Credit card holders after air miles or cashback could be left feeling short-changed as Amazon and American Express have slashed the sign-up bonuses and spending incentives on some of their cards.
Changes to Amazon’s Platinum Mastercard came into effect Monday, with the retailer halving the number of reward points you get from spending elsewhere.
Your cashback bonus for spending at Amazon itself is unaffected by the changes.
It means you now earn 0.5 Amazon Reward Points for every £2 you spend not on the site, down from one before.
Grounded: Amex’s cards have been popular among frequent flyers because of the generous welcome bonus and spending incentives, but those have now been slashed
You earn 1.5 for every £2 you spend at Amazon.co.uk, with 1,000 points earning you a £10 gift card.
The move could potentially be seen as yet another power play by the online juggernaut, by further discouraging shoppers to do their spending elsewhere by making the cashback reward for shopping at Amazon three times as lucrative.
Meanwhile American Express has also cut the offers on some of its rewards credit cards, meaning those who sign-up will get less generous membership points.
For example, the Amex Preferred Rewards Gold card has seen the number of reward points you get for signing up halved from 20,000 to 10,000.
What’s more, you used to be able to get a further 20,000 bonus points in return for spending £2,000 in three months, but now you’ll need to spend £3,000 to get the same bonus.
Amex reward points can be used for a variety of purposes, from flights to gift cards.
Previously, the reward for spending £2,000 in conjunction with the sign-up bonus would be enough to net you a return flight to Moscow, but that is no longer the case.
The Platinum Reward card, which comes with a whopping £450 annual fee, has not received any cuts to its sign-up or spending bonus but the number points you get for referring a friend has been cut from 18,000 to 12,000.
In the case of the Gold card, it has been cut by a third, from 9,000 to 6,000.
The card provider’s changes mean that the Platinum card now offers 20,000 more points for spending £1,000 less in your first three months of having the card, but it does obviously come with a much higher fee.
Amex’s basic Rewards credit card has also seen its sign-up bonus halved from 10,000 points to 5,000, with the amount you need to spend within three months to earn 5,000 bonus points doubled from £1,000 to £2,000.
The changes are a blow for potential cardholders who perhaps planned on using the bonus points to put toward an exotic holiday or long-haul flights.
It also made changes at the end of March, designed to clamp down on users acquiring multiple sign-up bonuses, by barring those who signed up from getting welcome points if they had held any personal American Express card in the last two years.
Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website Head for Points, said there are still plenty of options out there despite Amex’s reforms.
He said: ‘While it is true that it is easier to make the most of the sign-up bonuses on these travel rewards cards if you are already travelling a lot and building up frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points, anyone can get their heads around these schemes with a bit of research.
‘If you stay at InterContinental Hotels Group – Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, InterContinental – hotels, the “free for life” IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives you £40 of hotel points as a sign-up bonus.
‘More interestingly, you also get Gold status for life – as long as you keep the card – in the IHG Rewards Club loyalty scheme.
‘You’ll never get the room overlooking the bins again.
‘Anyone who collects Avios points should also make sure they don’t miss out on 5,000 free Avios, which I value at £50, with the free British Airways American Express card.
‘This card also blows most free credit cards out of the water in terms of return on day to day spending, with one Avios per £1 getting you more than one per cent back on your spend if you redeem them wisely.’
Virgin Atlantic’s Reward+ credit card also comes with 15,000 air miles as a welcome gift, and gives you 1.5 miles for every £1 you spend.
These miles are less versatile than Amex’s offers however, because you can only redeem them with Virgin Atlantic. The card also comes with a £160 annual fee.
However, you can get a return flight to New York with 20,000 miles, and to Hong Kong with 25,000.
Burgess suggested that being caught up in the EU cap on interchange fees, which came into effect in 2015, had given American Express some ‘major UK problems’.
The provider has joint cards with Nectar and Costco as well as with British Airways.
He added that ‘the bonuses were just too good’, with card holders able to take out a Preferred Rewards Gold card, bank the 20,000 point bonus, cancel the card and reapply for the same one six months later and benefit from another 20,000 points.
Amex didn’t explain the reason behind the changes, but a spokesperson said: ‘We regularly review our products and offers to continue to deliver the best service to our customers.
‘When making these changes our aim was to ensure that we remain competitive and continue to reward both new and existing card members for their spending.’
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