BA sale

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

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.)

BIG NEWS: BA 'changing' the cost of Avios redemptions on partner airlines - but it won't say how much
Another loophole closing - European Avios redemptions no longer cheaper booked as 2 x one-ways
Click here to join the 14,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Hilton India and SEA sale
Amazon ad
BA sale
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. A has BAPP. B has a BA Blue.

    If A refers B for the BAPP will A get the referral bonus?

    • I asked a similar question the othere day. One person reported getting tbe referral bonus while the other did not so possibly pot luck.

  2. I’ve got a very strong feeling amex will hike annual fees soon. Don’t know where that came from, all very depressing.

    • Yui metal says:

      Perhaps because of all the people abusing the bonuses, and all the subsequent articles about how to abuse referrals? I don’t understand people who by their own admission are serial churners, then cry themselves to sleep wondering why those opportunities went away.

    • Ditto and as mentioned above I think they will soon start making people spend more on the BAPP to get a 2 4 1 voucher.

  3. How does this work if you have the 2-1 voucher? I thought you had to hold an amex card in order to use the voucher

    • Well currently you can pay the 2 4 1 fees on any Amex in any name so there are ways of getting around that but of course that could change at any time. All this is hypothetical anyway as other changes may well be in the offing which would affect this proposed strategy. I can’t help but think the £10k spend for the 2 4 1 is long overdue an increase…

  4. Would following this ‘extreme guide’ really wreck your credit score? I’m a complete beginner here!

    • Shoestring says:

      Not really, assuming other aspects of your credit history are good.

      To be prudent, you wouldn’t particularly want a string of credit searches within (say) 6 months of a mortgage or loan application – but that’s probably the only important one to think about.

    • Bonglim says:

      I think a lot of people worry about this and it is correct to at least pay attention.

      Like above – if you are within 6 months of a mortgage application or similar essential credit issue, then defer things until that has been organised. Similarly if you have a need for several other recent credit searches then give it a break.
      Also to pursue something like this you should really be free from all credit card debt etc, otherwise you are better off taking steps to address that first. That means that people doing this tend to have low ‘usage of available credit’ which is very good for the credit record.

      But for people who have a good credit history and few debts, it is reasonable and does not seem to affect your credit profile too much. The biggest effect is on number of applications in the last 6 months – which some lenders see negatively. If you keep that figure to 2 or less and you are fine. 3 is still okay.

      Finally it is worth noting that Amex do not seem to do a credit search every time for existing customers. It seems (to me) to be totally random and about 50% of the applications I do seem to be waved through without a new search. So if you have access to your credit profile you can see which times they actually run a credit check.

    • Been a serial churners for years, credit score stayed above 900 apart from a single month. Amex afford more importance to your internal files with them, not had a problem with them or any other applications. Just focus on paying your bills regularly and on time. Don’t do idiot stuff like 3+ credit applications in a single month.

  5. Arthur says:

    I think you can do even better by applying for a supplementary card for your partner at 3000 points a time. That won’t count as already having an AmEx and thus won’t prevent you getting the introductory bonus. Or has that been stopped now?

  6. Question… Why would you not go for the Platinum card first? and refer from that card? I thought the recommend a friend earnt a bigger bonus? What obvious point am I missing?

    i.e
    Plat A ->Plat B
    Plat A ->SPG B
    Plat B ->SPG A
    Plat A -> BA B
    Plat B -> BA A

    • Shoestring says:

      You can’t get SPG if you hold Plat

    • You don’t get the bonus on the SPG card. The SPG rule is “no bonus if you have had ANY personal Amex in the previous 24 months”.

  7. LondonGuy says:

    I’ve just seen that The Points Guy had a pop-up shop in Covent Garden on Saturday to celebrate the UK launch of their new site. Sadly I missed it but their new site has already had lots of articles. Looks like they are really going for it. Did anyone visit them on Saturday?

    • Nope, not our market.

      • LondonGuy says:

        Really? The articles seem very similar in nature at first glance, lounge reviews, credit card reviews , new route announcements etc. Apparently they were giving away business class flights. Just wondered if anyone here won one?

        • Shoestring says:

          Are we going to get a spoiling campaign from various badly-disguised Points Guy employees? Doesn’t sound as if The Points Guy is an outfit to be trusted if that’s how they act.

        • Thanks for the post – I hadn’t really heard of The Points Guy lauching in UK – I have now signed up anything for a free competition entry too

        • +1 @Harry, it stinks.

        • @Mike – their competition is closed yet the competition entry mechanism is still accepting entries. I am sure it will be disabled imminently, otherwise that’s not very trustworthy too!

    • Personally I think we should focus on supporting the blog that has supported and rewarded us for years already. Iftimes are becoming more challenging I know which one I want to be reading.

      • Loyal To Myself says:

        I leaned here that loyalty in this game is a waste of time. I’ll be reading whichever has the most quality content.

        • Couldn’t agree more, that’s why I’ve been reading HFP with my cornflakes every morning.

        • Loyal To Myself says:

          @BJ yep, it’s definitely the place for those who like articles on churning. I know you’re a big fan. Sadly, this site is eating itself alive from the inside because of such practices, and ruining it for everyone else in the process.

        • Same here – I will be churning between 2 sites every 6 months (or 24 if Rob decides to play hard ball).

        • Exactly BJ. A pot of tea, some fruit and HfP – the breakfast of champions.

        • James Whale says:

          Sounds more like a breakfast for Weightwatchers

        • The breakfast of champions who recently got told they need to watch their cholesterol 🙁

    • I went. It was ok, spoke to Brian for a bit to see if he had any insight on the uk credit card market. Got some free Merch for the kids but didn’t win anything on the lucky dip grabber.

  8. Speculatively for those that go this route, what’s the best filler interim card if you still want to earn miles? I still have the Hilton card by Barclays which can bundle up and transfer to airlines, can purchase through OTAs which also give points and the old standby buying points when they’re on sale with the money saved not paying Amex fees.

  9. Is Costco AMEX outside the types of card that will count for the 24 month period as I intend to cancel all other cards and keep the Costco AMEX to pay for the 241 taxes when I use it

    • No. It is still a personal Amex card.

      It won’t stop you getting the Platinum or BAPP cards in 24 months though.

      • Lee Thompson says:

        I am looking for an AMEX to hold long term for the payment of reward flight taxes etc…

        I was also thinking of the Costco AMEX card.

        Am I right in thinking that me holding this card long term will not effect my eligibility for sign up bonuses on BAPP and AMEX Platinum?

  10. Guesswho2000 says:

    OT BAEC Changes:
    As you’ve previously used your Avios to book reward flights with our global network of partner airlines, we wanted to let you know about some changes we’re making.

    From 30 May 2019, we’ll be changing our Avios prices on reward flights with some of our partner airlines.

    Don’t worry if you have an existing Avios booking with a partner airline. It’s still valid and you can make changes or cancel it if you need to*. Our new Avios prices will apply to any changes or new bookings you make after 30 May 2019.
    https://www.britishairways.com/executive-club/news/air-partner-changes

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      Doesn’t appear to be any info of what the new Avios prices will actually be though

      • BlueHorizonuk says:

        I guess a move to different fixed pricing like Virgin has with their partners

        • guesswho2000 says:

          Maybe. I’m guessing Rob’s already been told, and there’ll be a full article tomorrow anyway ;o)

          • Honestly did not have any advance notice of this, nor do I have any idea what is going on.

      • I’ll take a wild guess and say they won’t be going down.

    • 2019 clearly shaping up as the annus horribilis of points and miles…looking like a perfect storm is brewing 🙁

  11. Ive switched to collecting SPG/Marriott points.
    Not much value in Avios anymore & its going to get worse.
    At least with Marriott you get 5th night free.

    • How’s does the “5th night free” work. If I use points to book 2 nights, pay for 2 nights will I get 5th night free? Is it across all Marriott hotels? Thanks.

    • Though peak pricing has yet to make an appearance!

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.