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. OT – I just hit my £50k limit on Curve and sent them a message asking for an increase. Within 15 minutes my limit increased to £100k pa, even though they noted “I can see your Curve card has been used to make transactions to financial services companies that do not accept credit cards”. Happy days 😊

  2. What’s the best strategy for a single person to maximise sign up bonuses?

  3. Stephan says:

    Couldn’t you also self refer yourself to say the nectar card and get referral points as well?

  4. Sort of O/T…has anyone any experience of using the US Amex Travel site instead of the UK one and still getting the statement credit on the £50 back on a £200 Spend? asking because the hotel i want to book shows on the US Amex Travel site but not the UK one for some reason…

    • It won’t work – if you read the offer terms it specifies .co.uk site and billing in GBP.

      • ok thanks

        • AndyGWP says:

          Phone them though and explain the situation. The web team seem half decent at trying to solve these problems (assuming it should appear on both… which would make sense)

          Maybe even explain what you are doing.

          They did a manual (tho accidentally did “double”) credit when I had issues

          • Yes is worth a go I guess, will try in the morning. Is doubly annoying as the hotel I want to book is in the UK yet it’s not on the Amex travel uk site! Ha!

  5. WaynedP says:

    Pardon my ignorance, is it best to register a Marriott Bonvoy account BEFORE applying for the SPG Amex card, and if so, do you get an opportunity to link your MB account to the SPG Amex card during the application process ?
    I didn’t have a MB account before I applied for my own SPG Amex card, and want to avoid the resulting faff for my wife, who I now want to refer from my own card.
    (The faff was that Amex automatically set up a “hidden” MB account when I applied for the SPG Amex card without an existing MB account, but never told me about it, so I went and opened a second MB account without knowing it was a second one and tried unsuccessfully to link it to my new SPG Amex card. Took a call and a couple of emails to Amex and MB to sort it out in the end.)
    I just want to confirm that the solution is to open a MB account before applying for the SPG Amex card, and want assurance that part of the application process will allow you to link your MB account to your SPG card, thus avoiding Amex trying to create a second MB account in the background, thanks.

    • Yes, as you suggest. Open the MB account before applying and enter your membership number during the application process.

    • As above, easier to open it first, however Amex will add your membership number to your account if somehow it doesn’t register with on application.

  6. RussellH says:

    OT: But Amex

    Just got fed up with my 1500 avios from Wineflyer offer failing to appear, and phoned Amex.
    Agent apologised and credited avios manually, and showing on my a/c.
    May be worth a phone call for anyone else still waiting.

    I did not pursue the missing avios from the “1 bonus avios for every £4 spent” offer by e-mail on 5 Dec. I reckon I am still due 29 avios here, but I shall make a followup call in a couple of days if they continue not to appear.

  7. Matthew says:

    O/T re Lloyds voucher. I have one due to expire in next few days. Reading previous articles, just wondering if I booked LHR-YVR return and then moved the date in three months time they’d amend the booking (effectively extending voucher life) or would they ask for extra Avios to cover difference?

    Many thanks 👍

  8. It’s so strange how most people watch a few youtube videos on climate change and all of a sudden consider themselves experts.
    I honestly didn’t realise that HFP had so many climate scientists that were daily readers.

    • Benilyn says:

      LOL at your name mate

    • I really don’t understand what you mean Greta.

      Kind regards
      Sharon

    • Greta nemesis says:

      Poor showing from Rob or whoever moderates comments. Fine to mock climate change and personify other people at a whim but can’t stomach mocking people in denial about climate change.

  9. OT — This might be a dumb question but can I book a room in the Hilton sale using the Honors Discount pricing if I’m booking for someone else (who’s not a Hilton member)?

    • Would be easier to sign them up – will save any messing around at check in. If you want the points he can transfer them for free later.

      • Fair enough. And good point about the transfer; I didn’t realise that was possible. Thanks.

  10. Secret Squirrel says:

    LHR- HEL 160 TP run £166 PP using £50 off £200 Amex offer.

    • Shoestrings mum says:

      That’s a great idea. You can check down the back of the seats in all four lounges for spare change to bring down the cost even more, maybe even to 160 tier points for £132 🙂

    • Harry T says:

      @Secret Squirrel
      Dates?

      • 21-25 April, 23-29 April, 2nd-6th May, 13-16 May, 19-21 May, 25-28 May.

        • Harry T says:

          Thanks everyone. Sadly I don’t think I will have enough leave for another trip to Helsinki. Already got a weekend in May booked for about £160 per person, so it’s not all bad!

  11. OT
    Virgin CC – still had no email regarding max airmiles per month is equal to the credit limit – definitely got more this month than my limit allows. Is this confirmed as universal for all holders or just those who got the email?

    • When does £20k 2-4-1 certificate post? Been a week since I hit the target but no sign of it. Do I wait for next billing cycle?

    • If you’re Gold, you’re exempt. Unofficially.

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