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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.

  • BuildBackBetter says:

    Tbh, more personalisation would mean excluding all brands you already spend on. So careful what you wish for!

  • Olivia says:

    I work in advanced advertising and cannot see how Amex aren’t better at targeting their customers. The amount of data Amex must be gathering should allow for more targeted and therefore more used offers. Nectar are brilliant at this (even if they have reduced their points dramatically on their app for Sainsburys) but I will happily go out of my way to buy what I’m being rewarded for as they know it appeals to me.

    Obviously there’s data sharing issues which may cause banks like Amex to be cautious on how they optimise their 1st party data – but I for one would rather be presented with offers i’d use and are applicable to me and my transaction habits rather than offers just sit there and go unused. You obviously can’t cater for absolutely every single cardholder but surely more can be done for a better experience.

  • HughM says:

    I make a point of saving way-out offers I am never likely to use. By doing so, I believe I send a message back to the Amex computer that I’m a keen spender and encourage it – sooner or later – to steer something more worthwhile my way.
    Incidentally, special offers are relatively sparse on the £3 monthly Club Lloyds current account (on the debit card). Still, I saved a few. Now, out of the blue, I have a worthwhile £40 credit for opening a Tesco Mobile direct debit. Am I wrong to see a connection (between saving useless offers and getting something good)?

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Just speculating, but I believe someone mentioned, they divide their customers into those who used offers, those who saved but not used it and the remaining (larger) base. If a merchant decides to target only those who havent saved the offer before, you lose out.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Correlation doesn’t imply causation.

  • barnaby100 says:

    After 35 years we are bailing on Amex. We have BA companion vouchers coming out of our ears due to cancelled travel. The current and expected lack of 1st class redemptions means that value of a 2 for 1 offer is reduced. We rarely get offers we will use- Hilton being the most redeemed.

    • CarpalTravel says:

      I only just noticed the loss of the First Class redemptions, was there an article / notice about this happening? Do we know if it is temporary?

      • Andrew says:

        First class redemptions haven’t been stopped. Due to aircraft changes BA now have far fewer first class seats in general so are opening fewer to redemptions. I suspect this is exacerbated by uncertainties in upcoming schedules due to travel restrictions. Even on routes where first class normally sells well BA can’t guarantee that the flights will be able to operate so they aren’t currently offering first class redemptions.

      • Rob says:

        Temporary, given that BA has no idea what aircraft it will be flying where at the moment. They are also downgrading people on existing F tickets to Business in order to close the F cabin and reduce the cabin crew required.

        • Craig says:

          Certainly hope they do that for my optimistic trip to Singapore and Bali in Feb. 75% refund would make the holiday even better value.

          • Polly says:

            We are in the same situation in November this year in F…

        • CarpalTravel says:

          Thanks Rob & Andrew for the great answers. Appreciated.

  • KBuffett says:

    A lot of the comments here are comments about the retailers and their choice of marketing strategy and thus nothing to do with AmEx

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      How dare they not give us free money! How dare they not give me discounts on what I anyway spend on?

      • CarpalTravel says:

        True, but with both Ann Summers and Agent Provocateur on two of my cars it actually feels as though someone at Amex is smirking at me.

  • Tim Tinsley says:

    Stop sending me emails for offers that are not on my account . I got an email about the Hilton offer yesterday (which I would use) but it’s nowhere to be seen on my account

    • 747_Brat says:

      I have had this issue too and it is frustrating to contact Amex to get the offer added manually every time.

      • RussellH says:

        As a matter of curiosity, do you get the same error message as I do?
        “System currently unavailable or Please check the URL and try again”

  • Ian says:

    Yes, yes, yes to pretty much all the HFP suggestions.

  • Rob says:

    Auto apply all offers to all cards (save the capped ones) – why make me jump through any hoops, merely let me know which offers are new via push notifications (and backed up in the offers section if I forget). I find having to opt in to everything for both my supplementary card & my card is just a pain. Like I’ve got 30mins to burn getting all the offers signed up to each card!!

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

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