On the 20th March, American Express announced some massive changes to the sign-up bonus rules which are likely to impact a significant number of readers.
From this date going forwards you are no longer able to sign up and benefit from an introductory bonus with the personal American Express credit cards every 6 months, with the total look-back period now increasing to 24 months.
This however only impacts the sign-up bonus and does not prevent you from signing up. It also doesn’t stop your partner or a member of your family (over the age of 18) from benefiting from the sign-up bonus.
As you can imagine, this will be particularly hard-hitting for those who churn credit cards to benefit from the sign-up bonuses.
Alongside the extension of the look-back period to 24 months, American Express have made one further amendment. American Express card families (based on rewards types) have been scrapped, with rules now covering either personal or business cards – we’ll touch upon this in more detail later.
With only a couple of anomalies, you can no longer sign up to a personal American Express and benefit from the sign-up bonus if you have held a personal credit card in the last 24 months…
However the anomalies mentioned create an opportunity to hold up to a maximum of three cards in a 24 month period as we’ll outline later in this article. The 3 exemptions are as follows:
- The Platinum Card: If you’ve held either the BA Premium Plus, Starwood Preferred Guest, Nectar or Cashback card, you can still sign up to the Platinum card and benefit from a sign up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points (increased to 35,000 using this link and scrolling down to the correct card).
- Premium Plus: Unless you’ve had either the free BA Amex or BA Premium Plus card in the last 24 months you can still sign up and benefit from the sign up bonus of 25,000 Avios on the Premium Plus card (increased to 26,000 using this link and scroll down to the correct card).
- Amex Business Cards: As they now sit in a different ‘family’, the Business cards are not impacted by the change and the 6-month rule continues to apply.
American Express Sign Up Bonus Calculator
We understand the changes are somewhat confusing so we’ve created the following calculator to make your decisions easier if you’ve previously held a British Airways card in the last 24 months. Note it doesn’t include the business cards which are covered in depth later in this article.
|wdt_ID||Possible to Sign Up||Desired Amex Card||Amex Cards in Last 24 months||Sign Up Bonus||Sign Up Bonus (if referred)||Thrifty Points Referral Link (Click and Scroll Down to the Correct Card)|
|1||Yes||Platinum Cashback Everyday||None||5% up to £100||Further £10||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|2||Yes||British Airways American Express||None||5000 Avios||6000 Avios||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|3||Yes||Preferred Rewards Gold||None||20,000 MR Points||22,000 MR Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|4||Yes||Starwood Preferred Guest||None||30,000 SPG Points||33,000 SPG Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|5||Yes||Nectar||None||20,000 Nectar Points||21,000 Nectar Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|6||Yes||The Platinum Card||None||30,000 MR Points||35,000 MR Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|7||Yes||British Airways Premium Plus||None||25,000 Avios||26,000 Avios||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|8||Yes||American Express Gold Business||None||20,000 MR Points||22,000 MR Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|9||Yes||American Express Platinum Business||None||40,000 MR Points||45,000 MR Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|10||Yes||Green||None||0 MR Points||2,000 MR Points||Sign Up - Click and Scroll Down to Card|
|Desired Amex Card||Amex Cards in Last 24 months|
What do we recommend?
If you haven’t had a personal American Express credit card in the last 24 months
If you’ve not had a personal American Express credit card in the last 24 months you can still earn the equivalent of 83,000 Avios relatively quickly using this step-by-step guide. This option does however come with significant annual credit card fees so we’ve also included alternative, more affordable options:
Expensive but most points
- First sign up to Starwood credit card (reviewed here) for 33,000 SPG points using this link and scrolling down to the correct card (30,000 if you’re not referred). These points can be transferred to Avios at a rate of 3:2 and as such equate to 22,000 Avios. Signing up to the SPG card will however disqualify you for the sign up bonus on most cards except the Platinum and Premium Plus. The cost of this card is £75 pa.
- Sign up to Platinum card (reviewed here) for 35,000 points using this link and scrolling down to the correct card. This is equivalent to 35,000 Avios (reduced to 30,000 points if you’re not referred) – only restricted if you’ve had Gold, Green, Gold Business or Platinum Business in previous 24 months. The cost of this card is £450 pa!
- BA Premium Plus card (reviewed here) which comes with 26,000 Avios when you use this link and scrolling down to the correct card. Don’t forget you will need to pay for the 2-4-1 reward flight on an American Express card. This card does not need to be in your name.
The above strategy comes with total credit card fees of £720 for 83,000 points. You’ll also earn points for spending on each of the cards. However if you apply no additional value to the other benefits of each of the cards you’re effectively purchasing points for 0.9p which is poor! An alternative option would be to sign up to the free Amex Gold Card initially for which you’ll earn 22,000 points and save £75. You’ll then need to upgrade the Gold to the Platinum Card for which you’ll qualify for a 20,000 bonus.
Best value for a reasonable number of points
- First sign up for the Gold card (reviewed here). This will get you 22,000 points if you use this referral link or 20,000 points if not. The card is free for the first year with a £140 annual fee thereafter – I’d recommend cancelling before the 1-year period is over.
- Premium Plus card – Similar to the above, 26,000 Avios points when you’re referred and one of the best credit card perks available in the UK market – the 2-4-1 rewards voucher when you spend £10,000 on the card in a membership year.
The fees are significantly reduced to £195 compared to £720 in option 1 and you’ll earn 48,000 Avios equating to 0.4p per point. If a couple was to do this and pool the total Avios in a BA Household Account, they would earn a minimum of 96k Avios every 24 months which could then effectively be doubled with the 2-4-1 voucher.
- The best free card is the American Express Gold card offering 20,000 points (22,000 using this link). Don’t forget to cancel the card within the first year to prevent incurring the £140 pa fee from year 2!
Unfortunately there are limited options for those who’d like to stick to free credit cards. The free version of the British Airways card cannot be combined with other personal American Express cards.
For existing cardholders or those who have held an American Express card in the last 24 months
This is dependent on two main factors:
Factor 1 – how much do you currently spend on the card each year? To earn the worst-case scenario above, you’d need to spend £22,000 on the credit card to earn enough points to equal the benefit of the sign up bonus. If you do this over a 2-year period you’ll also incur a cost of at least £140 for the card fee which is waived in the first year. With an approximate Avios-points value of 1p per Avios, you’d also need to spend a further £14,000 to offset the annual fee, taking the total to £36,000 across the 2 year period. If you’re likely to spend less than this then you’d be better of cancelling and waiting 24 months. Similar exercises can be undertaken for the other options.
Factor 2 – what American Express credit card do you currently hold? If you hold either the SPG or Nectar card, then consider signing up to either the Platinum or Premium Plus (or both!). If you hold Cashback, Gold, Green, Gold Business or Platinum Business then you may want to consider the Premium Plus. If you hold either of the British Airways cards, then all except the BA cards are available…
Gold Business & Platinum Business Cards
There has been one silver lining with the recent changes. Historically if you held either the Gold Business or Platinum Business cards you were unable to benefit from a sign-up bonus for either the Green, Gold or Platinum cards.
With the separation of the personal and corporate cards this has allowed existing business card holders or those who have held them in the last 6 months (as opposed to 24 months) to sign up for personal cards and benefit from the sign-up bonus. This is highlighted as follows in the terms and conditions:
All introductory offers are subject to change, can be withdrawn at any time and are not available if you currently hold or have held any personal American Express Card in the past 24 months.
However, the same is not true in reverse. If you already hold or have held in the last 6 months a personal card which is part of the Membership Rewards programme (Green, Gold, Platinum) and would like to sign up to Business Gold or Business Platinum card members you strangely will not benefit from a sign up bonus. This is set out in the terms and conditions as follows:
Business Gold or Business Platinum Card members who are enrolled or have been enrolled in the Membership Rewards programme in the last six months, are not eligible for the bonus.
Other Amex Sign Up Bonus options?
There is one final option for those searching for extra Avios points, but I’m afraid it’s not particularly cost efficient.
The American Express Platinum International Currency card offers 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for signing up and spending $5,000 (or €5,000 if you choose the euro card) in the first 3 months. It should be noted that these points are not worth the same as standard points and you’d only receive a rate of 2 Avios for every 3 Membership Rewards points if you were to convert (versus 3:3 with normal MR to Avios transfers).
Whilst the rules of the card state that you won’t receive a bonus if you have had another Membership Rewards card in the last 12 months, from various accounts of people signing up and receiving the sign-up bonus, this exclusion is believed to only apply to the same national Membership Rewards schemes.
The foreign currency card comes with an annual fee of $550 (€550 for the euro card) which rules it out as a creditable option for purely collecting additional Avios points.