Here’s which Amex cards I’m applying for and when to get triple the free cash.
I love easy ways to make some money, and one of my favourites is using a cashback card to pay for things I’m buying anyway.
Though the recent Chase Bank debit card has jumped to the top of my list for everyday spending, when you factor in welcome offers it’s actually American Express which is most lucrative.
However, you can only get one sign-up bonus, and that’s as long as you’ve not had an Amex in your name in the last two years. Normally. But there are actually a handful of their cards you can get an extra welcome deal with, though it depends on which cards you already have.
Since I’m at the end of my two years without an Amex, I’ve got a new strategy to hopefully mean I can claim hundreds of pounds of free cash not once, but three times. Here’s how.
What is an American Express welcome offer?
Let’s start with the basics. New Amex cardholders can get some form of boosted cashback or points over the first few months of using the card. But there are some conditions.
The offer will depend on the card you apply for, as will the terms. For example, you might have to reach a minimum spend to activate the bonus, often between £1,000 and £3,000. Or you might just get an increased rate up to a set limit, for example on the first £2,000 spent.
You’ll also have a fixed time to achieve this, usually between one and three months, though it can sometimes be longer.
So for example:
- 5% cashback on up to £2,500 spend in the first three months
- 20,000 Amex Reward Points on £3,000 spend in the first three months
- 20,000 Nectar points on a £2,000 spend in the first three months
And the final, and most important, condition, is you can’t have had an American Express credit card in your name in the last 24 months.
(A quick aside, but an important one, make sure you clear the balance every month. Getting charged interest on these cards wipes out the cashback earned).
So for most people, it makes sense to go for the Amex card which will give you the biggest payout. That’s usually the American Expres Preferred Rewards Gold card which can be worth £184 in Nectar points. Winning.
Getting additional American Express welcome offers
However, there are two Amex cards where you can get a sign-up bonus again, even if you’ve had a card in your name in the last two years. The catch? Eligibility depends on which card you already have. (I’m focusing on personal cards only here – some business card sign-up deals are also available to existing cardholders.)
Here are the cards, usual bonus and the cards you can’t have to get the welcome bonus:
|New card||Standard bonus||Disqualifying cards|
|American Express Platinum Card (£575 a year)||30,000 Amex Reward Points||Amex Gold Preferred Rewards (£125 a year), Amex Rewards (free), American Express card (£60 a year)|
|British Airways Premium Plus American Express card (£250 a year)||25,000 Avios points||British Airways American Express card (free)|
As you can see, there are only four Amex cards which will rule you out of getting a second sign-up bonus from both the Platinum or BA Premium Plus cards. With this in mind, anyone keen to get multiple sign-up bonuses should avoid:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold credit card
- American Express Rewards credit card
- American Express card
- British Airways American Express credit card
But if you already have a different card you can still look at a second welcome bonus with the BA Premium Plus card, as long as you don’t have the free BA Amex already.
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The best “first” American Express credit card
You probably spotted that list includes my recommended Preferred Rewards Gold credit card. So what’s the best alternative? The exclusions still leave a few decent options.
|Platinum American Express Cashback Everyday credit card (free)||5% cashback||On the first £2,000 spent in the first three months||Up to £100|
|Platinum American Express Cashback card (£25 annual fee)||5% cashback||On the first £2,500 spent in the first three months||Up to £125|
|Nectar American Express credit card (£25 annual fee, free in year one)||20,000 Nectar points||Spend £2,000 in the first three months||£100 in Nectar points|
|Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card (£75 annual fee)||20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points||Spend £3,000 in first three months||Varies|
Apply for one of these cards as your first Amex, and you’ll then be eligible for the other welcome deals at a later date.
So which is best? Well, let’s ignore the Marriott Bonvoy card – even if you use those hotels a lot I can’t see the value in comparison to the others. I’d also avoid the free Platinum Cashback Everyday card as that requires an annual spend of £3,000 to get any cashback. This might not happen if you get your second or third card within a few months.
That leaves two, and both can work. The Nectar card gives 2 points per £1 spent, which is the equivalent of 1% back, so it’s the highest-earning ongoing card. It’s also free in year one.
To get the bonus you must spend £2,000 in the first two months, so you need to be sure you can do this before you apply for the next card.
The Platinum Cashback cards is a good option too if you are worried about the initial spend. You’ll earn 5% cashback on any spending up to £2,500. Ideally you’ll manage that and get the full £125, but if it’s less you’ll still get your higher rate.
Either of these as your first card and sign-up bonus will mean you can then apply for one or both of the Platinum and BA Premium Plus cards and get the additional welcome deals.
When to apply for your second and third Amex sign up bonus
It might be tempting to get two or all three at the same time, or one after another. But it’s important you space the cards out for a couple of reasons. First, each application will impact your credit report. Second, you’ll also need to ensure there’s enough spending coming up that you will meet the bonus thresholds.
And there’s a third factor too. Boosted offers. Personally I’d wait until the sign-up deals are increased, which tends to happen once or twice a year. This will give you even more points.
For example in 2021 the Platinum card offered 60,000 Reward points rather than 30,000 for a few months, and in early 2022 the BA Premium Plus card gave 40,000 Avios instead of 25,000. I share these offers here when they happen. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this will happen, and you might decide to just go for it, especially if you have want to use high spending months such as Christmas or when booking a holiday to reach the bonus thresholds.
There are other dates worth considering too. For the Platinum card. Each year you get two lots of £50 credit at Harvey Nicholls. The first £50 is from January to June and the second from July to December. So if you time your use of the card across both periods, that’s an extra £100 (as long as there’s something you want to buy from Harvey Nicholls!).
And each December the Shop Small promotion can be a decent way to save, and the more cards you have, the more you’ll be able to take part.
Should you keep all your Amex cards?
Obviously once you have a new card you need to focus all spending on that to get the welcome bonus. So logically you’d think you’d ditch the other cards.
Well, I’d certainly keep hold of the first card – either the Nectar or the Platinum Cashback – and I’d expect you to use these again once you’ve got the bonuses from the other cards.
But I think most will want to close down the other cards once the bonus is paid. This is because the annual fee on each is huge! However cancelling the card after getting the bonus will instigate a pro-rate refund.
For example, you spend £3,000 in three months with the Amex Platinum card and get your bonus. Once you’ve transferred your Reward points elsewhere (I’d recommend an Avios to Nectar conversion) to ensure you don’t lose them, you can call Amex and close down that card. That’s nine months back from the £575 fee, which works out as £431.25.
That effectively means you paid around £144, but got 33,000 points (the bonus plus one point per £1 spent, which is worth £264 in Nectar (via Avios), giving you a profit of £120.
But if you’d carried on paying the fee that profit will very quickly disappear. And though there are other benefits with this card, they might not be worth the outlay.
The only reason you might want to keep the BA Premium Plus card is that spending £10,000 in a year on the card will get you a 2-4-1 Companion voucher for a flight. If you have enough Avios points earned to get a free flight (before taxes), this voucher could be worth more than the rest of the £250 fee. Once that’s triggered you can downgrade to the free BA Amex card.
My welcome bonus strategy
My decision is affected by a couple of dates. First, the two-year anniversary since I last had an Amex in my name, and then the end date for a boosted offer for the BA Premium Plus card. This is a gap of just 28 days!
That doesn’t give me enough time to spend £2,000 on the Nectar card, so I’m going for the Platinum Cashback. I’ll spend as much as I can (of my everyday spending) and earn 5% for this first month.
In an ideal world I’d have had the full three months to spend, but I’ve done the maths and the extra 15,000 Avios outweighs further spending at 5%. Just about.
Obviously I could wait and see if a promoted offer comes later, but I think I’m then going to aim to keep this one going for a year to get that 2-4-1 flight voucher, so I’ll take the slightly lower bonus now.
If I do go for this it also means I’ll delay applying for the Platinium card until at least next year, but I’ll wait for a boosted offer to hopefully come along.
It’s not an exact science, but it’s worth a go!