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Amex closes welcome bonus loophole – it's now harder to earn extra points

American Express cardholders will now have to wait TWO YEARS after cancelling a card in order to qualify for another welcome bonus – making it much more difficult for those who cycled between cards to earn its introductory offers.

Following the tightening of its rules, from today bonuses will only be paid to those who have not held an Amex card for 24 months – 18 months longer than was previously the case.

The card issuer has also closed a loophole which allowed customers to shuffle between different types of cards to earn multiple welcome bonuses or boosted cashback.

Previously, it grouped reward schemes into so-called 'families' – Membership Rewards, cashback, Avios, Starwood points and Nectar points – so if you had a card with one of these reward types, you could still get another bonus if your existing card was not part of the same 'family'. This is now no longer the case for the vast majority of its cards.

Amex has made no other changes, so if you're an existing cardholder, you can continue to earn and spend points as normal.

For more on cards that earn rewards, see our Credit Card Rewards guide.

What has changed?

Amex's eligibility criteria has changed in two ways:

  • The period for becoming eligible for an introductory bonus again after cancelling a card has increased from six months to two years.

  • For most cards, eligibility restrictions now span across all of its reward types – eg, if you have an Amex Nectar card, you won't be able to get a welcome bonus on a new Rewards card (unless you cancel your existing card and apply for the other after two years).

Prior to today, Amex cardholders could earn intro bonuses on two cards with different reward types in quick succession. Users could then cancel either card, wait six months, reapply and restart the process.

The new rules also mean that those with an Amex card can no longer benefit from referring their partner every six months in order to get multiple refer a friend and introductory bonuses. This trick, combined with making each other additional cardholders, allowed some couples to collect over 80,000 points in a single year based on a £25,000 spend.

Which cards are affected?

Cards affected by both criteria changes are:

  • Platinum Cashback 
  • Platinum Cashback Everyday
  • BA Amex 
  • Preferred Rewards Gold
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Amex Nectar
  • Amex Rewards/Low Rate/Purchases

Are there any exceptions?

The two-year welcome bonus eligibility period also applies to the £195/yr BA Amex Premium Plus and £450/yr Platinum cards, though neither are affected by the other eligibility change – so it's possible to earn the welcome bonuses for these cards if you currently hold another card, as long as your current card is not in the same reward currency.

Is it worth getting a rewards credit card?

While today's changes will come as a blow for many Amex cardholders keen to max introductory offers, they still offer an excellent opportunity to earn cashback or rewards on normal spending. 

Our top pick for 'cashback' remains the Platinum Cashback Everyday (eligibility calc / apply*). It pays 5% cashback on your first £2,000 of spending (£100 max), then 0.5% on up to £5,000/yr and 1% above this. You need to spend at least £3,000 in a year to get any cashback. Repay IN FULL each month to avoid 22.9% rep APR.

For those likely to spend over £9,000 in a year, the £25/yr Platinum Cashback (eligibility calc / apply*) may be a better option as it gives the introductory 5% rate on up to £2,500 of spending (so max £125) and then tiers up to 1.25% in cashback. Repay IN FULL each month or it's 28.2% rep APR (incl fee).

Alternatively, the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold (eligibility calc / apply*) gives a bonus 20,000 Membership Reward points, equal to £100 in high street vouchers or 20,000 airline frequent flyer points, as long as you spend £2,000 within three months. There's an annual £140 fee after year one, so cancel it before then if you don't want to pay it. Make sure you repay IN FULL every month or you'll pay 22.9% interest, which'll quickly wipe out the rewards gain (57.6% rep APR incl fee).

For more information on the cards above, including golden rules and non-Amex options, see our Credit Card Rewards guide.

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