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Overnight, Amex has made sweeping changes to the way sign up bonuses work – and for most UK points/miles collectors, it’s very bad news indeed.
The headline is that cardholders will no longer be eligible for sign up bonuses if they currently hold ANY personal Amex card, or have done so in the last TWENTY FOUR MONTHS.
In effect, what this means is that churning as we know it is over and you’re likely going to earn far fewer points/miles from American Express in future.
Let me be clear – there are 2 big negative changes here compared to how things worked until yesterday:
- Sign up bonus eligibility used to depend on whether you already had (or recently had) a card of the same reward ‘family’ – so if you had a BA free card, which earns Avios, you couldn’t get the bonus if you applied for the BA Premium Plus because that is also an Avios earning card. You would still be able to get a bonus if you applied for a Gold/Platinum (Membership Rewards) or SPG/Marriott card though, despite having a BA Amex already. The different types of reward currencies were essentially seen as completely separate from each other. That has now changed and sign up bonus eligibility is based on holding any personal Amex card (with a couple of exceptions I’ll explain later).
- You used to have to wait 6 months after cancelling a card in order to get another sign up bonus in the same reward family. So, cancel Amex Gold, wait 6 months, apply for Amex Platinum (both earn Membership Rewards Points) and you’d get the Platinum sign up bonus. You now have to wait 24 months before reapplying, if you want the sign up bonus.
In combination, it’s difficult to overstate how profoundly these 2 changes alter the UK points/miles earning landscape.
Ray of hope?
We’re very much scrabbling around for silver linings here, but there are a couple of exceptions to the above that make the changes slightly more tolerable:
The British Airways Premium Plus and the Amex Platinum are only impacted by the 24 month rule, not the ‘any Amex card’ rule.
So, if you have a BA card (or SPG, Nectar, etc) but haven’t had an Amex Gold/Plat (Membership Rewards Points earning card) in the last 24 months, you will still be eligible for the Amex Platinum sign up bonus.
In the same way, if you have an Amex Gold (or Plat, SPG, Nectar, etc) but haven’t had an Avios earning card (BA free, BAPP) in the last 24 months, you will still be eligible for the British Airways Premium Plus sign up bonus.
Note carefully that these exceptions only apply to the expensive Platinum and British Airways Premium Plus cards, not the free Amex Gold or free BA card, etc.
These changes may seem a little shocking, but we can’t really call them a surprise. Early last year, Amex made the direction of travel pretty clear and in some ways I’m surprised the good times have gone on this long. There was speculation back then that sign up bonuses might even become ‘once in a lifetime’, so although these changes are undeniably very bad, they could have been even worse.
I suspect we’ll be writing about the changes (and the best strategies to maximise your points haul despite them) for a long time, but for now, HFP has you covered with a typically thorough overview.