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American Express offers its cardmembers the ability to refer friends for Amex cards. This refer-a-friend program (plus an equivalent refer-a-business program) is a bit unique, as you are able to refer friends and family for both cards you have and cards you don't have. In this post, we dig into everything about Amex referral bonus offers, including how to find and generate referral links, promotional offers, and how many points you can earn from Amex referrals.
What Is the Amex Refer-A-Friend Program?
The Amex refer-a-friend program is a way for American Express cardmembers to be rewarded for referring friends and family to apply for an Amex card. Most Amex cards participate in the refer-a-friend program. Key items you need to know are the following:
- In order to earn points or miles from a referral, you must send your friend or family member a unique invitation link to apply for one or more cards.
- The person you refer must apply through the link you provided and be approved for you to earn the referral bonus points. If they do not apply through your unique link or aren't approved for the card, you won't earn the referral bonus.
- The invitation link you provide may allow them to apply for multiple cards. They do not have to apply for the exact card you have. Any card they apply for and are approved for through your link will qualify you for the referral bonus.
- Your specific referral offer may be targeted. This includes both the points or cash you earn and the terms of the welcome offer available to the person you are referring.
- The welcome offer available to your friend or family member through your link may not match other public offers available. It could be higher or lower.
Typical Amex referral offers
Most American Express cards have standard referral offers. In general, cards with lower annual fees offer fewer bonus points per referral.
Here is an example referral offer from The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express:
Compare that to this example referral offer on the American Express® Business Gold Card:
That's 15,000 more points! You can see in the screenshot that the standard offer is 20,000 points. However, the example offered in the image above delivers a promotional special offer on the [CC_AWBP_ShortName slug=BizGold]. More on that in a moment.
We won't list out the typical referral bonus amounts since they often vary. But they'll range between 5,000 and 30,000 points, with most in the 10,000- to 20,000-point range.
For the Delta credit cards, in particular, it is best to wait for an elevated promotional offer before using it. An Amex referral bonus of 7,500 SkyMiles is rather unexciting.
Amex special referral bonus offers
Elevated Amex referral bonus offers are a routine occurrence, but they are targeted. That being said, you should expect to see them semi-regularly throughout the year. These elevated offers can occur on any American Express card that you can refer — both Membership Rewards-earning cards and co-branded cards.
Amex will clearly show what the elevated “Special Referral Offer” is compared to the standard offer. You don't need to hunt for these; they'll simply appear in your account where you normally see the refer-a-friend option. Here's an example from the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card:
In addition to elevated numbers of bonus points/miles per referral, American Express has occasionally rolled out a different sort of promotional offer. For example, earlier in 2023, many cardholders received an offer where they could get 5x bonus points/miles or a 5% cash-back bonus at supermarkets for 90 days after successfully referring a friend (up to a maximum of $25,000 in spending, then returning to your card's normal earning rates). This promotional offer appeared on nearly a dozen different cards. For those holding a Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you'd effectively earn 11% back on groceries!
Note that the Blue Cash Preferred earns 6% at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%. Cash back is issued as a statement credit.), meaning you could only earn 11% cash back up to that threshold.
It's also worth pointing out that a promotional referral offer doesn't always correspond with an elevated, limited-time welcome offer for the card. Sometimes these do. In the case of my Delta Reserve card above, the offer is better than the typical, publicly available offer.
Eligible cards for earning an Amex referral bonus
Pretty much all points- or cash back-earning Amex cards are eligible to earn points, miles, or cash through the Amex refer-a-friend program, such as:
- Cash-back rewards cards like the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, and Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Membership Rewards cards like the The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, and American Express® Green Card
- Delta cards, such as Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Hilton cards, including Hilton Honors American Express Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Marriott Bonvoy cards like Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
How To Generate an Amex Referral Link or Email
To refer someone to one of your Amex cards, first, log into your account at americanexpress.com, then navigate to the account page for the card in question. You'll see a section under your recent transactions titled “Refer Friends, Get Rewarded.” Click the “Refer Now” button to open up a form. You can send an email to the person you are referring or copy the link and send it to them directly. Below is an example of what you will see if I want to refer from the Blue Business Plus.
Alternatively, you can send a referral email or copy your unique Amex referral link from the dedicated Amex refer-a-friend page. When sending by email, I always alert the person to look for an email from American Express.
Whether they receive the link directly from you or from Amex's email, your friend will have to use it in order for you to receive a referral bonus. Once they click on the link, they'll be taken to an offer page for the card you referred. Below is what someone sees referring from the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card.
What cards can recipients choose?
Note the “View all Cards with a Referral Offer” link at the top of the page.
One interesting thing about the Amex refer-a-friend program is that the people you refer do not have to choose the same exact Amex card you have. This is helpful. For example, I hold the Delta Reserve card. I don't have many friends or family who would be interested in this card. However, they can select the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card instead, with a much lower annual fee (Rates & Fees) and some benefits they will enjoy.
In general, American Express sends their referrals by card family. Referring a Delta Amex card lets the referred person choose from among all Delta cards. The same goes for the Hilton cards and Marriott cards. It's even possible to choose either a small business or personal card.
The big exception is the Membership Rewards-earning cards. If you refer one of these cards to someone, they'll be able to choose pretty much any Amex card.
Here's where things get cool. Since the other person doesn't have to choose the exact card you refer, you can send them a referral link for the card that earns you the most, then they can pick the card that is best for them. This is how you maximize Amex referral bonus points.
I've been an American Express cardmember for roughly a decade at this point; while I have referred my cards, I certainly haven't earned a ton of bonus points this way. That being said, I have friends who have made many tens of thousands of Amex referral bonus points.
If you're new to Membership Rewards in general, here is a great overview of the program to help you learn more.
Did you know you can earn Amex referral bonuses? How often do you take advantage of this program?
Can you send someone the best offers through an Amex referral?
The answer here is "sometimes." Often, the offer your friend will receive will match the publicly available offer. Other times, it won't be as good. Rarely, there will be unique offers that are only available through referral. Some of these have been excellent.
My best practice is to wait until there is a good public offer available before referring a card. Then, as long as my referral link provides someone the same offer, I'll send it. If there is a mismatch, I've sometimes still sent a link but also sent the link to the better public offer.
Consider it from the other side: Is your friend likely to apply through your link if they'll get 10,000 fewer points from the welcome bonus?
How many points can you earn through Amex referrals?
American Express recently increased its Amex referral bonus limit to 100,000 points per card per year, except for Hilton cards. Hilton cards have an annual referral bonus limit of 140,000 points. For cards that earn cash back, the annual referral limit is $1,000.
The limit is individual to each card, not across all cards. The previous limit was 55,000 points per card for most Amex cards. If an authorized user refers another person for a card, the bonus points will be credited to the primary cardmember's account and count toward their annual limit. Authorized users don't earn referral bonuses; these go to the primary cardmember.
If you have several Amex cards and people to refer them to, Amex referrals are a great way to earn a ton of extra points.
How Long do Amex referral bonus points take to post?
American Express states that you should allow 8–12 weeks for Amex referral bonus points to post. However, they have been known to post much sooner. Often, you'll receive the bonus points in just a few days after an approval using your link. American Express will send you an email regarding your successful referral as well.
Does American Express consider referrals taxable income?
Amex does consider referral bonuses taxable income, whether it's cash or points. It's unfortunate, but you'll receive a 1099-MISC for your referrals. For tax purposes, American Express considers Membership Rewards points to be worth 1¢ each. Delta SkyMiles and Marriott Bonvoy points also are pegged at 1¢ apiece.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (Rates & Fees)
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