How a couple can earn 178,000 Avios from American Express sign-up bonuses – if you’ve not had an Amex recently

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History shows that this week will see a lot of new readers finding Head for Points for the first time, as they start to plan their 2020 holidays.  For the benefit of those people, many of whom will not have had any American Express cards in the past, I wanted to update this article on how to maximise your sign-up bonus.

Following the changes in March 2019 to the American Express sign-up bonus rules, imposing a 24 month gap between bonuses, and the April 2019 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 178,000 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.

For a newcomer, the news is even better.  If you have not had any American Express cards in the past two years, you and your partner can start on this strategy immediately.

How can you maximise your American Express sign-up bonuses?

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. 

Corporate Amex cards don’t count.  Neither do any supplementary cards you may have on someone else’s Amex account.  You can also ignore any Amex cards you have had which were issued by Lloyds Bank or MBNA.

If you are currently an American Express cardholder, you couldn’t follow this strategy until January 2022.  You need to close ALL of your existing personal American Express cards now in order to start the two year clock.

Here is the optimum Avios-earning strategy at the moment for a couple who have not had any Amex cards in the past two years.

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.

What is the optimum Amex application strategy for a couple?

Both you and your partner will be getting three different American Express cards.  How far you spread out the applications should depends on how quickly you can hit the spend target on each card to trigger the sign-up bonus.  You have up to 90 days on each card to hit the target.

To start off:

Person A applies for the Marriott Bonvoy Guest American Express card (apply here)

  • Sign-up bonus for Person A: 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which converts to 6,666 Avios, £3000 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 Marriott Bonvoy American Express card

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

Person B applies for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card 

  • Sign-up bonus when referred for Person B: 23,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which converts to 7,666 Avios, £3000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months

How to maximise American Express sign up bonuses

Person B refers Person A for The Platinum Card

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

Person A applies for The Platinum Card

  • Sign-up bonus when referred for Person A: 35,000 Membership Rewards points which converts to 35,000 Avios, £4000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points in the previous 24 months

Person A refers Person B for The Platinum Card

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

Person B applies for The Platinum Card

  • Sign-up bonus when referred for Person B: 35,000 Membership Rewards points which converts to 35,000 Avios, £4000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points in the previous 24 months

How to maximise American Express sign-up bonuses

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

  • Referral bonus for Person B: 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 for Person A: 26,000 Avios, £3000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal 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 for Person A: 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 for Person B: 26,000 Avios, £3000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal 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 and so maximise how far your 178,000 Avios can take you!

You will actually have more than 178,000 Avios because of the points from your daily spend.  There are also opportunities to add supplementary cards to each card as you go along, for additional bonuses of up to 3,000 points each.

Obviously this is an extreme scenario …..

If you’ve never had an Amex card before (or in the last two years):

If you do not have any American Express cards at the moment, you can try the strategy above with little personal risk.

Whilst all of the cards above carry annual fees, they are refundable pro-rata when you cancel.  The quicker you trigger the sign-up bonus, the more money you will get back.

If you were thinking of cancelling your existing cards to follow this plan:

There is substantially more risk if you were thinking of cancelling all your existing Amex cards and following this strategy in two years:

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 £4,000 in three months – apply hereour Amex Platinum review – this is a charge card which must be repaid in full each month

Marriott Bonvoy American Express – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you spend £3,000 in three months – apply hereour Marriott 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

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.

(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. I have had the black BA premium card for almost 3 years now. I recently applied for a platinum card which arrived today. I called and asked them what my sign up bonus was for platinum and they advised me that because I already have a reward card (BA) I will not be eligible for any new sign up bonuses any any AMEX card. So either the advisor at American Express this morning advised me incorrectly, or this article is not entirely correct.

    • They are thoroughly mistaken. A BA card is not a rewards card in the Amex sense. Rewards cards are ones that earn MR points. If you haven’t had gold, green or ARCC within the past two years, you will get your bonus.

  2. Does this work if you already have Amex cards from the USA?

  3. Wongster says:

    All these new rules are so confusing….

    I have a situation here where I only ever have a Gold Amex CC but never a BAPP card. Can I still apply for a BAPP card and get the sign up bonus? One is MR points, the other Avios.

    Appreciate if you know the answer to this, please let me know!

    Thanks!

    • Yes (as long as you’ve not had a BA card in the last two years). BAPP is the only personal card on which you could get a bonus.

  4. Syed Asim says:

    But you could buy the same amount of avios for less than the annual fees with much less hassle.

    Eg. The Platinum Card has an annual fee of £575. And you get a 35k avios bonus. £595 currently gets you 39000 avios in the BA 30% bonus sale.

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