How to maximize Amex Small Business Saturday

American Express is once again bringing back Small Business Saturday on Saturday November 29th.  Once again, this is an opportunity to help out small businesses in your community and to get stuff for free.  Amex will reimburse you for using registered Amex cards at local merchants on that day. As I reported yesterday via my Quick Deals page, this year’s opportunity is better than ever before:

Earn $30 per Amex card
This year, the terms & conditions allow for 3 $10 statement credits per Amex card.  That means it is possible to earn $30 per card!

Enroll Bluebird and Serve
Last year, Serve was included in this promotion, but not Bluebird.  This year, the terms & conditions allow for both Bluebird and Serve.

Small_Business_Saturday

Basics

1. Register each Amex card on November 16

Registration for Small Business Saturday begins on November 16 at 12:00 A.M. MST (“Mountain Standard Time”), and will continue until 11:59 P.M. MST on Nov 29, 2014 unless the registration limit is reached before then (the limit has not been published, to my knowledge).  You must register each Amex card in order to participate in this promotion.  Here are options for registering (from the Amex T&C):

A. By completing the registration form accessible via ShopSmall.com

B. By logging in to your account at americanexpress.com and clicking on the ‘Amex Offers’ tab or ‘Small Business
Saturday’ offer tile in ‘Amex Offers & Benefits’

C. By logging into the American Express App and visiting the ‘Offers For You’ tab in the ‘Membership’ section

D. By adding the offer directly to your connected Card via amex.co/facebook

E. By tweeting #AmexShopSmall to add the offer directly to your connected Card

I highly recommend registering your Amex cards as soon as registration opens to make sure you get in before registration fills up.

2. Find qualifying local merchants

On Small Business Saturday, many local merchants will put up signs showing that they are participating in this promotion.  You can also find participating merchants through this online map.  Unfortunately, Amex doesn’t guarantee that merchants showing up here will actually qualify.  Here is the text from their T&C (bolding is mine):

Qualifying small business locations appear on the Shop Small® Map available at ShopSmall.com. Please note that the
businesses listed on the Shop Small Map may change. In addition, business location and other information provided on the Shop Small Map may contain inaccuracies or errors, including as a result of information provided by third parties.  Transactions with political campaigns or political action committees as well as purchases at gas or service stations do not qualify for the statement credit, regardless of whether they appear on the Shop Small Map.

3. Spend at least $10 per transaction

On Saturday November 29th, each small business purchase of $10 or more will be reimbursed $10 by Amex.  Keep in mind that you must spend at least $10 per transaction to qualify.  Two separate $5 transactions won’t count.  Keep in mind, too, that each Amex card will be reimbursed up to 3 times, but only on separate transactions.  For example: one $30 transaction will result in a single $10 statement credit whereas three $10 transactions will result in three $10 statement credits.  You can ask merchants to split tender and charge you $10 at a time for a single purchase.  When you do this it is best to use separate cards rather than swiping the same card multiple times (since the latter may be flagged as potential fraud).

Maximizing the opportunity

The trick to maximizing this opportunity is to register as many Amex cards as possible and to make sure to get the full $30 per card in statement credits.

More cards

There are several ways to get more qualifying Amex cards:

1. Sign up for new credit and charge cards.  Many cards offer very nice signup bonuses, so this can be a great way to earn miles, points, or cash anyway.  You can find up to date signup offers here.  Amex usually limits people to 4 total credit cards, but does not have a limit to their charge cards (such as the Gold and Platinum cards).

2. Add authorized users. With most Amex cards, you can add authorized users for free.  In those cases, there is no credit inquiry or cost to doing so.  And, even though the authorized user cards are on the same account, they have their own card numbers and are treated as separate cards for the purpose of Small Business Saturday and other Amex offers.

3. Add employee cards.  If you have an Amex small business credit card, you can add additional employee cards, usually for free.  Employee cards have their own card numbers and are treated as separate cards for the purpose of Small Business Saturday and other Amex offers.

Note: Corporate Amex cards do not qualify.

4. Register Bluebird or Serve.  This year, both Bluebird and Serve cards qualify for this promotion.  Each person can only have one or the other.  Make sure to register whichever one you have (and make sure it has at least a $30 balance on Small Business Saturday).

5. Add family accounts / subaccounts to Bluebird or Serve.  Earlier this year, a reader proved that Serve subaccounts are a great way to sign up additional cards with Amex Sync Offers (see “More free cash from Amex via Serve subaccounts”).  While the Small Business Saturday terms and conditions are quiet about subaccounts, I would be very surprised if they do not qualify.  Each Bluebird or Serve card can have four subaccounts (called family accounts with Bluebird).  You do need to have a unique email address and valid phone number for each one, but you do not need to provide an SSN.  Each person added as a subaccount or family account must be at least 13 years old.  Make sure that each subaccount is loaded with at least $30 on Small Business Saturday.

6. Register Amex cards issued by other banks.  Citibank, Fidelity, and others issue Amex credit cards.  These cards can be registered for Small Business Saturday and other Amex promotions.

$30 per card

On Saturday November 29th, each small business purchase of $10 or more will be reimbursed $10 by Amex for each card that you’ve registered for this promotion.

  • Keep in mind that you must spend at least $10 per transaction to qualify.  Two separate $5 transactions won’t count.
  • Keep in mind, too, that each Amex card will be reimbursed up to 3 times, but only on separate transactions.  For example: one $30 transaction will result in only a single $10 statement credit whereas three $10 transactions will result in three $10 statement credits.
  • You can ask merchants to split tender and charge you $10 at a time for a single purchase.  When you do this it is best to use separate cards rather than swiping the same card multiple times (since the latter may be flagged by Amex as potential fraud).

Have fun

The fiscally smart thing to do on Small Business Saturday is to buy gift cards at merchants you shop with regularly anyway.  In this way you’ll truly get the equivalent of free money from American Express.  In my case, I prefer to see it as a fun shopping spree.  Each year my family heads to downtown Ann Arbor with stacks of Amex cards and the goal of maximizing the promotion with each card.  This year, that means spending at least $30 in three separate transactions with each card.  We generally buy presents, toys, food, whatever.  Its truly a free-for-all shopping spree that helps local merchants!  How cool is that?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

    • BentT, you and I have opposite understandings of that sentence. It says:

      Corporate Cards and all prepaid Card products (other than American Express Serve® and Bluebird®) are not eligible.

      The way I read it is: Serve and Bluebird are eligible. Other prepaid products are not eligible. Corporate cards are not eligible.

  1. I love your shopping spree idea.
    Last year we spent it all at one place. We have a fish shop just about a mile away that does really good fish, fresh every day. The prices are very high, but we’ve decided that it is worth it. So, we got a $70 gift certificate…. for free. Perfect.
    This year we are going to be out of the county. Not sure if it’s worth trying to do anything long distance.

  2. I’ve done the shopping spree in our small town downtwon area and loved it. Handmade journals, skating passes to the outdoor rink, hiking supplies, etc. Many merchats were ready with shop small signs and bags. I visited places I wouldn’t have otherwise and discovered some gret places in my community.

  3. My city was recently targeted in AMEX’s very similar \small business August\ promo, where you were able to get three $5 credits for shopping at small businesses. We obviously drew on our previous experience with the post-Thanksgiving \Small Business Saturday\ promo to maximize the benefit.

    The biggest problem with the $5 promo is that five dollars isn’t a heck of a lot! If you wanted to maximize your return (and make the effort worthwhile), you had to go in with a stack of AMEX cards and ask the cashier to swipe each one 3 times and keep going. You then walked out with a combined gift card for, say, $30, $45 or $60.

    With one exception, my local businesses were pretty happy to do this for me (the one exception was a local pizza joint, where the manager said it was \!@#$$% weird\ and would only do $15 for me). The good news is that $10 yields obviously gets you twice as much return as $5, and makes the effort more worthwhile for both parties. We did not have any fraud issues swiping the same AMEX card 3x in a couple minutes, even with a non-AMEX issued PenFed card.

    The only problems we had was unfamiliarity by some cashiers as to how to split a tender. Is it the same procedure on all payment systems (I have no cashier experience)? If so, if somebody could post step-by-step instructions on how to split a tender, it will likely save everybody considerable time on that November Saturday.

  4. BTW, to keep track of our AMEX cards as we went on our shopping spree, I brought and labeled two zip-lock sandwich bags with me. We put all our AMEX cards in one bag to start, and as we spent them, we put them in the “used” bag. Easy-peasy.

  5. I have 3 real AMEX cards, my wife is an AU for 1 of them. I have a BB, she has a Serve. That’s a total of 6 cards between the 2 of us. I’m trying to think of the best strategy for this. What I’d like to do is buy, for ex, 3 $10 gift certificates at some stores with each card, but like FM wrote, I think this might raise fraud concerns or suspicion for duplicate charges. Right now I’m thinking of going to 3 stores and buying 6 certificates at each store.

  6. This is going to be fun. I am always so exhausted by the end of the day, I must admit. I try to be creative. Like many of you on this blog, I have more Amex than I need. LOL!

  7. Last year, Square worked, but it literally took months for some of the cards to receive the credit. My PenFed AmEx didn’t come through until September of THIS year from last year’s purchase in November. Another card (but I can’t remember which) didn’t post until around March or so. All of the AmEx branded cards posted immediately.

  8. On the one hand this is great. On the other do I really want to spend (and can I convince my S.O. to join me in) a day on the long holiday weekend at a shop buying 90 $10 gift cards? And is 30 Amex cards between us overkill? Or are we lightweights?

  9. OMG. I can’t believe they are doing $30 this year! Last year was still OK, but I thought for sure it would be $10 again. Our family also has a ridiculous number of cards. This makes it a bit more confusing, but hey! Love Amex. Best cards ever. Thanks for the info.

  10. Like many others, my husband and I will be abroad that Saturday. I’m looking for success stories of taking part in this promotion long-distance. Simple Google and Flyertalk searches weren’t much help.

  11. I’m curious if RedBird will work, even if it isn’t specifically listed in the T&C.

    It’s still a pilot program, and it runs through the Serve platform (the website even redirects to amex.serve.com), so I think it may be worth a try!

  12. i know u mention split tender could cause probs but what if i were to buy (3) gc from same store, purchasing seperately 1after another? does that csuse any probs?also, if a listed merchant has a website will i receive the bonus for online purchaseas well as in store?

    • Whether you do split tender or purchase one after another, there is always the chance of Amex flagging the purchases as suspicious. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You can simply call them and approve the purchase (or reply to an email or text if they send you one).
      .
      Regarding website purchases, I think that depends on how exactly they process those purchases. I think that the only way to know if it works is to try it with one order then wait about 30 minutes or so to see if you get a confirmation email from Amex.

  13. I was able to register our cards this morning & I’m excited about our mini shopping spree around town! The facebook amex offers didn’t show SBS for the Serve card but I was able to register through ShopSmall.com. Received email confirmation on Serve & Bluebird through that application page. Thanks for your help!!

  14. can additional cardholders make the $10 purchases (up t three) and receive three $10 credits on the card account that the MAIN cardholder uses the promotion for?
    the only difference in the card #, is that last 4 digits and the name.
    Please advise

      • “buy one $10 thing online”

        They have a way to know if “card present” or not. If card isn’t present, they will very likely not apply the deal to it.

        This is DIFFERENT than processing the card manually rather than via swipe.

  15. I read this post way back when it first appeared…I think I’m generally oriented toward “maximizing” deals, but the way you concluded this post really changed the purpose and meaning of today for me. I found I reflected on small businesses over dinner, enjoyed family and socialized with employees, and generally had a fantastic time!!! It really was a pre-Christmas warmup, like tailgating. Thank you for helping me realize that the fun of “maximizing…deals” could involve more than me, my computer, and my credit cards. Cheers!!!

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