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How can American Express improve its cashback ‘statement credit’ offers?

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There is no doubt that the American Express cashback rewards programme is very popular.

Many HfP readers generate substantial savings from it. We often see people saying in our comments that the ability to save via Amex cashback is a key reason why they continue holding their card, even if it has an annual fee.

Just because something is good doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved, however.

Here are a few ideas from myself and from reader comments. If you have any others, please post them below and we can add them in. You can be sure that Amex will read them.

How to improve American Express cashback rewards

Put new offers at the top of the list, not randomly inserted into it

As you can see here, my wife currently has 95 offers on her Preferred Rewards Gold card:

Because I’m weird, I am happy to scroll through the 85 unsaved offers on a regular basis to see what is new. However, the biggest mistake that people who work in the loyalty business make is to assume that all of their customers are as committed / obsessed / weird as they are.

Put the new offers where they can be seen – at the top. Even better, send out a weekly personalised email of new offers.

Allow offers to be dismissed or removed from the list

If new offers can’t be put at the top of the list, or perhaps even if they can, include an option to dismiss or hide offers which are irrelevant.

Amex may say ‘well, you never know what you may end up needing’. Whilst this is the case for some retailers (my wife may announce tonight that she has found something on FARFETCH she wants to buy) I can promise you that I won’t be spending £50 on mail-order steak or £650 on a Brighton & Hove Albion season ticket.

Allowing deals to be dismissed would also give Amex valuable data on what offers to show to you in the future.

List offers by category, or at least allow filtering by category

Some sort of deal filtering would help. If someone is looking for a hotel, putting the relevant offers together in the list or allowing the list to be filtered to just show hotel offers would be useful.

Clarify what an offer is about

Again, this comes back to the disconnect between the Amex staff who put these offers together and Mr Average Cardmember.

I can get £10 back at ROWBOTS. What is this? Where is it? If I already know what the business does, then arguably I am less likely to need a cashback incentive to check it out. Explain it to potential new customers. List it as ‘ROWBOTS boutique fitness studio’.

Get on top of the small print

We get hundreds of comments on HfP each year questioning the small print – more precisely, the lack of it – on Amex cashback offers.

The most common problem is over whether an offer is cumulative or not. This crops up primarily with the hotel offers. You will occasionally see wording such as ‘spend £350 in one transaction’ but the lack of this wording does not necessarily mean that cumulative spending is acceptable.

For example, I have a Blacklane (high end chauffeur service) offer on my Platinum card. It is worth £25 back on a spend of £100.

You would assume this is cumulative, since even if I took Blacklane to Heathrow it wouldn’t come to £100. The wording, however, says “get a £25 statement credit on an eligible transaction of £100+ online at Blacklane”. This implies that the £100 must be done in one transaction. Am I going to risk putting £100 through Blacklane over 2-3 trips just to see if the cashback appears? No.

The Dell cashback offer for Amex Business cardholders is equally confusing. For some reason the small print suggests you use an Amex-branded link to the Dell site. In reality, the cashback works perfectly well on Dell Outlet, the Dell trade site and the Dell personal site.

Find a way around the problem with sign-up caps

Most of these cashback offers have a limited number of registrations, often 5,000 to 10,000 people. This is peanuts compared to the number of Amex cards in circulation.

Retailers want caps in place because they want to restrict their financial exposure. Having talked to companies who have run Amex cashback offers, however, they create more problems than they solve.

Here are some of the issues:

  • some people ‘save’ offers purely to get rid of them from their offers list, to make new offers easier to spot. This reduces the number of genuine potential users who can register. This problem can be fixed if Amex allowed people to dismiss or hide offers that don’t interest them
  • some people ‘save’ offers even if there is only a 1 in 1,000 chance that they might use them. There is no downside and they don’t want to run the risk of losing out if the offer disappears. I can understand why people do this – it is economically rational – but it causes real issues for the retailer if people who register only have a 0.1% likelihood of redeeming
  • some people do not save the offer immediately (which is the ‘responsible’ thing to do) but when an unexpected requirement to spend £500 at Agent Provocateur comes up, they can no longer find it. This is because other people – who have no intention of visiting Agent Provocateur but ‘saved’ the offer due to the two reasons above – have taken all of the registration spots. Annoyed, the customer decides to spend their £500 elsewhere because they feel they are somehow being ripped off if they still visit Agent Provocateur.

There is an obvious way around these problems, which is to set a cap on the number of REDEMPTIONS. This would cause its own problems, because you wouldn’t know before you made a purchase whether the cashback would appear or not. This isn’t something Amex would want to do.

Another option would be to allow people to un-save an offer. A little nudge (“Won’t use this? Unsave and let another cardholder benefit”) would do the job. It could then be shown again to cardholders who were originally offered it but didn’t save it before it disappeared.

I wish there was an easy answer to this one, but there isn’t.

The only real solution is that Amex and advertisers learn from previous behaviour. If an airline has a £100,000 budget and estimates that 10% of people who ‘save’ will redeem a £100 cashback offer, it will set a limit of 10,000 registrations. If it turns out than only 1% do redeem, it should adjust the next offer to allow 100,000 registrations – possibly with Amex sharing some of the financial risk.

Do you have any other suggestions for this list?

The ideas above will all improve the effectiveness of American Express cashback rewards for Amex, retailers and cardholders. Some will not be easy to implement, but others – especially making the terms and conditions crystal clear – won’t cost a penny.

If you have any other ideas, please comment below.

Amex …. my invoice is in the post.

PS. Here are some additional ideas submitted via the comments:

  • Remove the ‘show all’ button and simply show all of the offers in one list in the first place
  • Restrict the number of offers that can be saved per card, coupled with the ability to unsave other offers to free up space
  • Insist that an offer be redeemed within x days of being saved to your card, or it is removed
  • Speed up the process for saving offers by removing the need for a ‘double click’
  • Improve the wording on ‘percentage’ offers – does ‘get 20% back up to £100’ mean you can earn £20 or £100 cashback?
  • Add a progress counter for those offers which are triggered by cumulative spend

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Comments (152)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul says:

    Amen to all of the above! 100% agree – Amex please listen up! 🙂

  • John says:

    Maybe too difficult but if redemptions were to be limited they could have a counter showing how many are left. Though as the number approaches 0 people will be reluctant to spend if it only made sense with the offer.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      It’s not a redemption limit it’s a saved to card limit.

  • Robert says:

    Yup, yup and yup!

    Mostly the “new at the top” point. I don’t mind if I have a bunch of offers lower in the scroll that I know I’ve already mentally dismissed… But MIGHT happen to want to come back to, as long as it’s a quick-look to see if there’s anything new that I WOULD use.

    On dismissing/targeting analytics, I’d hate for the analytics to rule me out of something I would consider using from one company because I’d dismissed from a similar company in the past (and hearing other people got offered it), so I’m less keen on that, but I can see the value from AMEX’s side.

    I suppose there’s a realistic usage thing here, as well, if they go down analytics to target offers… My 70+ year old dad was (semi-jokingly) “concerned” to see both Agent Provocateur and Ann Summers appear. Partly because “what would your mum think if she thought I’d been spending there!!”, but also, based on his profile and modest spending habits “do AMEX really think I’d be spending £500 in Agent Provocateur any time soon!?!?”. He was more than happy to put a bit more money than usual through Sainsbury’s for triple points (“much more fitting for a man my age”).

  • Nick G says:

    I was only thinking of all of the above the other day….I actually find the offers section now a confusing mess which is why I don’t check as regularly as I should do, nor do I just save offers, which in theory means I could have spent money on a retailer but didn’t. Crazy system which could be sooooooo much better and actually get more spending with Amex. I’m surprised they haven’t twigged on ages ago

  • Simon says:

    Less London focused offers

    • KBuffett says:

      I’ve had it confirmed that Amex don’t contribute financially to retailer offers.
      Retailers approach Amex
      and fund them.

      • Andrew says:

        At the same time, I’ve been aware of statement offers being used as part of the annual fees and acceptance negotiations.

      • In-chan says:

        Does that mean that for Amex, people using the offers with transaction values just at the threshold is still good for Amex? Since they take the transaction fees without having to pay anything for the promotion?

        • In-chan says:

          Ahh! I didn’t interpret that to mean “purely” using the Amex on offers! Meaning most of their usage overall for Amex coming from usage of the offers.
          And I suppose even then, it’s good revenue for Amex, and they don’t complain then!

    • DT says:

      The only offer that Amex financially back is Shop Small, so less London focused businesses need to put offers on Amex. Not much Amex themselves can do about it

  • cinereus says:

    Nobody in a million years is going to unsave an offer even if gently nudged.

    • Mark says:

      …unless there was a limit of how many you could have saved at any one time, so if another offer comes along that you want to sign up to you need to de-sign up from one which you don’t think you will need

    • ThinkSquare says:

      I would. For companies I *might* be interested in, I save them to remind myself to investigate later. (sorry, Tordoff Wines. I’ve got you saved but I won’t be buying)

    • RussellH says:

      I would unsave – I asked for this.
      It is not difficult to make a mistake and click on the wrong box on a computer with a large monitor – I have done it a few times.
      If I were trying to do it on a tiny touch screen (I would not do this, in practice), I reckon that I would save the offer I wanted about 60% of the time, so 40% errors.

    • Patrick Cold says:

      Untrue

      • Rob says:

        Definitely untrue. Human nature – it’s your good deed for the day, and you prove to yourself what a good person you are. No different to holding a door open for someone (unless they have just committed a robbery, I suppose).

  • KBuffett says:

    Push alerts to let you know there is a new offer. Perhaps even with the full offer details and a one click to save the offer from that push alter (obviously this would take you to the app via FaceID)

  • Andrew says:

    No more Sweaty Betty!!!

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