Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

TODAY is 24 months from Amex’s launch of the ’24 month’ rule – what should you do?

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On 21st March 2019, American Express unveiled major changes to its rules on who could obtain a sign-up bonus on its cards.

Our article from that day is here – it ended up getting over 72,000 page views, making it one of our biggest articles ever. Add in email and aggregator readers and it will have done close to 90,000 views.

Up to that day, the American Express bonus rules had been generous:

  • travel cards were split into three families (Membership Rewards, Avios, Marriott) and you were guaranteed to get a bonus if you hadn’t had a card from the same family in the previous six months
  • even inside the same ‘family’, you could get a new bonus as long as you waited six months from when you cancelled your previous card

Under this scenario, it was a doddle for a couple to pick up over 100,000 points per year from sign-up bonuses without trying too hard. People who could reach the minimum spend targets quickly and kept a closer track of their dates could do far better.

What happened in March 2019?

With no notice, Amex changed the rules to the situation we see today:

  • with the exception of Platinum and BA Premium Plus, you cannot get a sign-up bonus if you have had a personal (business cards are ignored) Amex card in the previous 24 months

This article (click here) explains in more detail ‘what Amex bonuses can you get, based on the cards you currently or recently had’.

If you cancelled everything on 21st March 2019, you are ‘free’ today

There were two problems with what American Express did.

First, it was insanely complex. Spend 30 seconds reading my article on ‘what bonuses can I still get?’ if you don’t believe me. It didn’t help that the Business cards retained the six month rule. For extra confusion, having a Business card doesn’t block a personal bonus BUT having a personal Membership Rewards card DOES block a Business card bonus.

Secondly, it actually made sense to cancel all of your American Express cards. A couple who have had no Amex cards in the last 24 months can generate 186,000 points between them fairly quickly as we show below. Have you earned 186,000 points in the last 24 months from your Amex cards? Probably not. In retrospect, you may have been better off cancelling the lot back in March 2019, especially if you have a small business and could have used Business Gold or Business Platinum in the interim.

Does it make sense to cancel all my Amex cards now?

That’s up to you. You are gambling that the strategy I outline below for picking up points quickly will still be around in 24 months.

You will also need access to an Amex of some sort to pay the taxes on any British Airways 2-4-1 companion voucher you have ready to redeem.

If you have a small business, it could be worth considering due to the 100,000 points Business Platinum bonus

Remember that:

These offers run to 9th April. Cancelling your personal cards and focusing on the Business cards for two years may work, allowing you to unleash a storm of personal card bonuses in March 2023 – unless the rules change.

What is the best strategy if I have gone 24 months with no personal Amex cards?

If you approach it in the right order, a couple can earn 186,875 Avios from American Express sign-up bonuses as long as neither of you has had an American Express card in the past 24 months.

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.

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.

HFP Amex American Express Nectar Card

To start off:

Person A applies for the Nectar American Express card (apply here)

  • Sign-up bonus for Person A: 20,000 Nectar points which converts to 12,500 Avios, £2000 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 Nectar American Express card

  • Referral bonus for Person A: 5,000 Nectar points which converts to 3,125 Avios

Person B applies for the Nectar American Express card 

  • Sign-up bonus when referred for Person B: 21,000 Nectar points which converts to 13,125 Avios, £2000 spend in three months required
  • Rule: You cannot have held a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months

Person B refers Person A for The Platinum Card

  • Referral bonus for Person B: 5,000 Nectar points which converts to 3,125 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

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 186,875 Avios can take you!

You will actually have more than 186,875 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.

Conclusion

If you cancelled all of your personal American Express cards in March 2019, the day you may have thought would never come is here.

At some point in the next few days, you will pass the 24 month mark and can start taking advantage of your freedom.

One thing: I recommend ringing American Express and asking them to confirm the date you cancelled your previous cards. More accurately, you want to make sure that the date Amex says you cancelled is the same date you think you cancelled. Remember that Amex may not have processed your cancellation request until any unpaid bills were cleared.

If you get it wrong – even by 24 hours – you won’t get a bonus now and you will need to wait another two years before you can try again ….

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 BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Receive a companion voucher, letting you book two flights for the Avios of one, when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • The voucher is valid for flights in any cabin
  • Annual fee: £250

Representative 101.1% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £250 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 24.5% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must not have held the British Airways Premium Plus or the free British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s British Airways American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the British Airways Premium Plus card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the companion voucher and all of the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus card, you receive a companion voucher entitling you to book two Avios redemption flights for the miles of one.  This voucher is valid for two years.  (Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets.)

This voucher is the most valuable perk available in the UK airline and hotel credit card sector in my view. It could save you 150,000 or more Avios when used for a long-haul redemption in a premium cabin.

The voucher with the Premium Plus card is far more powerful than the voucher given with the free British Airways American Express card.  You only need to spend £10,000, instead of £20,000, in a card year to receive it.  More importantly, the Premium Plus voucher is valid for two years and is valid in ALL cabins.  The voucher on the free British Airways American Express card is only valid for one year and can only be used for Economy flights.

You receive your voucher within a few days of reaching the spending target.  You need to fly the outbound leg of your 2-4-1 flight before the expiry date of the voucher.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 30,000 points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £575

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £575.

See if you qualify for the 30,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £4,000 within three months of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

This is the ONLY personal American Express card where you still qualify for the bonus if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes The Platinum Card and Preferred Rewards Gold.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card, including the British Airways, Marriott and Nectar cards.

If you cancel The Platinum Card at any point, you will receive a pro-rata refund of your membership fee.  You will not lose your sign-up bonus.

For clarity, you can still apply for The Platinum Card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the long list of other benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Access to Eurostar lounges, irrespective of travel class

£10 per month of Addison Lee taxi credit

Nectar American Express

Bonus: 20,000 points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • From January 2021, you can convert Nectar points into Avios (and vice versa)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £25 from Year 2

Representative 29.8% APR variable.  Annual fee applies after the first year.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 Nectar points as a sign-up bonus on the Nectar American Express credit card if you spend £2,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Nectar points are worth 0.5p each if spent in Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay.  From January 2021 they can also be converted to Avios at the rate of 400 : 250.  1 Nectar point gets you 0.625 Avios.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Nectar American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Nectar American Express credit card comes lets you earn 2 Nectar points for every £1 you spend.  This is on top of any Nectar points you would usually earn at Sainsbury’s and other Nectar partners.

Converted to Avios, you would be earning 1.25 Avios per £1.  This makes the card better value than the free British Airways American Express credit card for your first year, as the Nectar American Express is ‘fee free’ for the first 12 months.  There is a £25 annual fee from Year 2.

The sign-up bonus of 20,000 Nectar points is worth £100 to spend in Sainsbury’s, Argos or eBay.

20,000 Nectar points can also be converted into 12,500 Avios.

American Express Business Gold

Bonus: 20,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £175 from Year 2
  • Points transfer at 1:1 into Avios, Virgin Points and other airline schemes

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £175 from Year 2, free in Year 1.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Business Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes Business or personal Gold, Business or personal Platinum and the personal American Express Rewards credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if the only American Express card you have had in the previous six months was a British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Harrods American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Business Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

You receive £100 of Dell statement credit per calendar year.  This is made available in two parts.  You receive a £50 credit on Dell purchases made between January and June and a £50 credit on Dell purchases made between July and December.  There is no minimum spend requirement.

You can apply for supplementary Amex business cards for your employees at no extra cost.

You will receive one consolidated statement showing the spend on your card and all of the supplementary cards.  All of the Membership Rewards points earned on the supplementary cards will flow into your personal account.

Depending on when in your monthly cycle you make a payment, you will effectively receive up to 54 days free credit on your spending.

American Express statements provide more underlying transaction detail for flights and certain other transactions than Visa or Mastercard statements, making it easier to reconcile transactions.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points

Read our full reviewApply here

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,300 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Annual fee: £595

This is a charge card, not a credit card. You must clear your balance in full each month.  Annual fee £595.

See if you qualify for the 40,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Business Platinum card if you spend £6,000 within 90 days.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes Business or personal Gold, Business or personal Platinum and the personal American Express Rewards credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if the only American Express card you have had in the previous six months was a British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Harrods American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Business Platinum card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from all of the other card features.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Business Platinum comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of up to five supplementary cardholders, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,300 airport lounges

Elite status in four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Gold), MeliaRewards (Gold)

£150 of Dell statement credit per year – you receive £75 credit on Dell purchases betweeen January and June and £75 credit on purchases between July and December

Digital subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times, worth over £300

(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 Card Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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.

Comments (100)

  • Paul says:

    Re the Gold card I have taken the loss of the introduction bonus but the other bonuses are still not to be sniffed at. I have gotten 7,000 points for using a second card and the recommendation bonus of 12000 points tots up to 19,000 point per account per person .

    • Genghis says:

      7k points? Thought it was 3k for the supp?

      • Paul says:

        I think I have been lucky re the supplement . I also thought 12k for a recommendation was more generous than previous….

      • Peter S says:

        I currently have IHG Platinum, Amex Gold, Amex BA Premium Plus and Amex Marriott. Using expertise here, after hitting the IHG annual requirement for free night, and then the BA annual requirement for comp 2nd seat, might I be correct in thinking my best option is to put everything on to Marriott? Reasoning being: I’m about 300,000 points in Marriott and could aim towards the package of Avios plus 7 nights, and I did not realise that Marriott has free night if 25k spend. I was going to close Gold and close Marriott, but Marriott might be worthing keeping? I won’t hit 25k this year [after 10k on IHG plus 10k on BA] but can do next. Any advice or comments or a better possible strategy? Kind regards, Pete

        • Genghis says:

          Run the numbers. The Marriott travel packages aren’t what they once were.

          Your best “strategy” depends on whether you’ve a partner, your level and type of spend, what points you actually want etc. Get a bit of paper out and figure out what you want and how best to go about it.

        • Tim says:

          Presuming you don’t make use of the 15 Marriott nights for £75, then £25k on BA [over the £10k] is 37,500 Avios = £375 in my book. If you hit £25k on Marriott, then you’ll get 50,000 Marriott points plus free night maxed at 25k points = 75,000 Marriott points = £375 of value [0.5p]. Thus: Marriott costs £75 per year. Plus if you don’t hit t he free night, then more. One of the packages would take years to achieve: I’d ditch both Gold and Marriott and set the 24 month cycle starting again.

  • Mart says:

    I have held a blue personal for a while, partner no personal. Would the best route be (assuming that we change and cancel once hit bonus) I refer her for nectar amex, then plat, then she refers me for plat, then i refer her for BAPP? (Specifically would adding in the extra stage for the extra plat bonus work?)

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yup looks like a solid plan

      Consider getting rid of the blue for a nectar too for future BAPP eligibility.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    But this is very personal example. You got some referrals but that doesn’t make you clever and others dumb.

    I got a load of MR from Business Plat because I own my own company. Do you, and if not, does that make you dumb and me clever?

    There are myriad of ways an individual could have played this. To claim that there is a single right way is nonsensical.

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      This was a reply to Chris Heyes on pg1.

      It seems that if I scroll on my phone mid-comment it overwrites the reply and formulates a new comment.

      Roll on the ability to delete/edit comments.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Mr(s) Entitled if you read my post i was agreeing with someone who said it was dumb to cancel all cards for 2 years.
        Yes anyone who did was dumb ? that was what i was agreeing about
        My example was showing what we did and how we did it
        I was “not claiming” that was how you “HAD” to do it
        If you thought i was saying that was the only way
        i would put you in the class you was talking about sorry

    • Chris Heyes says:

      Mr(s) Entitled Yes of course it makes me dumb
      There are a lot of “very” dumb people on here (and a lot of very clever one’s as well
      You just need to read the comments to realise who the dumb ones are
      I Had my own business a very very long time ago no Business Plat so yes i was dumb and you was clever (the difference is I’m willing to admit it)
      I know plenty of people who ask what will happen in 6 months Yes they are dumb because nobody knows

  • Nathan says:

    Rob, any chance with the current promotion you can do a detailed article on amex platinum silver vs amex platinum business and how they differ?

  • Robert says:

    On the quick-spend-to-hit-bonuses topic, if you have the available funds to pay off credit card balances immediately and know you’re future spend will be at certain places that already take Amex (e.g. Amazon, Argos, Tesco, etc), could you not front-load that spend on vouchers for said place?

    • Robert says:

      *your (typo)

    • Doug M says:

      Yes, but as you say that’s bringing forward spend, it’s not additional spend. Via the Morrison’s offers on Amex I have something like £1K of Waitrose vouchers and a credit balance on Amazon of maybe half that. This doesn’t include any vouchers from the current offer.

      • Robert says:

        Oh, absolutely, yes… I was purely thinking about the speed you could cycle the needed spend to get the 186k Avios before the two year fallow period (and therefore minimising the outgoing card fees), then using the two years to work down the voucher credits. But yes, that’s assuming you spend £25k in Waitrose a year and have £25k spare to pay off credit card bills in full… and if you’ve got that, you’re probably not scrimping and saving for Avios in the first place 🙂

  • Freddy says:

    Assuming the Amazon business amex don’t affect eligibility for bonuses on a 2 year cycle?

  • Amex Newbie says:

    Being a complete novice at this just had one Q. I thought one could only refer a friend for a card you held? I know they don’t have to accept/get that card and could get another but just trying to work out how that affects this eg to go from nectar to Platinum – in the step does person B actually refer A for a nectar and then person A gets a Plat instead?

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