Hot on the heels of recent changes from American Express which almost put an end to credit card recycling for the sole purpose of earning repeated sign up bonuses, comes yet more punitive changes. Without a word of warning, AMEX has slashed the number of membership reward points you can earn for each referral. Also, they have halved the sign-up bonus.
Amex Gold sign up bonus
The latter change doesn’t impact existing cardholders unless you regularly recycle cards. However, if you really want to earn a ton of air miles, that has always been the best way to go about it.
Until the recent changes, the sign-up bonus was 20,000 once you spent £2,000 in two months. It has now been halved to 10,000 and you have to spend £3,000 in three months. Well, that bloody sucks!
British Airways Premium Card V AMEX Gold
On that basis, you may as well opt for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card which has the same spend requirement but rewards you with 25,000 AVIOS when you hit the minimum spend. If you can find a friend who holds the card, you will also earn an additional 1,000 points if you use their referral link plus this card pays 1.5 AVIOS for every £1 spent. The AMEX Gold card only rewards you with 1 membership reward point per £1 spent.
British Airways Free Card V AMEX Gold
Even the free British Airways card, which I always advise against getting, now starts to look more attractive. You earn a sign-up bonus of 5,000 once you spend £1,000 in three months and the card has the same earnings rate as the AMEX Gold card. Your friend also earns an extra 1,000 if they use a referral link.
Clearly AMEX Gold pays a higher sign-up bonus but it carries an annual fee of £140 per annum from year two. I have never paid the annual fee, as I have always cancelled the card before the end of year one. However, it is now less attractive to do this as you need to wait 24 months before you can reapply and earn another signup bonus.
As for referral bonuses, prior to these changes, you could earn 9,000 membership rewards for every successful referral you made. This was limited to a maximum of 90,000 membership rewards a year. The 90,000 limit still stands but now the referral has been reduced to 6,000 membership rewards per referral.
The free British Airways card offers a bonus of 4,000 AVIOS for each referral, and your friend earns an extra 1,000 AVIOS (6,000 in total) if they use your referral link. The British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card however still pays a bonus of 9,000 per referral. This card is starting to look considerably more attractive following these latest changes.
Ooh Amex, have you gone too far this time? The last lot of changes were bad enough, but this may be the last straw!
Options for existing AMEX Gold cardholders
Honestly, AMEX has you over a barrell. You can cancel the AMEX Gold card but will have to wait two years before you can apply for another AMEX card and earn a further signup bonus.
Alternatively, you can keep this card and apply for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card. You can still earn the signup bonus providing you have not held another personal British Airways AMEX card in the last 24 months. Although the card offers a higher referral rate, it can be hard to persuade your friends to apply for this card. That’s because it has a £195 annual fee.
New UK travel hackers
If you are new to travel hacking and wish to earn tons of miles, I suggest you opt for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card because of the higher signup bonus and the higher earnings basis.
If you are absolutely adamant you don’t want to pay for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card then you can still get one year free with the AMEX Gold card. However, the card will cost you £140 per annum thereafter unless you cancel and take a two-year break from AMEX.
I think the extra £55 fee for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card is however worthwhile. Your spend of £3,000 will earn you 30,500 AVIOS compared to only 15,000 membership rewards with AMEX Gold card (assuming you use my referral link).
The 30,500 is based on your spend of £3,000 which generates 4,500 Avios, plus the signup bonus of 26,000. For AMEX Gold card, the 15,000 includes your 12,000 signup bonus plus 3,000 based on your spend. it would currently cost you £255 to buy 15,000 AVIOS on the British Airways site which means that your £55 spend pays for itself.
What do you think?
New and experienced travel hackers…what do you think? I am open to other arguments.