In this post we’ll explore whether upgrading or downgrading an Amex card resets its annual referral capacity.

Quick Answer: No, it does not.

Background

One great thing about Amex is their referral program whereby you can earn a bonus for referring friends and family who in turn are approved for Amex cards. The referral bonus depends on the card you’re referring from rather than the card your friend applies for, which creates an opportunity to earn a significant amount of rewards especially in a spousal referral scenario.

See: Why And How: Generating And Using An Amex Referral

If you’re doing a fair amount of referring you can bump into the annual calendar year referral capacity that Amex establishes for each card you’re referring from.

For example, two of the best cards to refer from are the Business Gold and Platinum cards which offer a 20,000 point referral bonus. The ability to earn referral bonuses is capped on a per-card basis at 55,000 points per calendar year. So if you successfully refer three times from a given card you’d get:

  • 20,000 for the first referral
  • 20,000 for the second referral
  • 15,000 for the third referral (since it’s capped at 55,000 per calendar year)

Once you’ve depleted the referral capacity on a given card you have to wait until next year -or- refer from a card with a lower referral bonus.

Recently there have been some widely targeted upgrade bonuses for Amex cards, including a 50,000 point offer to upgrade from the Business Gold card to the Business Platinum card. This can be worth considering if you’re targeted, if you’re not getting much utility out of the Amex Business Gold card, and you haven’t gotten the welcome bonus for the Business Platinum card before.

See: American Express Business Platinum 50,000 Point Upgrade Offer

I was thinking that perhaps by upgrading from one card to another that my referral capacity would reset. Unfortunately that appears to not be the case.

My Experience

I had an Amex Business Gold card that I upgraded to an Business Platinum mid-year after referring on it twice earlier in the year. Then recently, after converting it to a Business Platinum card, I referred from it again. The third referral only earned 15,000 points rather than 20,000 points.

  • Amex Business Gold
  • January: 20,000 point referral credit
  • February: 20,000 point referral credit
  • Upgraded to Amex Business Platinum in June
  • August: Only earned 15,000 points for a referral (because I hit the 55,000 calendar year referral cap)

This pattern indicates to me that the referral capacity of an Amex card does not reset when upgrading a card. See the following where a 20,000 point referral was capped at 15,000 due to hitting the annual referral cap on the card even though I upgraded it mid-year and this was the first referral from the card as a Business Platinum card.

amex upgrade referral capacity
Referral from upgraded card only got 15k because annual cap was hit

Checking Your Referral Usage

Amex recently changed the way they report Membership Reward accrual, mostly for the better. It’s easier (or at least possible) with the latest interface to tell how many points you’ve gotten for referring for a given card:

  • Click on “Explore Rewards”
  • Then “Points Summary”
  • Page through each month and check the referrals associated with a given card
  • Be sure to click “See More” because by default only 15 transactions are shown each month

It’s a little tedious, but by paging through each month you should be able to figure out how much of your referral capacity has been used on each card.

Bottom Line

Upgrading an Amex card (or downgrading one for that matter) does not reset the referral capacity. When upgrading or downgrading, your card number stays the same and Amex keeps track of how much referral capacity you’ve used.

This can be a little limiting, but Amex’s referral program is still the best in the industry. It’s definitely worth becoming familiar with how to include spousal/friend referrals into your point earning strategy because it can be add extra rewards to each card you sign up for.

Tip: It’s worth mentioning that self-referral (where you generate a referral link and apply through that link yourself) is not recommended. Although the referral bonus might post, Amex has been clawing these back. Always refer a spouse or trade referral with a friend.

We’ve been discussing Amex’s referral program a lot this year on our podcast. The Slack channel associated with a subscription can be a good way to connect with people looking to trade referrals. Check it out if you’ve enjoyed our free podcast and are looking for more content along these lines.

Question of the Day: I’d be interested in datapoints along these lines if you’ve been experimenting with Amex referrals. Especially if you’ve found a way to reset the cap on a given card through upgrade/downgrade.

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