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: 40,000 Avios
SPECIAL OFFER

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 40,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 40,000 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.

This is a special offer if you apply by 2nd November 2021.  The bonus will drop to 25,000 Avios after that date.

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: 60,000 points
SPECIAL OFFER

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 60,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within six months of signing up.

This is a special offer for anyone who applies by 2nd November 2021.

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 Nectar 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)

  • Garry says:

    I remember that day… we hit 1171 comments

  • Harry T says:

    For anyone saying low spenders should favour the 24 month break strategy, have you seen how much you need to spend to hit the bonuses on all the cards, as listed in the strategy above?

    And tbh, if you think it’s high spend that’s helping us all make pots of points every year, you need to rethink. Easier to refer someone for 12k than spend 12k, for one!

    • Aston100 says:

      So Harry, are you saying one can continue to churn referrals between partners?
      Isn’t this going to draw attention right away, or is there some minimum period of time?
      Currently, my wife and I cross refer each other for BAPP, hit the companion voucher spend threshold on each BAPP, and then do it again. But this is all genuine spend and I am unsure how I’d be able to spend more than £20k pa on genuine purchases (I don’t have a mortgage / rent, nor a car at present).

      Unless you mean not even waiting to hit the companion voucher threshold and cancelling before that in order to increase the number of referral cycles?

      If I’m venturing into territory that shouldn’t be spoken about publicly, I’d be happy (and grateful) for a private response. Not sure if I’m allowed to put an email address in here?

      Thanks.

      • Polly says:

        Yes

        • Aston100 says:

          Polly, whenever I’ve cancelled an Amex, the person on the phone has been aware of my card history.
          Won’t they begin to get suspicious if the cancel and referral cycle increases before any spend targets are met?

          Thanks

      • Harry T says:

        Personally, I haven’t held a BAPP in a while as I don’t find the vouchers that useful and I prefer to spend 15k on a gold card to get a higher earnings rate than the BAPP.

        I’ve referred the gf for about three or four cards a year. We have kept most of them and put a bit of spend through for offers etc. I’ve also referred friends and family as much as possible but in a genuine manner. When referring each other, my gf and I generally leave a gap of a month or two at least between referring the same person. We keep the card for at least a few months.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Aston100 There are 3 of us who travel on hols together (myself, Partner & her Brother)
        We have referred each of us for Platinum, Gold, and BA Premium (not in that order)
        We Each have had a free supplementary on each card.
        We have all referred our Children for Gold and BA Premium plus
        have 5/6 free supplementary’s just sat in a drawer never to be used
        To hit the spend target especially for Platinum (3 cards)
        We pooled our spend so 2 cards took a month to hit the target 3 of us spending on it
        the last took 2 months then cancelled (it was easy)
        but we had some bigish spends planned plus children helped allowing us to use our cards for their spends
        i think the 3 Platinum cards cost us less than £200 when we cancelled
        Not a small sum but when you take into account the points from hitting the 3 targets and referrals as well “Well Worth It”

  • Craig says:

    Working through our reapply strategy, the only card we kept was my Platinum. We have staggered cancellation dates, starting with Mrs S’s BAPP in August 2019 and the Platinum in November 2019. My understanding is that she would be eligible for a BAPP bonus in August 2021 but that would preclude her from a Nectar bonus which she isn’t eligible for until the November? So best strategy is to wait until November and start from then?

  • BuildBackBetter says:

    Isn’t it better to say 187k avios every 3 years (assuming the couple take a year to earn all bonuses).
    From that perspective, earning more than 63k avios every year comes out top?

    • Rob says:

      Yes, but in theory you should then also factor in the points you earn from whatever non-Avios cards you used for those two years.

      I think if there was a strong Avios Visa or Mastercard product more people would happily take the two year break.

      • Jonathan says:

        It’d be good if IHG black card returns for new applications!

      • Polly says:

        We kept the hsbc premier going, plenty of spend on that, plus the usual referrals ongoing…kept the numbers up.

  • chris1922 says:

    So if I understand it correctly, and assuming two years have passed, I can have the Nectar card, get bonus and still be eligible for BAPP and bonus, but if I get the BAPP first, then I wont be eligible for the Nectar card bonus ? Is that right ?

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Yes

    • Genghis says:

      Correct. And still be eligible for Plat SUB.

      There is a middle ground to no cards for two years: keep non-avios and non MR cards as permanents and churn the Plat and BAPP. That’s optimum strategy for us for points earning, Amex shop small etc etc.

      • Dan says:

        Interesting, I never thought about having Amex’s but still being able to get the SUB whilst waiting for clock to reset.

        So the non Avios and non MR options are technically only 2: the Marriott Bonvoy and Nectar so holding both of these will allow us to reset the clock for the BAPP and Plat?

    • chris1922 says:

      Thanks all. It’s actually for my wife; I currently hold and have had my BAPP for a few years, but my wife cancelled almost two years ago and will now be eligible for a bonus on whichever card she opts for. So it looks like I should recommend her for a Nectar, and then I can recommend her for a BAPP as well, with her receiving bonuses on both cards. I can’t justify the annual fee for the Plat at present.

  • Rob says:

    Are you factoring in annual fees there?

  • Harry S says:

    I currently have the Amex Platinum (Personal) card. Can I refer myself for the BAPP card and get the referral bonus on the Amex Platinum and the sign-up bonus on the BAPP card?

    • Doug M says:

      You can, but should you. Against T&C’s and in USA Amex have pursued self-referrers. Better to find a referral friend or partners and refer each other.

    • Rob says:

      Amex US is now closing people down who do, or have done, this. Your risk but you may end up with a multi-year Amex ban.

  • HB13 says:

    Hi Rob,
    Now that the UK is out of the EU, is there a chance that big bonuses on credit cards will come to the UK? Because interchange fee caps only existed here because of the EU – is that correct? Now, unless the UK goes that route too, credit card issuers can increase their fees and at the same time incentivise people with big bonuses? Or have I got it all wrong?

    • The Streets says:

      It was the UK that wanted to introduce the interchange fees in the first place and so very doubtful it will change

    • Rhys says:

      No, we didn’t ditch EU legislation when Brexit happened, we subsumed it into UK law.

    • RussellH says:

      I am no expert, but yes, I think that you have got it wrong.
      Rob has frequently stated here, and I have no reason to disbelieve this, that the interchange fee cap for the EU was initiated by the UK, implying that there was no reason at all for this to change here.
      Another point worth mentioning is that a few years ago the UK banned businesses from charging fees for accepting credit cards. Before that it was routine for travel businesses to add card payment fees.
      Were the UK to uncap interchange fees, the pressure would be on to allow businesses to charge again for accepting card payments.
      As I see it we have a reasonably happy medium here. Plenty of fee free credit cards and still merchant fees are low enough that merchants are not put off accepting cards.
      Compare the situation with Germany where many businesses only accept German§ debit cards for payments, while credit cards carry an annual fee.

      §Last time I was there, shortly before lockdown we were in a huge shoe supermarket which could not accept any Visa cards, even my own German Bank’s Visa debit card!

      • Rob says:

        No Government in their right mind is going to remove interchange fee caps which have only one outcome – to take money away from UK retailers and put it into the pockets of three major US corporations.

        • RussellH says:

          It is a very long time since we did have a government in its right mind though.

          However, I cannot see this issue ever being something that any government would want to spend time on though. Even the current one has, I think, more sense than that!

          I assume that those here who every so often hope for this change have never run an SME that has to pay the card fees… Those big US sign-up bonuses have to be paid for somehow.

          • BuildBackBetter says:

            There has been some research that poor people pay more for goods and services because merchants have to put prices up in US to cover charges

          • Genghis says:

            More everyone pays the same higher prices. But those that pay with non credit cards don’t earn the rewards.

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