American Express welcome bonus – what the rule changes mean

It’s now harder to switch Amex cards to get a new welcome bonus as you need to have been without a card for two years to be eligible.

I’ve taken a look to see if it’s worth getting rid of your card and waiting, or if it’s better just sticking with it.



  • Why I use American Express
  • The new welcome bonus rules
  • Is a bonus worth cancelling your card for?
  • Is there a way around the new rules?

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Regular readers will know one of my favourite money making tools is my American Express credit card. I put as much of my day-to-day spending on my “Amex” as possible. Basically, if somewhere accepts it, I use it. It means I rarely use my current accounts or cash. It’s almost all American Express.

Why I use American Express

Up to 1.25% cashback

The main motivation is for the cashback. I’m currently getting 1.25% on every £1 I spend, and since we’ve been renovating our kitchen we’ve managed to rack up a few hundred extra quid this way. Other Amex cards collect membership rewards points, which can be swapped for gift cards, or Avios points.

Extra offers

There are also regular offers that give you further money back as credit on your bill. These change all the time, and many aren’t relevant. But there are always a few that are right for me. I’ve just got £10 back from spending £20 at Beer52. And every December there’s the brilliant Shop Small promotion. I think I probably make another £100 to £200 or so each year with these offers.

The welcome bonus

The other big boost to my return has been the welcome bonus you get when you apply and get accepted for a new card. Sometimes it’s in the form of 5% cashback for your first three months, and other times it’s a huge number of bonus points once you’ve spent a certain amount. These bonuses are usually worth around £100.

For the last five years or so I’ve opened a new card every year to take advantage of this bonus – as well as to avoid any annual fees which kick in after the first year.

However, there’s been a big rule change which makes it more difficult for me – and you – to open up new cards for the bonus.

The new American Express welcome bonus rules

First, all the different reward and cashback cards have been grouped together. Previously these were separated, so you could have a cashback card one year, and a rewards or Nectar Amex the next, and then go back to a cashback card. And so on.

You can now only get an Amex bonus if you’ve not had a relevant cashback or reward card for 24 months – that’s up from six months. So if you’ve got an Amex card now and want to get the bonus again, you’d need to close your card and wait two years.

Is the bonus worth cancelling your card for?

So let’s say you do just that. Close your existing card, and wait two years. That means in two years you’ll get a bonus worth around £100 on top of the cashback you earn. This assumes the offers running will be similar to those around today.

But how much cashback and offer credits could you earn in those two years? If you put a large chunk of your regular spending on your Amex then you should get more than £100 a year. And the extra offers could be worth more on top.

So by cancelling your Amex and waiting for two years, you’re probably missing out on at least £100, and probably a fair bit more.

But if you don’t like spending regularly on credit cards and just want to use one when there’s a big purchase to be made, then it might be worth taking the break and nabbing new welcome bonuses every couple of years.

Is there a way around the new rules?

There is one way you can still switch around and claim multiple welcome bonuses – though it’s nowhere near as profitable as the previous rules. And you need a wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other.

With your Amex, you are allowed to have a supplementary card for your partner to use. This is great as it helps you earn more cashback and you can add the account credit offers to each card – essentially getting them twice.

Though this supplementary card might have your partner’s name on it, it’s not their card. So they are new customers and able to apply for and get the welcome bonus, as long as they haven’t had their own card in two years.

This means you can still earn cashback every year, and get a welcome bonus every two years. Here’s how it could work:

Year 1

  • You open (or have) an American Express credit card
  • You get a supplementary card for your partner

Year 2

  • At the end of your first year (and when you’ve got your welcome bonus) you cancel your card
  • Your partner then applies for a card to get the welcome bonus
  • You get a supplementary card from your partner’s account

Year 3

  • You and your partner continue to spend on your partner’s account to earn cashback

Year 4

  • At the start of this year, your partner closes their account
  • You’ve now not had an Amex for two years, so you can apply for a new one and get the bonus
  • You get a supplementary card for your partner

Year 5

  • You and your partner continue to spend and earn cashback on your account

Year 6

  • At the start of this year (and when you’ve got your welcome bonus), you cancel your card
  • Your partner now hasn’t has a card for two years, so then applies for a card to get the welcome bonus
  • You get a supplementary card for your partner’s account

And so on! This might seem a bit of a faff, but you’ll get an extra £100 or so in bonuses every two years.

Which American Express cards are best now?

I’ve written about cashback credit cards elsewhere, so check out that article to help you decide which Amex is the right one for you. However, the rule changes could make a difference to which one you pick if you’re thinking of having the card for two years.

Some of the cards have a fee, which is either waived in the first year (the Gold card for instance) or cancelled out by an increased welcome bonus or cashback via a cashback site (the Platinum Cashback card for example). Though these could still be the best bet for you in the first year, they might not be in the second.

This means you might want to cancel the card at the end of year one, and open up a fee-free card for the second year, even if it pays a lower rate of cashback. That way you’ll still get access to the additional offers. Or, if you’re a high enough spender, you might still be better off sticking with the card, even with the second year fee.

The best cashback and reward credit cards (May 2021)

One thought on “American Express welcome bonus – what the rule changes mean

  1. Pingback: The best reward credit cards (October 2023) – getofficialalpilean


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