange cap?

  5. Can anyone confirm how long it’s taken for their 10k bonus points to hit their Gold a/c after spending £15k?
    I hit the spend the day before my anniversary, so tracker has reset to 0 but I know I hit the spend.
    Thanks

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Up to 2 months is what is usually reported in the comments.

      • thanks 🙂

        • Does the spend on the supplementary gold count towards the 15k?

        • Shoestring says:

          sure

        • Shoestring says:

          and don’t forget: when you keep the Gold to get the 10000 bonus on £15K spend, you can stop worrying about using the card abroad

          2.99% fee? no big deal when you’re getting 2 MR points/£ and another 0.67 MR points/£ for the 10000 annual bonus

          ie £1000 spend abroad costs you 2.99% (or £29.99) – but you get back 2.67% (or £26.67)

          Plus 2 more free Lounge Club passes

  6. illuminatus says:

    OT – sorry for the off-topic here, but really need a quick answer and most activity seems to be here.

    What is the quickest way to ‘top up’ Iberia Plus account to allow for ‘Combine my Avios’? Amex transfer? Purchase through Plustore (what merchant to select though)?

    Also, my Iberia Plus account is over 90 days old, but I never had any Avios in it, but still have and can access the ‘Don’t forget you can combine your Avios with those of other customer loyalty programmes’ link – does it mean the above step is not necessary? The transfer fails though(

    • The Groupon.es offer is on again I see, so you could buy 4,000 Avios for 54Euro. From memory it takes about 10 days to credit to your Iberia Plus account.

      • illuminatus says:

        Thanks, however I am wondering if there is anything quicker than the Amex points transfer which is 4 working days.

    • Mikeact says:

      Not sure I quite understand your question…there is no Avios in your Iberia account but you want to combine your Avios ?
      Dependant on how many you need ,why not just purchase through Iberia or BA ?
      May I ask why the urgency…..redemption availability?

    • Peter 64K says:

      I’d have thought Amex is probably fastest external source. E-rewards if you are very lucky with timing and have the points in it to transfer. Basically there is no super fast way and Rob often says to activate it in advance for situations like this.

    • Lady london says:

      If you have any Tesco you could pay BA then shift. It’s been v quick the one time i did

  7. Dimitri says:

    Rob, the US version of the AMEX Gold card has completely disappeared from the website!!! Has the gold card been phased out in the US?

    • It has relaunched as something else, looks rose gold now!

      • Dimitri says:

        Thanks Rob, but rose old also not offered any more!!

        “Oops, we’re sorry. This offer is not available at this time.”

  8. Philip says:

    Sorry if this has been covered already, am I correct to assume that if I want to give up my Amex cards for 24 months, I’d have to transfer my membership points out of their Rewards program first? I didn’t think there was a way to keep the points without an active Amex card.

    • To get the bonus points when applying, yes

    • Yep that’s correct. You have up to 30 days after closing the account to transfer them or lose them

      • Julian says:

        I’m sure a simple rule change regarding transferring out membership reward points can easily kill off the the vast majority of the remaining churners…………

        • Shoestring says:

          doesn’t make much sense Julian – they’re your points so why should you be prevented from transferring them to airline/ hotel loyalty prog?

        • How can they block you transferring your MR points to airlines, hotels? If you can’t spend them then why would you accumulate them?

    • Correct.

      • will moody says:

        Tough to decide whether cancelling all amex cards in order to realise the sign up bonuses mentioned above in 24 months is worth it – losing the liquidity of MR points will be a shame

  9. So if you decide to pursue Option 2 but need an Amex for any 2-4-1 voucher bookings – what are the options for that?

  10. so I can keep my SPG card for long term spending, and cancel the BA and platinum and wait for 24 months?
    Keep SPG card won’t affect getting the welcome bonus of the two most popular Amex cards?

    Thanks in advance!

  11. Hi

    Does the new 24 month rule also apply to AMEX supplementary card holders?
    That is in a 2 person household, can 1 pursue option 1 – to carry on with the current card (e.g. BA premium card) and the other individual pursue option 2 – to cancel all amex card to start the 24 month clock and take out an AMEX supplementary card while waiting to be eligible for the welcome bonus again? (And after 24 months, the role reverses.)

    • No. Supps have never counted.

      • Julian says:

        But that’s not to say that Amex card issuers might not change their rules in the future once they have got a greater handle on what they are up against.

  12. I’ve kept Plat long-term for years. Have found I’ve made more and more use of PP when RFS prices went up from the regions (flying direct LCC instead) and have had about £1k back in Amex offers over the past year or so. Combined with the other benefits that I utilise (HH Gold, FHR, car hire cover, etc.), 90k/year in referral bonuses I’m happy enough with their offering. If they up the earn rate I’d actually push more spending onto the card though!

  13. Can you get he sign up bonus on the IHG Premium MasterCard if you’ve already got the basic?

  14. A couple of queries:
    1) if i became a supplementary card holder on my wife’s BAPP card, would this affect my ability to get a sign up bonus if I later took out a BAPP myself?
    2) can my wife (who has a BAPP) refer me to a Amex platinum/any other non-BA amex and get the referral bonus, or does it only work for BA cards?
    Thanks!

    • 1) No
      2) Your wife can refer you from her BAPP to a non BA Amex if you want

  15. PS Rob did say “in most cases” so my proposed strategy can be called Option 3…

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