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Rack Up the Points with Referrals Ricky March 5, 2017

Rack Up the Points with Referrals

This article is no longer being updated – head to the Credit Cards page in the Resources section of the website to get the latest juicy offers for earning points.


In the introductory article on Credit Cards & Earning Points, I gave a brief overview of the credit cards with the highest signup bonuses in the Canadian market and explained how they offered the fastest route to more frequent, more luxurious travel. Today, let’s add into the mix another powerful method of accumulating points, and see exactly what our returns would be if we put it all together.

Refer a Friend

Now that you’ve snagged a few signup bonuses and are carrying around a handful of credit cards in your wallet, what next? Well, get your friends in on the game! Another excellent way to quickly accumulate a mountain of points is by making full use of the referral program offered by American Express.

For example, if you have the American Express Business Platinum Card, you’ll earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points (MR) for every person who uses your referral link to sign up for any card in the Membership Rewards family (i.e., it doesn’t have to be the Business Platinum card!)

If you can get a few referrals lined up (think siblings, parents, close friends, coworkers, etc.), that renders the $399 annual fee on the Business Platinum quite a small price to pay for upwards of 100,000 Membership Rewards points (75,000 as the signup bonus, plus 25,000 for each referral). That’s enough for a round-trip business class flight to Europe, of which the retail prices usually begin in the $2000s!

Holders of the Platinum, Business Gold, and Gold Rewards cards also earn 15,000, 10,000 and 5,000 referral points respectively for referring their friends. These amounts do add up quickly as well, but of course it’s in this regard that the “referring power” of the Business Platinum card is on full display.

It’s not just the Membership Rewards family either. Holders of the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card (both the personal and business version) can also refer their friends to either SPG card for 10,000 Starpoints each.

Now, the official Amex policy is that you can only refer your friends and family, though anecdotally “self-referrals”, wherein a person uses his or her own referral link to sign up for a new card and avails of both the referral bonus and the signup bonus, have always been successful. We’ll see in the next section how to use this to its full advantage.

Racking Up the Points

We’ve seen that credit card signup and referral bonuses offer the fastest route to being a savvy wheeler-dealer in the miles and points game. Let’s put it all together and see what an eager traveler might be able to achieve in the first year of card-crunching. To keep things simple, we’ll restrict our attention to the Membership Rewards cards from American Express for now.


January

Start out with the Business Platinum card due to its referring power, and grab the signup bonus of 75,000 Membership Rewards points. Pay the annual fee of $399.

April

Self-refer from the Business Platinum to the Platinum Card. That’s 25,000 Membership Rewards points for the referral, plus 60,000 for the signup bonus, for a total of 85,000 Membership Rewards points. You’ll see the annual fee of $699 for the Platinum Card, but can immediately use the $200 travel credit for the current year to bring it down to $499 out-of-pocket. So far we’ve earned 160,000 MR for $898.

July

Self-refer from the Business Platinum (not the Platinum!) to the Business Gold card. Another 65,000 Membership Rewards points (40,000 for the signup bonus plus 25,000 for the referral). No first year annual fee on this one, so we’re at 225,000 MR for $898.

October

Self-refer from the Business Platinum to the Gold Rewards Card. Grab 45,000 Membership Rewards points for your efforts (30,000 signup plus 25,000 referral). Also no first year fees to speak of, so our running total is 280,000 MR for $898 out-of-pocket.

November

The first year on the Business Platinum card that we got in January is almost up, so go ahead and cancel it if you don’t want to pay the second year’s fees. We can apply for it again next year anyway.

Early Next Year

Use the second year’s $200 travel credit on the Platinum Card to bring its effective annual fee down to $299. Before too long, you can apply for the Business Platinum and start the cycle all over again. Remember to cancel each card before its first year is up to avoid getting dinged for another year of fees.


Our final total is 280,000 Membership Rewards points, enough for TWO round-trip tickets to Europe in first class or almost FOUR round-trip tickets to Asia in economy! That’s an amazing return for an effective outlay of $698 ($399 for the Business Platinum and $299 effective annual fee for the Platinum Card).

Angkor Wat for the whole family!

Angkor Wat for the whole family!

Keep in mind that in this example, we restricted our attention to the four American Express Membership Rewards cards for ease of analysis. We could have thrown in the Marriott, SPG, TD and CIBC Aeroplan cards and many, many more (as much as your credit profile can handle) which would allow you to piece together even more trips and use points to pay for all your 5-star hotel stays!

Also, keep in mind that this example is for one person only. If you and your spouse or partner are both interested in playing the game, go ahead and DOUBLE those figures. The possibilities are truly endless.

Conclusion

I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you – Membership Rewards this, SPG that. Are you just supposed to take my word for how much these points are worth? Of course not. In the upcoming installments, we’ll shift our focus from earning to redeeming. The few examples I’ve given of what’s possible with 280,000 Membership Rewards points barely scratch the surface, so we’ll dive into the full range of possibilities. We’ll also examine in detail the step-by-step procedure to booking flights with points and setting your dreams in motion.

Top Offers

American Express Business Platinum Card

75,000 American Express Membership Rewards points
upon spending $7,000 in the first three months

  • 1.25x MR points on all purchases
  • Points transfer to Aeroplan and British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio
  • Unlimited Priority Pass access
  • Marriott Gold Elite status
Signup bonus
75,000 MR points
Annual fee
$499
43 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Alex

    Hi Ricky! I was wondering, when I re-apply for a Business Platinum, do I need create a new AMEX online account for this to work? Or can I keep using my existing one?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      You can keep your existing one, no issues there.

  2. Avatar
    John Boyar

    Hi Ricky! I was wondering how you would approach this if you already had the amex personal gold card ? What should my next step be?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Right now, you can’t really get any good referral bonuses from the personal Gold. I’d get started with the Amex Platinum and look to refer to other cards from there; alternatively, you may want to take advantage of the various special offers out there, like the business cards via Canada Post that I recently wrote about.

      1. Avatar
        John Boyar

        Ah I see, so I could open up the Amex Plat and them churn over to the other ones like you outlined in this article? And great, thanks! I will check out the business cards via Canada Post 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Steve

    Hi Ricky, curious what you advise putting for name of our business if we don’t truly own a business but are applying for a business platinum card. It won’t let me but "N/A"

      1. Avatar
        Steve

        Awesome thanks!

    1. Avatar
      Steve

      That should be "it won’t let me PUT ‘N/A’"

  4. Avatar
    Jeb

    Hey Ricky, do you know for sure if you can still refer between Business Platinum and Platinum (personal)? Some of the language on the Amex site makes it seem like Business cards need to refer to business cards.

    For the record, I’m aware that the Gold Rewards Personal card can no longer accrue referral bonuses to or from the others.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      You can indeed still refer from between the Platinum and the Business Platinum (as well as the Business Gold to and from those cards).

      1. Avatar
        VanCity Pointer

        How do you do that? I have a business platinum (through your reference :)) and want to refer myself to the business gold… When I log in i can only refer to the business platinum – it does not give me the option to refer to other cards.

        Also, would you recommend doing this over the current Canada Post business gold card offer? Considering that the discounted annual fee of $149 will be reimbursed after $1.5k of purchase in the first 3 months in the Canada Post offer would you recommend self referring myself or going through Canada Post?

        Thanks alot!

        1. Avatar
          Ricky

          Once you copy and paste your referral link into a new window, you’ll be able to see the option to select the Business Gold at the bottom of the page.

          I’d recommend going with Canada Post, because you end up paying $0 in fees on the Business Gold. If you were to self-refer, you’d get 15,000 MR points, but you’d also pay $250, which isn’t worth it.

  5. Avatar
    spencer

    Amazing article. Just to clarify, I can refer someone a gold card through my personal platinum and get 15,000 points instead of 5000? If so how do i do this?

  6. Avatar
    spencer

    Amazing article. Just to clarify, I can refer someone a gold card through my personal platinum and get 15,000 points instead of 5000? If so how do i do this?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hi Spencer,

      The rules changed in 2017 – nowadays only the Business Gold, Platinum, and Business Platinum cards can refer among each other. The Gold Rewards Card and the Cobalt Card are their own separate referral “family” now.

  7. Avatar
    Mike

    I’m trying to refer from the Gold (personal, not business) Card to a Platinum card, but not seeing the platinum card in the options (only the gold and cobalt). Anyone know how to fix this?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Unfortunately, the Gold Rewards Card can only refer other people to the Gold Rewards Card and the Cobalt Card these days. This changed in the latter half of 2017.

  8. Avatar
    Mike

    I’m trying to refer from the Gold (personal, not business) Card to a Platinum card, but not seeing the platinum card in the options (only the gold and cobalt). Anyone know how to fix this?

  9. Avatar
    Sam Hancock

    With the Business Platinum referral bonus likely coming down to 15,000 … does it still make sense to ‘start’ with this card?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Assuming it does come down to 15,000, starting with this card and with the personal Platinum card would be equivalent.

  10. Avatar
    Sam Hancock

    With the Business Platinum referral bonus likely coming down to 15,000 … does it still make sense to ‘start’ with this card?

  11. Avatar
    Caitlyn

    The referral link created for me from my business platinum card only seems to link to business platinum or business gold. Would like to get that 25k referral for a couple other cards too. Am I missing something?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      You can only refer from the Business Platinum to the one of the Business Platinum, Platinum, or Business Gold cards.

  12. Avatar
    Caitlyn

    The referral link created for me from my business platinum card only seems to link to business platinum or business gold. Would like to get that 25k referral for a couple other cards too. Am I missing something?

  13. Avatar
    Nathan

    Hi Ricky, something i’m not sure how to do, is once i sign up for an AMEX card, how exactly does the refferal link process work? where do i get this link?

  14. Avatar
    Nathan

    Hi Ricky, something i’m not sure how to do, is once i sign up for an AMEX card, how exactly does the refferal link process work? where do i get this link?

  15. Avatar
    Sue

    Hi! I have a UK Platinum card – do you think I can also self refer and get the bonus points too? Its currently 18k MR points per card I refer. I am nervous they will detect I am referring myself and get zero referral bonus.
    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Should be no problem!

  16. Avatar
    Sue

    Hi! I have a UK Platinum card – do you think I can also self refer and get the bonus points too? Its currently 18k MR points per card I refer. I am nervous they will detect I am referring myself and get zero referral bonus.
    Thanks

  17. Avatar
    Syed Karim

    Hi Ricky,
    Are you 100% sure that I will get 25k referral bonus if I have a Business Platinum and I refer someone for the Business Gold? Generally, referral bonus for Business Gold is only 10k. I called AMEX and they told me it is:
    – 25k referral bonus for Business Platinum
    – 15k referral bonus for Platinum Charge
    – 10k for Business Gold
    This is regardless of which card i have myself. Have you had a different experience?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Syed,

      Yes, it matters which card you’re referring FROM, not which card you’re referring TO.

      As you deal with Amex agents you’ll soon find that many of them aren’t as knowledgeable as the rest of us in the community when it comes to specifics like this.

      Hope this helps,
      Ricky

  18. Avatar
    Syed Karim

    Hi Ricky,
    Are you 100% sure that I will get 25k referral bonus if I have a Business Platinum and I refer someone for the Business Gold? Generally, referral bonus for Business Gold is only 10k. I called AMEX and they told me it is:
    – 25k referral bonus for Business Platinum
    – 15k referral bonus for Platinum Charge
    – 10k for Business Gold
    This is regardless of which card i have myself. Have you had a different experience?

  19. Avatar
    Phil

    But if you sign up and cancel your credit card to avoid paying the annual fees after the first year, doesnt that ruin your credit score?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Not really – the more credit you demonstrate you can use responsibly, the higher your credit score is. This effect is much stronger than the negative effect of opening and closing accounts, so overall your credit score can actually increase.

      For more information, check out this article: http://princeoftravel.com/blog/all-about-credit-scores

  20. Avatar
    Phil

    But if you sign up and cancel your credit card to avoid paying the annual fees after the first year, doesnt that ruin your credit score?

  21. Avatar
    sue

    Can you clarify what you mean in the above example by "self-refer"?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Sue, so by self-refer what I’m talking about is generating a referral link (click on "Refer a Friend" on your Amex dashboard) and then using that same link to apply for a different card yourself. For example if you had a Business Platinum Card and wanted a new Gold Rewards Card, you could self-refer to the Gold and get yourself a referral bonus of 25,000 MR (in addition to the 25,000 MR you’d get from opening the new Gold Card).

  22. Avatar
    sue

    Can you clarify what you mean in the above example by "self-refer"?

  23. Avatar
    Steve

    Harley, you’ll get the 25K once they are approved. They do not have to meet the minimum spend on their card.

  24. Avatar
    Steve

    Harley, you’ll get the 25K once they are approved. They do not have to meet the minimum spend on their card.

  25. Avatar
    Harley

    I just wanted to say that your blog is a great source of information and I enjoy reading it.

    I have a question about referrals – I currently have an Amex Biz Plat and am planning to refer someone an Amex Gold Rewards card to get the 25K referral bonus. Is the referral bonus contingent on them being approved only, or do they have to meet their minimum spending requirement of $1500 over 3 months also?

  26. Avatar
    Harley

    I just wanted to say that your blog is a great source of information and I enjoy reading it.

    I have a question about referrals – I currently have an Amex Biz Plat and am planning to refer someone an Amex Gold Rewards card to get the 25K referral bonus. Is the referral bonus contingent on them being approved only, or do they have to meet their minimum spending requirement of $1500 over 3 months also?

Ricky

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