American Express is the only major credit card issuer in Canada to offer a refer-a-friend program, with incentives for existing cardholders when they refer individuals with whom they have a business, personal, or family relationship to a new American Express card of their own.
This can trigger a powerful snowball effect when you refer cards among your spouse, parents, or anyone with whom you decide to pool your rewards-earning efforts.
For years, American Express has restricted which cards could refer to each other. Now, they’ve added some new options, increasing the number of products that many cards can refer to – in particular the top-of-the-line Business Platinum Card.
Business Platinum to Personal Platinum: 20,000 MR Points
Previously, although all Membership Rewards cards have a referral program, American Express had grouped them into separate “families”:
- The Business Platinum Card, the Business Gold Card, and the Business Edge Card could refer among each other
- The Platinum Card could only refer to itself
- The Gold Rewards Card and the Cobalt Card could refer among each other
Let’s hone in on the business family first.
When getting started with Amex referrals in multi-player mode, it’s always best to start with the Business Platinum Card.
The referral offer for the applicant is determined by which card they open, but the bonus for the referrer is determined by which card they refer from.
As the top-tier card, the Business Platinum Card offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points to the referrer, more than you’d get by referring from any other card, regardless of which card you refer to.
That means that you can refer someone else to a lower-level card like Business Gold Card or Business Edge Card, but still get the premium Business Platinum bonus for referring.
It’s easy enough to begin with the Business Platinum Card and start your referrals from there. However, as each person can only open one of each product, you’d be limited to three referral bonuses for each of your family and friends who use your referrals, for a total of 60,000 MR points per referred person.
Now, there’s a fourth product to refer to: it’s also possible to refer from the Business Platinum Card to the personal Platinum Card. By doing so, the referrer can earn an additional 20,000 MR points, bringing the haul up to a potential 80,000 MR points per referred person.
Before, the only way to refer to a personal Platinum Card was from another personal Platinum Card, with a referral bonus of 10,000 MR points. Instead, if you hold a Business Platinum Card as well, you’ll definitely want to refer your compadres from that one for a larger bonus.
Also, for anyone like myself who has the business card but not the personal variant, we can now refer others to the personal one, an opportunity to earn 20,000 MR points that didn’t exist before.
Blurring the Lines Between Referral Families
There are a bunch of other new referral pathways available, too. Whereas before the card families were clear-cut, now it’s a lot more jumbled:
- The Platinum Card can now refer to the Business Platinum Card, in addition to itself
- The Business Gold Card and Business Edge Card can now refer to the personal Platinum, Gold, and Cobalt cards, in addition to the business MR family
- The personal Gold Rewards Card and Cobalt Card can now refer to the Platinum Card as well as the Business Platinum, Business Gold, and Business Edge cards, in addition to each other
- The Aeroplan and Bonvoy cards are unchanged, and can only refer within their respective co-branded families
To summarize the current state of affairs:
- The Business Platinum Card can now refer to other MR-earning business cards or platinum cards
- The Platinum Card can now refer to other MR-earning platinum cards
- Any other lower-tier MR-earning card can now refer to all MR-earning cards, including higher-tier cards
These cards make up the core of American Express’s lineup – I’m sure that most Amex cardholders who collect travel rewards will have at least one of them.
It looks to me like Amex is aggressively pushing their acquisition offers on premium cards, with the Business Platinum at an all-time high of 100,000 MR points, and the Platinum having returned to its historic high of 60,000 MR points. With additional pathways into the top-tier cards from mid-tier cards, Amex seems quite keen to embrace new members by any means necessary.
However, these opportunities are of limited value. If you want to maximize your points, you ought to be initiating all possible referrals from the Business Platinum Card anyway.
In that case, you’ll feel a bigger impact if Amex decides to introduce additional options from the Business Platinum Card in the future. I’d love to be able to refer from the Business Platinum to, say, Cobalt or the mid-tier Aeroplan Card, to earn the same premium bonus of 20,000 MR points for myself, but with a much lower annual fee on a mid-tier card for Player 2.
For now, I’d only recommend referring from a different card if you’re without a Business Platinum Card for whatever reason, and wish to refer to a new card urgently, or if you’ve reached your yearly maximum of 225,000 MR points earned via referral bonuses on your Business Platinum Card.
Also, recall that the bonus for the applicant is always the same. So if your best option is to refer from, say, the Gold Rewards Card to the Business Platinum Card, the applicant would still be eligible for the best offer of 100,000 MR points, despite being referred from a lower-tier card.
It’s not the optimal route, but it’s not a terrible backup plan either depending on your circumstances.
In a move away from restrictive referral families, American Express has added many new options to refer to their premium credit cards, creating additional ways to accelerate your points earnings.
I’ll be watching to see if Amex will continue to add more referral options. In the US, you can refer from any MR-earning card to any other card (including airline and hotel co-branded cards), opening the floodgates for referral bonuses no matter your strategy or sequence for new card applications.
I’m hopeful that we’ll soon be able to do the same in Canada and earn top-tier Business Platinum referral bonuses for referring to any card in the Amex lineup, even entry-level products.
In any event, if you haven’t gotten your Amex game on yet, the Business Platinum Card remains the ideal starting point. Be sure to review the updated American Express Credit Card Flowchart to maximize the involvement of friends and family.