Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Have you been blocked from making American Express referrals?

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

Since October, an increasing number of HfP readers have reported that they are being blocked from referring people under the American Express ‘refer a friend’ programme.

Take a look at our forum here.

In their American Express account, they see the message “Your Account is temporarily unable to access the referral programme”. Why is this happening?

American Express blocked from referrals

The bottom line is that no-one knows.

Amex’s T&C restrict the referral programme from anyone whose Amex account is in default but this does not cover the majority of people who are having issues. The only relevant clause in the referral programme terms and conditions is:

Your Card Account’s eligibility to participate in the Referral Programme is based on your overall credit rating and other factors including your Account history with American Express.

Based on this thread in our forum, it seems that – if you call Amex – the staff can see a message about you on their screen but no-one has yet been told exactly what it says. No-one appears to have had the referral ban lifted.

Looking at the reports in our forum (and with the best will in the world, some people are unlikely to publicly admit abuse of the referral programme), it does not seem to be directly linked to:

  • the number of people referred
  • the ‘type’ of people referred (eg whether they are or are not obviously ‘friends and family’, which is a condition of referring people, presumably roughly verified by surname and / or geographic location)

Readers have quoted the following feedback from American Express when questioned:

“We base the eligibility for our referral programme on various factors relating to individual Card Members and their account history. This includes numerous factors affecting the Card Member profile, but we continue to monitor this over time.We automatically check the eligibility of their account at the time of login, as and when their circumstances change. You can start using your card and once circumstances change, you will again get the option to refer”

Blocked from American Express referrals

and

“Your Card Account’s eligibility to participate in the Referral Programme is based on your overall credit rating and other factors including your Account history with American Express. You can start using your card, and once account will be in good standing, our team will automatically review, the option will be available to refer”

and

“I have done a deep check, and I am sorry to know that your refer eligibility is not available as of now. Eligibility is based on these and other factors: account history, bankruptcy, credit rating, lending behaviour, missed payments, participation in internal payment holiday programmes”

My best guess (and it’s only a guess, since Amex is not going to tell us if they are not willing to tell the people involved) is that it is based on the QUALITY of people you refer.

It is very likely that Amex tracks back the profitability of accounts to their original source. This allows them to focus their marketing efforts on places that bring them customers who are valuable over the long term, as opposed to those that deliver lots of sign-ups but who subsequently fail to renew.

It is possible – and this is only a guess – that if you have referred people who have subsequently closed their cards shortly after receiving a sign-up bonus, Amex may have decided that letting you continue to refer people is not a great idea.

I am only surmising, however. I would suspect that your own personal profitability to Amex is also a factor, since it would be sensible to give some leeway to their best customers.

The bottom line is that if you want to retain the ability to refer people to American Express cards, I would recommend that you are careful about who you refer and how they use the card once they have it.


best travel rewards credit cards

Want to earn more points from credit cards? – July 2024 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points for signing up and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

30,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points AND (to 27th August) £400 to spend at Amex Travel Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

Barclaycard Select Cashback Business Credit Card

1% cashback uncapped* on all your business spending (T&C apply) Read our full review

Comments (122)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Tracy says:

    +1 blocked, I have not referred anyone in over a year and only once in the year before that and it was my OH…., very odd

  • NFH says:

    I’ve been blocked too. I hardly ever refer anyone. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did so – probably more than 5 years ago.

  • Steve S says:

    My BA card allows referals MR card blocked

  • Mat says:

    I don’t think it’s related to the credit history or account reviews. It’s blocked on my BA Amex, but it’s still avaiable on my Amex Platinum account.

  • Chris h says:

    So this has stopped my from referring my father in law, he wanted a business gold and probably would have churned 10k a month easy though it.

    I have since referred him to a different non Amex card and he is happy using that.

    Strange decision for Amex really

  • john says:

    Could it be related to referring your self?

    • Chris h says:

      Never referred anyone at all previously, only found I was blocked when I tried the FIL

  • Mike Hunt says:

    Just checked I am – “your account is temporarily unable to access the referral programme”.

    My previous history is referral heavy / referral dubious in the extreme. when the wait period for a bonus was 6 months not 24 months I would churn a Plat every 6 months(opening then reaching the spend target within 6 weeks and closing) also making the max number of referrals within the first month of each churn (including self referrals !! and zero used family referrals) to get the referral bonus which I seem to think was 18K MR per referral- this all added up to quite an MR income for very little real cost – I seemed to recall the AVIOS generated by this scheme was circa 250 to 300K a year until the 24 month churn period came in – as that is what I needed for holiday flights – all info gleamed from HFP and never even a warning shot from Amex

    Now I only refer two family members each year from my BAPP – although they are zero used Amex cards and are always closed after 6 months – I see it as part of getting VFM from the fee.

    • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

      Gets popcorn and awaits JDB’s arrival…

    • Travel Strong says:

      Good lad 😎
      And much of the above activity in isolation doesn’t necessarily make you nonprofitable for amex! Many premium card fees paid there, and many transaction fees pocketed by amex too.
      (Sure, the combined effect of all the gaming and offers take-up might cross in to the unprofitable, though!)

  • Mike Hunt says:

    Just checked I am – “your account is temporarily unable to access the referral programme”. My previous history is referral heavy / referral dubious in the extreme. when the wait period for a bonus was 6 months not 24 months I would churn a Plat every 6 months(opening then reaching the spend target within 6 weeks and closing) also making the max number of referrals within the first month of each churn (including self referrals !! and zero used family referrals) to get the referral bonus which I seem to think was 18K MR per referral- this all added up to quite an MR income for very little real cost – I seemed to recall the AVIOS generated by this scheme was circa 250 to 300K a year until the 24 month churn period came in – as that is what I needed for holiday flights – all info gleamed from HFP and never even a warning shot from Amex Now I only refer two family members each year from my BAPP – although they are zero used Amex cards and are always closed after 6 months – I see it as part of getting VFM from the fee.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.