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MORE AMEX CUTS: Gold, Platinum and Amex Rewards sign-up and referral bonuses reduced

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Last month American Express made some aggressive – and frankly confusing – changes to the rules regarding who qualifies for a sign-up bonus on its personal UK cards.  My summary of the Amex sign-up rule changes is here.

There are now further changes.  This time American Express has changed the sign-up bonuses and referral bonuses on some cards.

Which cards have changed?

The changes impact American Express Preferred Rewards Gold, The Platinum Card and the American Express Rewards Credit Card.

The changes were due to go live at midnight last night and are already in effect.

Amex Gold

What are the changes to sign-up bonuses?

On Preferred Rewards Gold:

The sign-up bonus has been halved from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 10,000 Membership Rewards points

The qualifying spend required to earn the bonus has increased from £2,000 within three months to £3,000 within three months

If you are referred by a friend to the card, you will receive a higher sign-up bonus of 12,000 Membership Rewards points (previously 22,000 Membership Rewards points)

On the American Express Rewards Credit Card:

The sign-up bonus has been halved from 10,000 Membership Rewards points to 5,000 Membership Rewards points

The qualifying spend required to earn the bonus has increased from £1,000 within three months to £2,000 within three months

On the American Express Rewards Low Rate Credit Card:

The sign-up bonus has been halved from 5,000 Membership Rewards points to 2,500 Membership Rewards points

The qualifying spend required to earn the bonus has increased from £500 within three months to £1,000 within three months

There is no change to the sign-up bonus or spending target on The Platinum Card.

What are the changes to referral bonuses?

With Preferred Rewards Gold:

The bonus you receive for referring a friend falls from 9,000 Membership Rewards points to 6,000 Membership Rewards points

The annual cap on referral points remains at 90,000 points

With The Platinum Card:

The bonus you receive for referring a friend falls from 18,000 Membership Rewards points to 12,000 Membership Rewards points

The annual cap on referral points remains at 90,000 points (if you refer 8 people, you only receive 6,000 points for the last one as you hit the 90,000 points cap)

There are no referral bonuses for the American Express Rewards Credit Card.

There are no changes at all, for now, to the British Airways, Nectar and Starwood card bonuses.

American Express Rewards Credit Card

What is going on here?

On the face of it, some of these changes do not make a lot of sense.  Primarily, why should you need to spend £3,000 to get the bonus on Preferred Rewards Gold when you only need to spend £2,000 to get the bonus on The Platinum Card?

I get a feeling that American Express is pulling back from its attempts to make Preferred Rewards Gold a mass-market product.  There is no other logical reason for pushing up the target spend to £3,000 in three months, which for Mr & Mrs Average is likely to be more than their remaining cash once housing costs and household bills are paid.

It is possible that the American Express Rewards Credit Card will be positioned as the mass-market product, although doubling the target spend to receive the sign-up bonus will also reduce the market for this product.

I am not really concerned about the changes to the American Express Rewards Credit Card, because the only reason a HfP reader should get this is to ‘protect’ your Membership Rewards points from deletion if you choose to cancel your Gold or Platinum card.  I explain more in this article.

Is Amex risking long term damage by cutting off the ‘path’ for new cardholders?

My first American Express card, a long time ago, was a Gold.  Over time I progressed to The Platinum Card, and then – when it launched in 2004ish – the British Airways Premium Plus card, which was initially free to holders of The Platinum Card.

I suspect that – outside the world of Head for Points readers, who are well educated by our articles on the benefits of each card – most people start off with the free cards and then progress.  This is either as their income increases (so they can afford the annual fees on the premium cards) or as they become more comfortable with American Express as a partner.

Amex has now made ‘progressing’ less attractive.  For example:

if you start with the ‘free for life’ American Express Rewards Credit Card or ‘free for the first year’ Amex Gold, you are disqualified from the bonus on the free British Airways card or the Starwood card

if you start with the free BA Amex but decide that narrowing your focus to just Avios rewards makes no sense, you are locked out of the bonus on Gold, Starwood etc

if you start with the Starwood card but decide that Marriott Bonvoy no longer offers good value redemptions, you are locked out of the bonus on Gold and the free BA card

There are also no upgrade bonuses to persuade people to go from the free BA card to Premium Plus, or from the new credit card version of Preferred Rewards Gold to The Platinum Card.

And what is ‘the best starter card’ now?

HfP has generally promoted Preferred Rewards Gold as the best ‘starter’ card for someone coming into travel rewards.  This is because:

it had a generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 points (=20,000 Avios)

the points could be converted to a LOT of different rewards programmes, so you didn’t have to focus too early whilst you learned the ropes

you got your first year for free

you got two free airport lounge passes

you were free to earn a bonus on the BA or Starwood cards at a later date if you did choose to specialise

The situation is now different:

the sign-up bonus has been halved to 10,000 points (=10,000 Avios)

the target spend has been increased to £3,000 in three months

taking out Preferred Rewards Gold now blocks you from getting a sign-up bonus on a later date for the free British Airways card or the Starwood card – your only option for another bonus is the British Airways Premium Plus card

Overall, I am still tempted to say that Amex Gold is the best starter card for most people.  There is still a bonus, albeit lower, and the two free airport lounge passes will open your eyes to what your miles and points can do for you.  There is still no fee for the first year.

It is arguably better than telling people to start with the free BA Amex, which blocks them from both the Amex Gold bonus and the BA Premium Plus bonus.  In reality, the best ‘first’ card is probably:

The Platinum Card – but most people who are new to Amex won’t want to stump up £450, or

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card – because you can still get a bonus on both The Platinum Card and British Airways Premium Plus later, and you only need to spend £1,000 to trigger the sign-up bonus.  However, this is a confusing card for a beginner (even explaining why the Marriott card is called the Starwood card isn’t simple), it has a fee and the two cards you can upgrade to both have even chunkier fees which a lot of the market doesn’t want to pay.

The ‘keep it simple, stupid’ school of marketing is one which I have always believed in, but the current run of changes at American Express seems to be putting that to the test.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – June 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our June 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the other top current deals:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers.

Amex American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Comments (500)

  • Dale says:

    Interesting, further changes. This is all getting less appealing. The Amex cards and their points are the only reason I follow this blog :(.

    Is the preferred rewards renewal bonus unchanged? I had intended to cancel having recently earned it but Rob’s post yesterday convinced me to keep it.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, still there.

      I reckon about 2% of our articles are about Amex so I’m intrigued as to what you’ve actually been reading 🙂

      • Dale says:

        I read them all. They’re all very interesting, and I’ve learnt so much (HfP is clearly much better at selling the loyalty schemes and cards than the airlines etc themselves!)

        Sadly, I don’t get to undertake business travel so 80% of my avios come from the credit cards and they’re all carefully spent after considering this site’s advice.

      • Tom says:

        Agree there is a lot more to the site than just Amex, but for me, much of it hinges on Amex as the source of Avios.

        Like Dale, my only real hope of ever travelling in J is through Avios, or the very occasional cheap deals. If that possibility is gone, then the interest in seating arrangements, lounges etc inevitably diminishes :'(

      • Lady London says:

        2% of the articles maybe… has anyone counted up the comments?

    • Russ says:

      This blog is far more than just Amex 🙂

    • MeAgain says:

      Rob has started the change to a lifestyle blog; more hotel and flight stuff. The times they are a changin’. Amex isn’t bothered with the UK and seems to be moving towards servicing the business and corporate market only.

  • Jacob says:

    2019 is apparently a big year for Platinum and there will be big changes including a potential price change and new card benefits. Interestingly apparently in 2018 platinum in the UK had big growth with a significant % uplift in acquisition (maybe driven by blogs like this?)

    • Michael says:

      Well that’s fine – as long as Plat gives benefits that are worth it.

    • Alex says:

      Where did you read this? I agree a price increase would be fine – Provided the perks match the increase and the reward loyalty in a different format such as using the key “Member since” number on all cards!

      • Mark2 says:

        In my experience the ‘Member since’ number only applies to that card in this time of holding.
        I have had a card since the 1980s or even 70s and that does not ppear.

        • Mark says:

          I’ve have Member Since 2014, and have had multiple cards (including more than one platinum card, which I currently hold) during that time. But I’ve always held one card at least and have held the same online services account.

    • Yorkieflyer says:

      Price reduction I assume back to £300 given the drastic reduction in benefits referral and bonus aside

      • Rob says:

        We could see a monthly Uber credit, like in the US?

        • Alex G says:

          That would be fantastic!

        • derryjerry says:

          Really? Interesting. Uber is very divisive in the UK. And isn’t available in all majors cities; that would be a very London-centric move.

          • Alan says:

            Sounds right up Amex’s street then based on their Vista mailings!

  • Simon says:

    Still Amex-related, but slightly OT: does anyone know if the Platinum *COMPANION* card still exists? My long-trusty link (https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/platinum-companion/) seems to be dead, so I wondered if it was still in force/available for an extra 5K MR or actually had bitten the dust? Thanks

    • Alex W says:

      I applied last year and was rejected. Have since successfully applied for 2 other amex cards.

    • TM says:

      I still have mine, whether you can still get it is another question…

    • Steve says:

      Spoke to Amex CS about this earlier this year, they said its no longer available.

  • Jimbob says:

    Naively I had assumed the sign up bonus might go up, once the churning rate was limited to every 2 years. Similar to the USA “once a lifetime” large sign up bonuses.

    Almost, as if Amex is withdrawing from the UK market

  • Jonathan says:

    So with the introductory points being reduced, and with a flight to JFK about to be booked for August for x3 (x2 adults, x1 child), with a hotel stay in NY for 1 night (staying at parents for the remainder of time) does it make more sense to get the Platinum card, purchase the flights via Amex Travel and make use of free insurance, lounge etc and then cancelling once back. The 2k will be spent easily in the first 3 months (flights alone circa 1.7k) and we would make use of insurance and lounge access. This would (should!) net me at least 32k points, with any extra points accrued during the duration of spend before cancellation.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Was researching cards yesterday, and finalized today opting to apply for Gold rewards, only to find the points massively reduced!

    • Michael says:

      Yes that’s quite possible. Don’t forget to apply for your Marriot and Hilton statuses as they expire naturally.

    • Mark2 says:

      If you want Platinum get Green first and upgrade. You should get 20,000 MR when you spend £1,000.

      • Jonathan Choy says:

        Can you elaborate? Apply for green first, spend 1k, then apply for Platinum and spend the flights etc on the Platinum card?

        Cheers in advance – I’m new to cards / miles only having started research yesterday!

        • Mark2 says:

          No, apply for green; when it arrives upgrade to Platinum then spend £1,000 to get the points.
          But if you have no cards you can get 35,000 MR going direct if referred.

    • Michael says:

      If you’re brand new it would probably be best for you to apply for the Starwood card first – claim those miles via Marriott. Then BA then plat, as you’ll get all of the full sign up bonuses.

      • Lumma says:

        You can only get 1 sign up bonus in total these days. Or cancel and wait 2 years

    • Rob says:

      Yes, makes a lot of sense given the cost of insurance alone.

      • Jonathan Choy says:

        Thanks for comments thus far guys. I think i’ll just go straight for the Platinum – can anyone confirm that I can cancel within first year and whether that absolves the 450 fee or it is just refunded on a pro rata basis ?

  • Federico Meini says:

    my head is thinking: clearly they supposed to have given some notice to the customers – i have put down a formal complain and if they really value us as customers should have given us notice. Tesco has massive backlash when they changed their terms for the clubcard maybe we shall all complain?

    I am due to pay £140 in the next 2 weeks and webchat has told me to call because i might have some offers to keep me as a customer. Well i have called and nothing that they can do to keep me on, they treat everybody the same and it doesnt matter how much i have spent in the last year – I did spent over £17k on the card – and they will be very happy to lose me. If they treat everybody equally why some people got they points twice for the next 3 months and I have not been offered anything?

  • Michael says:

    OT: How long after receiving the plat card does my priority pass arrive?

    • Optimus Prime says:

      It should arrive soon. Usually I receive my priority pass before my amex.

      • Michael says:

        Thanks – got amex on Friday but PP not arrived yet.

        • Polly says:

          If you need the PP no, call PP, not amex, they can give it to you in the app. We did that for my daughter.

    • Graeme says:

      Sometimes before, same day or a couple of days after maximum.

  • Bob says:

    Amex have changed to goal posts completely so my household I’ll hang onto BA Amex (with my wife’s supplementary card) instead of churning it and just churn the Gold card every 11 months with my wife as 1st year is free and lounge passes etc although if they start charging on the 1st year they will lose that one. With what’s happened at Curve as well I would think they may lose a little popularity!

    • Dominic says:

      But churners are not who they want in the first place… I think they’ll gladly lose this “popularity”.

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