LONDON - APRIL 15, 2018: A man holds a leather wallet containing an American Express credit card in London, UK.

American Express tips & tricks

Including bonus cashback offers, £5 back at local businesses & earn £150/year referring friends

New American Express or 'Amex' cardholders can get big intro bonuses, such as £100 in vouchers, and free airport lounge access. But once you've got your initial bonus (and importantly you're debt-free and pay off your card every month), there are lots of other ways to earn extra cashback, and boost your points. We'll take you through our top tricks below, plus what to watch out for.

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This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please let us know if you have any other tips in the forum. For more info about cashback credit cards, see our Credit card rewards guide.

Top ways to make the most of your Amex

  1. Set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL every month

    Amex pays huge bonuses but you'll only reap the rewards if you pay off your card every month. Getting charged interest almost always scuppers even the very best reward schemes, which would dwarf the gain. So quite simply…

    If you want rewards, always set up a direct debit to repay the card IN FULL each month, so there's NO interest.

    By doing this, you've effectively made your credit card a debit card, but one that pays you every time you spend on it. Just make sure you stay within the credit limit or you'll pay charges.

    Amex also isn't accepted everywhere, so you'll need to carry a back-up card. But this doesn't mean you have to miss out on rewards – we've tips below on how to choose the best back-up card, plus a trick to get your Amex accepted at more online retailers.

  2. Get extra cashback (and freebies) with Amex offers – you may be able to get up to 10% off Morrisons, £10 off at John Lewis

    American Express regularly releases new cashback offers, which usually involve spending a set amount at certain stores. What's more, you can use these offers alongside discount vouchers, or in a sale, to maximise the savings – and you'll get your normal level of cashback or reward points as well.

    Some offers may even mean you get your purchase completely FREE. In the past we've seen cashback offers for cafés (such as Upper Crust, Millie's Cookies and Pasty Shop) where you could get your full spend back.

    Warning. This is NOT an excuse to overspend – only use the offers when making planned, affordable purchases. Check our money mantras before spending, and remember, cashback should be seen as a bonus – it shouldn't drive your purchasing decisions. 

    It's worth noting, most offers can only be used once per person, but some (such as the current 5%-10% off Morrisons), can be used as many times as you want within a certain time period.

    Not everyone will get the same set of offers – see below for how to check which you can get – but here are some decent ones a few of us at MSE Towers spotted on Tuesday 8 March that you may be eligible for:

    • Ann Summers – 20% cashback until 21 March, no minimum spend
    • Hussle gyms – 30% cashback until 17 June
    • John Lewis – £10 cashback on a £100+ spend until 25 March
    • Kiehls – 15% cashback until 28 March, no minimum spend
    • L'Occitane – 10% cashback on a £50+ spend until 12 April
    • Lululemon – £20 cashback on a £100+ spend until 11 April
    • MAC – 12% cashback EVERY time until 9 March, no minimum spend
    • Morrisons – 5%-10% cashback EVERY time on a £30+ spend until 23 March
    • Urban Outfitters – 8%-12% cashback EVERY time until 23 Mar, no min spend

    How to use the offers

    You'll need to log in to the American Express website or app (available for Android and iPhone). Here's how it works: 

    1. Select 'Offers' to see current deals. To be eligible for the cashback, you have to manually 'save' the offer to your card. 

    2. Spend at your chosen retailer – if you've met the terms (such as the minimum spend), you should receive an email saying you've used your cashback offer.

    3. Amex says you should see the cashback credited to your account within five days, but it could take up to 90 days from the end date of the offer.

    Anyone with a personal Amex card qualifies for cashback offers (including cards issued by Lloyds, TSB, MBNA and Barclays), but not corporate or prepaid cards.

    Examples of previous Amex retailer cashback offers in the app
    Previous retailer cashback promotions via the 'Offers' tab in the Amex app

    American Express told us the majority of offers are available to all cardholders, but a few may be tailored specifically to you. Some are only available for a limited number of cardholders, such as the first 38,000 to save them. To avoid missing out, it's worth checking for new offers regularly, and saving them to your card as soon as you spot one you want.

  3. Get up to £150 a year referring your friends to Amex - but some can earn more

    Refer friends to Amex to get up to £150 a year

    If you have the Platinum Cashback Everyday card, the standard bonus for referring a friend to Amex is £20. But occasionally you'll see it boosted to £30 or £40 for a limited time. American Express says you can earn up to £150 each year from referral bonuses.

    If you have a different Amex card, you could earn even more from referrals. For example, the Preferred Rewards Gold card lets you earn up to 90,000 Membership Rewards points each year (worth roughly £450). See below for a list of each card's referral bonus.

    Here's how to find your unique referral link:

    • On the American Express website, the option to invite a friend should appear on the home screen.

    • On the Amex app (available for Android and iPhone), you'll need to go to 'Account' then scroll down the bottom where it says 'Invite a friend'.

    To get the cashback, your friend will need to apply for an Amex (excluding the 'Basic' card) using your referral link, be accepted and spend at least £1 on the card.

    Got a different Amex card? You could earn even more

    These are the standard referral bonuses for each card, though you may occasionally be offered a higher bonus for a short period of time:
     
    • Platinum Cashback Everyday Card - £20 cashback per friend, up to £150 a year
    • Platinum Cashback Card - £30 cashback per friend, up to £150 a year
    • American Express Card - 5,000 Membership Rewards points (worth roughly £25) per friend, up to 90,000 (£450ish) points a year
    • Preferred Rewards Gold Card - 6,000 Membership Rewards points per friend (worth roughly £30), up to 90,000 points (£450ish) a year
    • Platinum Card - 12,000 Membership Rewards points per friend (worth roughly £60), up to 90,000 points (£450ish) a year
    • British Airways American Express Card - 4,000 Avios per friend, up to 90,000 Avios a year
    • British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card - 9,000 Avios per friend, up to 90,000 Avios a year
  4. Earning Membership Rewards? Boost your Nectar points by swapping to Avios first

    Amex doesn't advertise this but there's a trick to manipulate its Avios and Nectar partnership, so 250 Amex points could be worth 400 Nectar points, if you swap them the right way.

    While 250 Amex points is worth just 250 Avios or Nectar points, if you swap them for Avios points first, THEN swap them for Nectar points, the conversion rate is much higher (250 Avios = 400 Nectar).

    Trick to get bonus Nectar points

    Here's how to do it:

    1. Swap your Amex points for Avios via the American Express website.

    2. Link your Nectar and British Airways Executive Club accounts, which can be done at the Nectar or British Airways Executive Club website. Both are free to join if you're not already a member. 

    3. Convert your Avios to Nectar points via the British Airways website. You can also choose to have your points swapped automatically in the future.
  5. Get about £5-£25 when you add a trusted additional cardholder to your account

    Depending on the type of Amex card you have, you could earn cashback or points worth £5-£25 for adding a supplementary cardholder to your account – so it's worth considering if you have a partner you trust. 

    Here's what you'll get based on the American Express card you have:

    • Platinum Cashback – £5 cashback
    • Preferred Rewards Gold – 3,000 Membership Rewards (worth roughly £15)
    • BA American Express Card – 1,000 Avios
    • BA American Express Premium Plus – 3,000 Avios
    • Platinum Card – 5,000 Membership Rewards (worth roughly £25)

    Remember, with credit cards there's no such thing as a joint card – it's your card and you're giving them permission to spend on it. Any spending is yours to pay off, not theirs.

  6. Get £5 back when you spend £15+ at local pubs, shops, hairdressers & more – likely in June and December

    American Express runs its 'Shop Small' offer a couple of times a year, which gets you £5 cashback when you spend £15+ at participating local businesses.

    In 2021, the offer ran from Saturday 5 June until Friday 25 June, and then again from Sunday 4 December until Wednesday 15 December, and we expect to see the promotion run at similar times again this year.

    Like the cashback offers above, you'll need to save the Shop Small offer to your card before you spend. Here are some more key need-to-knows:

    • It's valid at thousands of independent businesses. Including shops, pubs, restaurants, cafés, hairdressers and more – but not the big chains. Use the Shop Small map to find locations near you.

    • You'll be able to get the cashback on top of existing offers.

    • It's in-store only. So purchases made online – even at a participating retailer – won't work.

    • You can earn a maximum of £25 cashback. You'll be able to use this offer up to five times in total, but only once per location.

    • Corporate and business travel cardholders aren't eligible.
  7. Retailer won't take Amex? Check if it accepts Paypal instead

    One of the downsides to having an American Express card is that it's not accepted everywhere. This can be frustrating if you want to earn maximum cashback on all your spending.

    A trick to get around this when shopping online (and spending under £100), is to check whether the retailer accepts Paypal instead. If so, you can add your Amex card to your Paypal account, use it to pay, and you'll earn cashback as normal on your purchase.

    Important: You won't get Section 75 protection via Paypal. Section 75 law means your credit card provider must protect purchases over £100 for free, meaning you could get your money back if there's a problem. However, you WON'T get Section 75 protection if you use a credit card to pay via Paypal. For full details see Warning! Don’t use PayPal to pay on a credit card.

  8. You'll need a 'back-up' card for when Amex isn't accepted – make sure it gives you cashback too

    As your Amex won't be accepted everywhere, it's important to have a back-up card (such as a Visa or Mastercard). Ideally, this should earn you cashback too, so you get rewarded every time you spend.

    Your back-up doesn't need to be a credit card either – the Chase bank account pays 1% cashback on spending for a year. See our Credit card rewards guide for full info and options.

  9. Get early access to concert tickets, extra perks at events & more

    American Express sometimes offers early access to concert tickets, or 'reserved tickets' for certain events. You can also get the odd perk, for example, last November it was offering cardholders a free hot chocolate and handwarmer when skating at Somerset House in London.

    A number of MSE staff have managed to get early access to events using their Amex cards. MSE Ben got tickets for Elton John's tour, and MSE Helen S has nabbed tickets for the London Film Festival in previous years. New offers pop up all the time, so it's worth keeping your eye on the Experiences section of the Amex website.

    Here are some of the perks we spotted on Friday 11 February:

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: brokenlink@moneysavingexpert.com