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MORE AMEX CUTS: Some sign-up bonuses and referral bonuses reduced, with immediate effect

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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.

Change to American Express Gold sign up bonus

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 cardI 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.

American Express changing sign-up bonuses

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.

Important interest rate information

For the cards mentioned in this article, I am legally obliged to remind you that:

American Express Preferred Rewards Goldrepresentative APR 57.6% variable including the annual fee (free in year 1) based on a notional £1,200 credit limit.  Apply hereReview here.

The Platinum Card from American Expressno interest rate information as it is a charge card.  Apply hereReview here.

American Express Rewardsrepresentative APR 22.9% variable.  Apply hereReview here.

American Express Rewards Low Raterepresentative APR 9.9% variable.  Apply hereReview here.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card –  representative APR 39.7% variable including the annual fee based on a notional £1200 credit limitApply hereReview here.

British Airways American Expressrepresentative APR 22.9% variableApply hereReview here.

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – representative APR 76.0% variable including £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit. Apply hereReview here.

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. Generally doesn’t really affect us as Gold holders as most of our spend’s on travel. Where it does affect us is referrals. I won’t be able to recommend any of these cards to friends and associates because I’m going to look miserly and weak touting for such a small bonus. I’m also looking at our supplementary cards as not sure they are worth the fee as I’m still stinging about last weeks insurance fiasco.

    • Same here, will never mention amex again to friends or family, and they spent loads..annoyed about the referrals tho, was banking on them, and mr T to continue travelling at the pointy end! That’s fine, will earn enough for BA J to Asia annually. That will do plus big use of RFS if not.

  2. Anybody know if an application in married name is deemed as a “new” person?

    • Lev441 says:

      Probably is…! Give it a try and report back?

    • If this is anything to go off I had to create a new BA account as my wife’s is still in her maiden name due to passport and her points kept being rejected so now she has two BA accounts and one day we’ll have to somehow merge them or spend up the points in one and stop using it.

    • Only if there are no credit links to the old name, i.e. all bank accounts and cards closed, deregister and reregister on electoral roll etc.

      • Charlieface says:

        I think you’re wrong on both sides: accounts stay on credit files for 6 years after they’re closed and you need to give Amex the old name if it’s a recent change, the only way for them not to track it is to move and then not open anything for 3 years (which is much address history you need). But to be honest Amex will probably only use the credit report for approval, and will use their own data for the bonus, so if you don’t give them the old name they prob have nothing.

    • Lady London says:

      You mean you are willing to go as far as to get married in order to be able to apply for a new card?
      🙂
      i shouldn’t think so as most forms ask for maiden name to also be provided if status is married.

  3. rams1981 says:

    I just called AMEX and will earn 2 points per £ for next 3 months whilst I decide whether to cancel my Plat and will try slip in a few referrals.

  4. rams1981 says:

    the only hotel benefit I enjoy most value from is Hilton Gold and I get that from the legacy Barclaycard Hitlon as spend £10k on it. So all in, not sure if there’s value to keeping my Plat now.

    • +1 and the only benefits we get exclusively through the Platinum are the car hire insurance and now reduced referral benefits, so struggling to justify the fee now.

      On another note, I used my MR gold at Lidl last week for the £5 off and I’ve not had any acknowledgement and the offer is still showing as saved so looks like that’s yet another one I’ll have to chase Amex for.

      • anttelli says:

        I used 2 Amex offers over the weekend (Lidl and Chef & Brewer) and did not receive emails either. Have to see if any credits appear later in the week.

      • Same here, didnt get any email or the credit yet

      • anttelli says:

        Just checked my account on the Amex app and Lidl is now showing as redeemed so looks like my £5 Cashback is on the way!

        • Which card though? I am finding that offers on the BA cards track immediately but I always have to chase the ones on the MR card.

      • anttelli says:

        Amex Rewards CC. I have a supp BA Amex on my partners card and never get an email when I use an offer but my partners card always generates an email. I used to have an Amex Cashback and never received emails on that either.

  5. 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.

    • 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 🙂

      • 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.

      • 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?

    • 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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!

      • 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.

        • 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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.

    • 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!

        • 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.

    • 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 ?

  10. 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?

  11. Michael says:

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

  12. 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”.

  13. Has anyone received an email from Amex with a link to a survey about the Gold card? I completed it a couple days ago, and the questions (among others) revolved around additional benefits (including recurring credits for airline spend) and other perks typically associated with the Platinum card in the US.

    Was actually intrigued they were asking that sort of questions about the Gold card, hinting there may be more value in it in the future than there is in the Platinum card.

  14. Why are people still bothering with Amex? I really don’t understand other than every two years?

    • The Badger of Bagdad says:

      Desperation.

    • Well there are not many other options for earning any cashback outside Amex now, especially on free cards. The only options are IHG white (about 0.4p per £ in points) or Virgin Atlantic free card 0,75 miles per £) or Tandem at 0.5 %.

      You can still get min 1.5 % on SPG (but has fee of about £6 a month), 1% on free BA, 1% on Plat Cashback, 1% on Gold etc, 1% Nectar (2% if Nectar run double up again at Christmas). Nothing on Mastercard/Visa comes close apart from the paid for Virgin Premium card at 1.5% but has £160 fee, in year one is justifiable not so sure about year 2.

      • Now looking a look more seriously at the vouchers that can be bought via various employee/health/childcare schemes . Most of these offer around 3.5% to 4% discount for supermarkets and 5 to 10% for other retailers like M&S, John Lewis, New Look, H&M, Currys, Ikea, B&Q etc. Some of these are now offering instant vouchers so you can do your shop and buy the vouchers straight away for the amount you need (as don’t like to leave money on gift vouchers as can forget about them or company goes broke etc).

        Can be paid for with Curve or some take visa/mastercard direct (so use IHG/Virgin/Hilton etc). With these you can end up saving more than even in a bonus period with Amex (which usually was at most 10% for the first £2000 on gold/plat, but around 5% on others), an why higher than after the bonus period finished.

        • Our company’s vouchers can all be bought with Amex on top – great way of routing B&Q spend onto Amex cards

    • It’s secret!

  15. “Pigs”?? Get a grip!

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