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How two people can still earn 185,000 Avios from Amex sign-up bonuses – if you’ve not had an Amex card in the past two years

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Following the recent changes to the American Express sign-up bonus rules, imposing a 24 month gap between bonuses, and the reduction in the sign-up bonus on Preferred Rewards Gold and American Express Rewards, many people immediately decided that it was no longer possible to earn a substantial number of Avios or other airline miles from American Express.

This simply isn’t true.  Whilst the opportunities are certainly reduced – and I’d be crazy to suggest otherwise – the bottom line is that in the most extreme scenario, a couple can still earn 185,000 Avios from American Express sign-up bonuses after a two year fallow cycle.  I don’t recommend you do this, but I wanted to show how it is possible.

If you have not had any American Express cards in the past two years, you and your partner can start on this strategy immediately.

Coupled with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher and Avios picked up from daily spend, you are still earning enough Avios for a Club World return flight to most places, or a First Class ticket to quite a few places, every couple of years.

Let’s run through the numbers.  In order for this strategy to work, you would need to be starting from scratch with no personal American Express cards.  This would involve closing ALL of your existing personal American Express cards in order to start the two year clock, if you are already a cardholder.

The key to this is that the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card and The Platinum Card have different bonus rules from the other cards.  You are only blocked from a bonus if you have held another card in the same ‘reward family’ over the previous two years.

(EDIT:  there was an error in my maths so I re-did the article, apologies)

This is the optimum Avios-earning strategy at the moment for a couple, starting 24 months from when you cancel your last existing card – which means Spring 2021 at the earliest.

If you and your partner have not had any personal American Express cards in the past 24 months, you could actually start this strategy today.

What is the optimum Amex application strategy now for a couple?

Person A applies for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card 

  • Sign-up bonus: 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which converts to 10,000 Avios, £1000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months

Person A refers Person B for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card

  • Referral bonus: 9,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which converts to 3,000 Avios

Person B applies for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card 

  • Sign-up bonus when referred: 33,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which converts to 11,000 Avios, £1000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months

American Express sign-up bonuses

Person B refers Person A for The Platinum Card

  • Referral bonus: 9,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which converts to 3,000 Avios

Person A applies for The Platinum Card

  • Sign-up bonus when referred: 35,000 Membership Rewards points which converts to 35,000 Avios, £2000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held an American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points in the previous 24 months

Person A refers Person B for The Platinum Card

  • Referral bonus: 12,000 Membership Rewards points which converts to 12,000 Avios

Person B applies for The Platinum Card

  • Sign-up bonus when referred: 35,000 Membership Rewards points which converts to 35,000 Avios, £2000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held an American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points in the previous 24 months

American Express sign-up bonuses

Person B refers Person A for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

  • Referral bonus: 12,000 Membership Rewards points which converts to 12,000 Avios

Person A applies for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

  • Sign-up bonus when referred: 26,000 Avios, £3000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a British Airways American Express card in the previous 24 months

Person A refers Person B for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

  • Referral bonus: 9,000 Avios (or 12,000 Membership Rewards points, which converts to 12,000 Avios, if they still hold The Platinum Card at this point and make the referral from that)

Person B applies for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card

  • Sign-up bonus when referred: 26,000 Avios, £3000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a British Airways American Express card in the previous 24 months

Person A or Person B spends £10,000 on their British Airways American Express Premium Plus card in order to trigger the 2-4-1 voucher

Obviously this is an extreme scenario …..

For absolute clarity, I am NOT suggesting that HFP readers should cancel all of their American Express cards immediately in order to start on this strategy.  It is simply an example of what is possible at the extreme.

There are various problems with it:

all of the cards above carry annual fees, although they are refundable pro-rata if you cancel

there is no guarantee that the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express will exist in two years – or even two months

there is no guarantee that American Express will continue to issue the British Airways card – there is a fair chance that BA decides to move the contract to a Visa or Mastercard issuer now that the EU cap on interchange fees has been extended to American Express.  You can also imagine that BA is not too happy that American Express is blocking some people from getting a sign-up bonus on its cards.

there is no guarantee that the other sign-up or referral bonuses will remain unchanged

importantly, you need to go two years without a British Airways American Express Premium Plus card – and that means two years without being able to generate a 2-4-1 voucher

you need an American Express card, although you could use one from a friend, to pay the taxes when you redeem your existing British Airways American Express Premium Plus vouchers

you would miss out on American Express cashback deals, such as Shop Small, for the next two years

you would need to find other cards to use for your day-to-day spending for two years

Let me repeat – I am not recommending that you follow the strategy above.  It is an extreme example of what is possible.

However, it does show you that there is still some merit in continuing to pick up American Express sign-up bonuses, even if you need to wait two years to earn another.  Perhaps you can amend the strategy for your own purposes – perhaps you keep your British Airways card open but cancel your Membership Rewards cards in order to get The Platinum Card in two years?

Remember that there is also further upside which we have not covered here.  You can earn additional sign-up bonuses by referring other friends and family for cards.

If you have a small business, there is also the opportunity to take out the Gold Business and Platinum Business cards.  These have bonuses of 20,000 and 40,000 Membership Rewards points respectively and, more importantly, the only criteria for earning the bonus is that you haven’t held a Membership Rewards card in the past SIX months.

Further credit card information

Here is the legally required interest rate information on the cards mentioned above, together with links to our reviews:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus – sign-up bonus of 25,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour BA Premium Plus Amex review – representative APR 76.0% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

The Platinum Card – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Platinum review – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend £1,000 in three months – apply hereour Starwood Amex review –  representative APR 39.7% variable including fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit, interest rate on purchases 22.9% variable

American Express Gold Business – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Gold Business review – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

American Express Platinum Business – sign-up bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £6,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Platinum Business review – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

(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.)

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Comments

  1. just to doubt check: you don’t lose your 2-4-1 voucher if you cancel your BA amex card?

    We have two 2-4-1 vocher to be used in 1.5 years, thought it’s a good time to cancel both BA amex to save annual fee.

  2. rams1981 says:

    OT HSBC elite MasterCard – bonus for £12k spend posted on statement with fee for next year.

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