Savvy Saturday: Earn refer-a-friend bonuses for American Express cards you don’t even have

Aug 28, 2021

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Editor’s note: Some travel cards come with awkward benefits that are difficult to maximize. This article is part of a series that shows you unique, fun and unintended ways to use your credit card benefits. If you’ve got any questions or have an example of a unique way to maximize a credit card perk, tweet us @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.


Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Apart from opening new travel rewards cards and earning their massive welcome bonuses, perhaps the easiest way to accrue tons of miles and points is by referring a friend or family member to your card.

I’ve previously opened a card mainly because I knew I’d earn 75,000+ points from referring friends. Here’s how it usually works (I’ll show you in more detail below):

  1. Send your friends an invite to open one of your credit cards
  2. After they apply, you’ll receive bonus miles for each approval

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Here’s the problem: Most issuers will only allow you to invite friends to credit cards that you already hold. If, for example, you’ve got the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can only refer to that card. If your friend wants the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, you’re out of luck.

This rule appears to be the same with every issuer — but it’s not. If you know the following trick, you can refer friends to any American Express card, as long as you have an American Express card yourself. Here’s how it works.

The secret: Refer your friends to any Amex card

This process is straightforward, but it’s quite a few steps. The good news is that all the work is on your end — there’s nothing complicated on your friend’s end.

Let’s run through an example. Say your friend wants the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.

First, sign in to your online Amex account and decide which card you want to earn a referral bonus. Most cards have wildly different bonuses, so be sure you’re earning the points that mean the most to you. For example, here are some referral bonuses on a few of my Amex cards:

The most attractive referral bonus by far is the Amex Platinum, so I’ll use that card to refer my friend. You can find the refer-a-friend link in more than one place in your Amex online account. I’ll click the blue button under my transaction history that says “Refer Now.”

(Image courtesy of American Express)

The next page indicates how many points you’ll earn if your friend is approved. It also outlines the offer your friend is receiving. Note that the offer they’ll receive is the highest public offer. If there’s a targeted higher offer elsewhere (like through CardMatch or a TPG-exclusive offer), they won’t get that deal. They’ll have to apply directly wherever that improved offer is found.

Scroll down the page until you see your “Personalized Link.” Copy this URL and navigate to it yourself.

(Image courtesy of American Express)

Your personal referral URL will bring you to the landing page of your card. If your friend is interested in that particular card, great. But for this example, your friend wants the Marriott Bonvoy Business card.

To generate a referral for a different Amex card, click the top box that says “View all Cards with a Referral Offer.” A drop-down menu will appear where you can search cards by type (e.g., personal, business, cash back, etc.).

Select the “business cards” tab.

(Image courtesy of American Express)

You can now see all the Amex cards you can refer in that genre. Scroll down until you find the Marriott Bonvoy Business and click “View Card Details.”

(Image courtesy of American Express)

You’re now on the landing page of the card your friend actually wants.

You’ll notice that you’re on a lengthy and complicated URL here. This is the magic link you need to send to your friend. Just copy the URL and paste it into an email to them.

(Image courtesy of American Express)

When your friend clicks the link, they’ll be sent to the following page.

(Image courtesy of American Express)

Your friend will get the best public offer and you will get referral points to whichever card you generated this link from.

Bottom line

The ability to refer your friends to any card is very lucrative. I’ve earned well over $2,000 in points this year simply from referring friends to great credit card offers. It’s not a difficult sell, considering we’re living in an era of unprecedented welcome bonuses. One of my friends was recently interested in opening the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. I followed the steps above and referred her with my Amex Platinum, and I’ll soon be 30,000 points richer with zero effort.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Tell your friends about your fun and (nearly) free travels. The ones that believe you will want to know how you did it. You may as well let them in on the secret — and generate tens of thousands of points while you’re at it.

Application link: Amex Platinum with a bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.
Application link: Marriott Bonvoy Business with a bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of card membership. 

Featured photo by Jakob Helbig/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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