I have jumped on the Amex / Foursquare bandwagon …

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(EDIT, February 2013 – see this post for details of the Spring 2013 Amex / Foursquare offers)

I was holding this post back for a couple of days until my credit card statement started reflecting my cashback.  However, there were so many comments about it in other posts that I have pulled it forward to today.

(EDIT: My first cashback has now appeared.  My Harvey Nichols transaction for £26 was dated 26 November and the £25 credit was dated 28 November, although it didn’t show until this morning.)

For the last three weeks, American Express has been running a ‘small shops’ promotion. It offered £5 back when you spent at least £5 in a number of small, mainly independent, stores.

I didn’t post about it because it had little to do with miles and points, and because I didn’t have a smartphone to try it out. I also had a nasty feeling that it would become addictive and that I would spend all day visiting hundreds of shops around London (there are about 10 between my house and the tube alone) picking up freebies!

Anyway, ‘small shops’ will soon be over, as tomorrow is the last day.

I have, however, decided to give Foursquare a go because some of the other American Express promotions are simply too good to miss.

Let’s look at the best offers currently available:

    • Harvey Nichols – spend £25, get £25 back (ends 31/12)
    • Starbucks – spend £10, get £5 back (ends 13/2/13)
    • Tesco – spend £50, get £10 back (ends 31/12)
    • Argos – spend £20, get £5 back (ends 31/12)
    • Fenwick – spend £50, get £10 back (ends 24/12)
    • HMV – spend £20, get £5 back (ends 31/12)
    • House of Fraser – spend £50, get £10 back (ends 31/12)

(Note that the Gap deal of £10 back for a £10 spend has now finished)

Whilst you can only do these offers once per Amex card and per Foursquare account, you can set up unlimited Foursquare accounts (using different email addresses).

So .. in our house we have 2 x Lloyds TSB Amex cards (supplementary cards seem to count separately), 2 x Amex Platinum cards and 2 x BA American Express Premium Plus cards.  Experiments on Flyertalk have shown that Lloyds, MBNA and supplementary Amex cards (with a different card number to the main card) all work.

That means I can get – for free – £150 of Harvey Nichols gift cards. I can also get £60 of Starbucks credit for £30. Plus the Argos, Tesco etc deals are there for the taking if I want them.

The key, for me, was realising that I don’t need a smartphone to do this! I downloaded the Foursquare app to my (wi-fi) ipad and was able to ‘check in’ to relevant London stores from the comfort of my house!

So, this is how it works:

1. Download the Foursquare app onto your ipad, iphone, Android device or whatever you carry!

2. Sign up. Make a careful note of the email address you use. Ignore all the screens about linking your Facebook etc accounts.

3. Sync your MBNA, Lloyds or Amex-issued Amex card with the Foursquare account by going to this website. You must use the same email address as in 1.

4. Go back to Foursquare and search for your nearest Starbucks, Tesco, Argos, Harvey Nichols etc branch. You need to click ‘Check In’ and you see a special offer flick up. Click ‘Load to Card’ and the offer is set up directly with Amex.

5. Repeat for each Amex card you have, with a new Foursquare account. It would be sensible to make a note of which Amex card and email address links to each account.

(You can actually carry out steps 1-3 on a desktop PC as well. What you cannot do is Step 4, as the ‘Check In’ box is not active.)

There is nothing to show in the shop when you make your purchases. The shop will never even know you are taking part in the promotion. 3-4 days after making the relevant shop purchase, a credit will hit your Amex account.

What I have been doing is this:

I have been using a different Amex card each day, since I pass Starbucks daily and Harvey Nichols is only a 10 minute diversion. (Harvey Nichols is obviously not so close for most of you, but you could go and buy £25 gift cards from different tills using different Amex cards in the same visit.)

The first time you go to Starbucks or Harvey Nichols, get a new gift card. For subsequent visits, you simply need to top up the card you already have. There is no need to buy numerous separate gift cards for each retailer.

You should also remember that Tesco is currently running its own ‘150 bonus Clubcard points when you spend £50 on gift cards’ promotion. With this deal, you will pay just £40 for £50 of gift cards AND earn 360 Avios (from the 150 Clubcard points) on top!

Do think about buying gift cards if there is nothing you need now – you can then double up on your discount by redeeming in the sales. If you were thinking of House of Fraser gift cards, you are better off going to a big Tesco – you still save £10 off £50 plus there is 150 bonus Clubcard points for spending £50 on gift cards.

An FT poster points out that HMV is currently selling £25 itunes gift cards for £20.  The £5 Foursquare credit means you will only be paying £15, a 40% discount.

If you have any experiences with these Foursquare promos, please comment below.

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  1. Last weekend I saw the gap offer was valid until 8-Dec, but it seems it was pulled early?

    • Looks like it. To be honest, I was planning to get £60 of Gap and then sell the gift card on ebay. No point selling the solitary £10 I have so far, so looks like I’ll be getting myself some free socks instore!

  2. While most of the retailers participating are sound, I’d be wary about stocking up on HMV gift cards unless you have a purchase you’d like to make imminently. There’s been enough scare stories in the past about the financial health of that chain that I wouldn’t want to have a pile of gift cards that any potential administrators likely won’t accept.

  3. I can’t seem to access the t&c’s via my phone. Is there anything that excludes new cards from the foursquare programme? as I couldn’t sign up to the ‘small shops’ promo because I’ve had my card less than three months. Thanks.

    • My Amex Platinum card is only 6 weeks old, so I never bothered to try with the basic small shops offer as it specified that new cards didn’t count (used both primary and secondary TSB Duo cards instead which I can confirm get treated separately). However, I too have just jumped on the FS bandwagon. I registered my Platinum card having seen no mention of card age in the T&C, and a test purchase worked, so started cashing in – all have posted the credit. To date I have benefited by at least £150 between all my cards, and I have yet to make use of the bigger offers like Harvey Nichols, which with 4 cards and hence 4 FS accounts now, will be another £100 on its own!

      Next week I’m going to miss Amex treating me to lunch daily at the small shops around work…

  4. The AMEX/4SQ link has been running for most of this year IIRC, simply rotating between different retailers. You get a notification from 4SQ on your smartphone straight away when you’ve met the spend criteria, plus if you login to your AMEX app/account I always see the credit appear within 2 days.

    This also works if you have a Starbucks card which you load with credit – I have mine set to auto top-up by £10 when the balance falls below £10. I had checked in on 4SQ & it had to auto top-up. I didn’t think that would qualify as it wasn’t an instore transaction however it did!

    This link-up encourages increased use of 4SQ to check in, as they do not provide a list (in the case of major retailers) of where the specials are loaded – unless you use a site like this to collaborate!

  5. As a slight aside – are you aware of the link-up between 4SQ & Hilton HHonors & Priority Club?

    It runs on a similar basis to the above AMEX promo but instead you get points for those schemes each time you 4SQ check-in to their hotels. There are a couple of other hotels part of this too but I can’t remember which they are at the mo.

    You only get 50 points for each scheme & can only check-in once per day.

    • These run via TopGuest, who are a ‘questionable’ operation. Plenty of reports of them accusing people of lying about where they have been.

      • Well I’ve used them for several months trouble-free now & always get the points issued. Maybe coz I either checkin from home to the 2 chains which are within 2.5KM or while I’m actually in one of their hotels.


        • I’ve used them for probably over a year (I can’t remember when I started), never had any problems. However, I’m currently locked out of my account ‘suspended’ – they have yet to reply.

          I was only checking in a properties I was staying at, while I was inside them.

          Will see what they reply with…

    • I have seen this, but it seems painfully hard work – albeit about 20p per check-in of value, given 50,000 points is a £200 room at both chains.

  6. I discovered foursquare last week and these promos are great

    Myself and my wife have 4 amex accounts between us, on Sunday morning we headed over to Harvey Nichols and bought 4 lots of £25 vouchers, all 4 transactions tracked immediately and the £25 credits have all appeared on the accounts. You can use the vouchers at the Harvey Nichols restaurants as well so they will make a nice dent into a meal at the oxo tower.

    Also used the Tesco promo for petrol which tracked in the same way, although it was only a couple of days ago so the credit has not yet appeared in my account.

    Small shops was a great idea in theory but the implementation was fairly poor. At first I was actively looking for participating retailers but from my experience the majority included on the map did not take Amex and it was more trouble than it’s worth. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a few random e-mails crediting me £5 for places I had no idea were included so it’s worth registering your card if they ever run it again as you’re likely to get a few nice surprises.

    • I did a couple of ‘small shops’ this week. I was in Bath yesterday and was directed to a great little indy bookshop on a side street which I would never have passed normally. Picked up a £5.99 book for my daughter. I assume that Amex is footing the bill for this, so its a decent deal for all – I get a 99p book and the shop gets a full-price high-margin sale they would never have made otherwise. It was tracking on Foursquare within minutes.

      John Sandoe Books in Chelsea, close to Sloane Square, is also taking part so I may pop in there before tomorrow night to pick up something. Lunch today is sushi from the ‘small shops’ sushi place round the corner!

      I’m just grateful I didn’t get onto this one earlier, as I would be a 20 stone alcoholic by now judging by the number of pubs and cupcake shops around me taking part, and the number of Amex cards I have. That said, it is annoying to see how many participating shops we have visited in the last month anyway!

    • gagravarr says:

      I’ve had 100% success with the small shops. Quite a few places didn’t list taking Amex but did without question, and a couple looked a bit confused, said something like “I’m not sure we take it, let’s try” and were very surprised when it went through! (Several retailers commented on the high fees from Amex, and one said Amex were bad but…. and then had a small Diners Club rant!)

      Does depend on where you are though, there was a much smaller range of suitable places near work than near home. I have managed quite a few basically free coffees, several half price lunches and some almost free presents. Oh, and some free beer too, what’s not to like!

  7. Re the comment above about getting HMV vouchers, I should clarify that what you should buy in HMV are £25 iTunes vouchers, not HMV ones. They are currently £5 off anyway, and I think we can be confident that Apple aren’t going bust just yet.

  8. As an aside, before making some of these purchases, specifically Argos and House of Fraser, make sure you register for the Amex deal that Raffles told us about previously (link is a page or two back now), so you get additional MR points at those stores.

    Link is here:


  9. Sorry, me again. My wife has just informed me that House of Fraser have an offer on today and tomorrow with up to 40% off. She is going to pick up something that she wants which has nearly 25% off today, so with the extra £10 it is a big saving.

  10. I downloaded the Gap check in special last week and bought something on Monday when the offer was not showing anymore on FS. To my surprise i still got the credit. So maybe if you had already loaded the special you will still receive the credit.

    Yesterday i purchased 2 gift cards of £20 each from HMV and with every purchase and received a “£5 off your next purchase over £50£”, so today i picked up £50 of DVDs , got £5 off and paid £40 with vouchers and £5 cash – total cost £35 after FS credit.

    Using all our Amex credit cards (6) I have made over £500 in small shop offers plus I used FS for Starbucks, HN and HMV.
    Also FS had the same HN offer on in the summer which I had also taken advantage off.

  11. I take the point about registering different cards with separate e-mail addresses. However, I have more AmEx cards than e-mail addresses.

    I remember reading that GMail addresses could be used by adding +1 or +xyz to the main address. They end up in the same GMail inbox but are treated separately by organisations.

    Unfortunately, I can’t remember the formula! Has anybody tried this? For example, is it [email protected]….; [email protected]…; …@gmail+1.com, etc? Thanks.

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