How to choose your first Amex credit card to maximise joining bonuses.
There are so many different features and rewards across all the American Express cards that it can be hard to pick one to go for.
But there’s one benefit you’ll get as a new or returning customer that should take precedent – the welcome bonus. Again these are all different, but if you’re strategic you might be able to get not just one, but two, three or even four of these – which can really add up.
How American Express welcome offers work
There are a number of great welcome bonuses from American Express that could earn you more than £100 extra in your first few months. They are often boosted too, making them even more profitable.
But there are catches. First, you can’t get most bonuses on most cards if you’ve had a personal Amex in the last 24 months. If you had a supplementary card on someone else’s card then you will be eligible.
There are a couple of cards exceptions where already having certain cards rather than any carsd rules you out of the welcome bonus – and that plays into which card you pick first.
Also, the cash isn’t free. All welcome deals require you to spend on the cards, and sometimes there’s a minimum you need to hit to trigger the bonus in a short space of time usually three months.
So your choice of card may come down to what you think you can afford. Don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford or buy extra things just to get the bonus!
The first Amex welcome bonus to get
The best ongoing one is the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold, which will earn you 20,000 points for a £3,000 spend in three months, and it’s often boosted to a higher amount.
Most recently it was 25,000 points, giving a total of 28,000 points when you factor in the 1 point per £1 earned on that £3,000. This works out as £140 in gift cards or an even better £187 when converted to Nectar points via Avios.
However, if you get this one, or the free Reward card, you’re ruled out of a later welcome bonus for the Amex Platinum card – which though it has a number of steps, can be really lucrative (more on this in a bit).
I’d also avoid the free Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday card as you need to spend £3,000 in a year to get any cashback. The ongoing rates aren’t great meaning you’d be better spending on the likes of Chase, which could mean you don’t reach that threshold.
So I’d actually only consider one of the Amex Nectar or Platinum Cashback cards. Which one you choose doesn’t really matter, though the Nectar card probably has a slight advantage as the bonus is worth more and you’ll need to spend less to get it, and earn more on further spending.
If you really aren’t going to ever go for the Platinum then the Gold does become an alternative, but I’d wait for it to be boosted which happens a few times a year.
They rarely have boosted welcome deals so I’d go for them at any time, though do this via refer-a-friend links or cashback sites for a little extra.
|Standard welcome offer
|Ongoing cashback rate
|Nectar American Express credit card
|Free in year one, then £30 a year
|20,000 bonus Nectar points (+2,000 points from spending)
|Spend £2,000 in the first three months
|£120 in Nectar points
|2 Nectar points per £1 (=1%)
|American Express Platinum Cashback card
|£25 a year
|On the first £2,500 spent in the first three months
|Up to £125
|0.75% on the first £10,000 spent a year, then 1.25%
|American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card (review)
|Free in year one, then £195 a year
|20,000 bonus Amex points (+3,000 points from spending)
|Spend £3,000 in the first three months
|£153 in Nectar points (via Avios)
|1 Amex Reward point per £1, bonus points for every £5,000 spent (= 0.83% to 1% if swapped to Avios then Nectar)
Before you apply for any American Express credit card
Hopefully you’ve identified which American Express card is right for you, whether you’re a new or existing customer. But before you click apply, make sure you follow my credit card rules, including the following:
Check your eligibility
You can do this on the American Express website for each card, or go via a comparison site to see if there are different chances of acceptance across the different cards. This is vital as if you apply and get rejected it’ll have a negative effect on your credit report.
Apply via a cashback site or referral link
Most American Express credit cards are listed on Quidco and TopCashback, earning you between £5 and £80 extra if you’re accepted. The actual rate varies between each site so it’s best to check them both.
It’s also worth making sure there’s not a better offer in place via referral links from existing Amex customers. You can use the same link to see what you’d get for all the different cards, not just the one your friend has. These are using lower than the cashback sites, but are sometimes boosted.
Best Amex for a second or third sign-up offer
The reason I’ve suggested you go for the Nectar or Platinum Cashback cards is that they are the main ones that don’t rule you out of a second and third welcome bonus after this.
These extra offers only apply to the British Airways American Express Premium Plus and the American Express Platinum credit cards. I’ve written in more detail about this multiple Amex welcome offer hack here.
However, I’d always wait for these extra cards until their sign up offers are increased. Both come hefty fees, so you’ll struggle to earn a profit on the standard welcome deals. And it’s likely that at some point in 2024, perhaps as early as March, that you won’t be able to get a pro-rata refund on this if you cancel midway through the year.
The size of the BA Premium Plus bonus has varied between 50,000 and 70,000 Avios in the last few years, while the Amex Platinum offer has been increased to between 50,000 and 80,000 Amex points. They will have large spending requirements to trigger those bonuses so you’ll need to ensure you can meet those.
Here’s what you could be looking at based on increased sign-up offers that have run in 2024.
|Most recent boosted welcome offer
|Ongoing cashback rate
|British Airways American Express Premium Plus card
|£250 a year
|50,000 bonus Avios points (see most recent promotion here)
|Spend £3,000 in the first three months (and earn 4,500 more points)
|£363 in Nectar points
|1.5 Avios per £1 (=1% in Nectar points)
|American Express Platinum card
|£650 a year
|Up to 80,000 bonus Amex Reward points
(see latest promotion here)
|Spend £10,000 in the first six months (and earn 10,000 more points)
|£600 in Nectar points (via Avios)
|1 Amex point per £1 (=0.67% in Nectar points via Avios)
Potential fourth sign-up offer
This final welcome offer won’t be available to all of you as you can only get it if you have health or life insurance from Vitality. But if you do, then you can get a £100 bonus with a £2,000 spend on the Vitality Amex card regardless of whether you’ve had any other Amex in the last two years.
The card is effectively the Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday card for ongoing cashback, but you can boost this (by up to £20 a month on the first £1,000 you spend) through earning points through exercise, so it’s a good one to keep using each month if you’re getting it to at least 1%.
|Standard welcome offer
|Ongoing cashback rate
|Vitality American Express credit card
|Spend £2,000 in the first three months (and earn cashack on top)
|£100 statement credit
|0.5% on first £10,000 spend, then 1% above this, plus up to 2% extra depending on Vitality points earned.
Once you’ve got your Amex card
Get a supplementary card
This is a great way to earn more money back and reach that welcome bonus threshold faster. You can order a card for a family member to use. Though it appears in their name, it’s still your responsibility to pay the bill – so only do this if you trust they won’t overspend.
If you do this after you’ve got your card (rather than during the application) you’ll often get an extra cash or point bonus.
Make sure you clear the balance every month
That’s also true for yourself. These cards should only used for everyday spending that you know you can afford. If you don’t have enough to clear the borrowing every month you’ll get charged interest which wipes out any cashback you’ll earn.
Cancel it and wait two years
If you’re really keen to get another welcome bonus then you could ditch the card once you’ve got your initial bonus or finished the first year, and start the clock ticking for two years to pass so you can get another welcome deal. If you have a partner you could get them to sign up in the interim. Of course the risk here is the rules change.