American Express Welcome Bonuses

Today it has been widely reported that Amex has made significant changes to the welcome bonus rules for all cards. It’s covered in detail elsewhere (see Head for Points link here), but in short you will no longer be eligible for a bonus if you re-apply for a card after just 6 months. Instead the period will increase to a full 24 months, without holding any Amex cards, before you’re eligible for a welcome spend bonus as a new customer. In addition, in most cases you will no longer be able to get bonuses on multiple card families, so for example: if you’ve had Amex Gold, you can’t then get the bonus on Amex Nectar too.

Some are calling this ‘the end of card churning’, because clearly it now makes it significantly harder to secure any further bonuses once you’ve had your first card. It’s definitely a very disappointing change for many people.

My Accidental Loophole Find

Now those changes weren’t what I’d planned to write about today, but they are both newsworthy and very, very relevant to my intended article.

This week, we were quite confused to experience the complete opposite of the above. We had recently cancelled my wife’s Amex Gold Charge Card (which is no longer open to applications, as it was replaced by the Gold credit card), and applied for the Amex Gold Credit Card instead. The reason for this was to avoid the £140 annual fee, which was due to apply for year two on the old card, but wouldn’t apply to year one on the new card. Obviously she’d already secured the 20,000 Amex points bonus on this card and therefore we assumed that she wouldn’t be eligible for the welcome bonus on the new card. However, to our surprise that wasn’t what appeared on the account. The card was actually enrolled for another 20,000 points welcome bonus, despite it being just a week or two between closing one and opening another (rather than the previously expected 6 months).

After some reflection, I think I’ve identified why this might be the case. Since we’d applied for the original card, we got married (read my post about how we travel hacked the honeymoon here!) and her name had changed. It looks like because the new card carries a different surname, despite all the other details being consistent, and everything disclosed correctly, the system has identified her as a new cardmember.

At a time when it’s about to get much harder to secure spend bonuses, this is obviously a big bonus for us! However, it got me thinking – perhaps these are the lengths we’ll now all need to go to to keep card churning alive. Is it worth changing your name by deed poll every 6 months, so that you can re-apply and keep getting bonuses…?!

I’m joking of course! But we’re definitely going to take advantage of this and secure our last spend bonus for a while, and maybe this is useful to know if you’re due to get married/divorced or change your name anyway. Obviously I can’t guarantee that this happens every time, but it seems the most likely explanation to me.

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