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STARTS TODAY: Save up to £25 with American Express Shop Small for Christmas 2021

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American Express Shop Small returns today, Saturday 4th.

Whilst Amex has been chipping away at the attractiveness of Shop Small over the last couple of years, it still remains a decent way to save on some Christmas shopping.

Despite the cap of £25 cashback, there is a separate limit for every Amex card you hold – with a further separate limit for supplementary cards – so it is still possible to do well.

American Express Amex Shop Small

What is American Express Shop Small?

‘Shop Small’ is designed to encourage you to shop in local independent stores instead of major chains.

(‘Shop Small UK’ is, of course, also a way for American Express to persuade more small shops to sign up to accept American Express cards.)

Starting from today and running until 15th December, you will receive £5 cashback on the first FIVE transactions you make for £15 or more at participating ‘Shop Small’ businesses.

There are very few rules apart from the fact that you can only get one £5 cashback per shop per card.  You can, of course, register multiple American Express cards if you have more than one.

Cashback is capped at £25 per card. Supplementary cards are treated separately and have their own cap, so you could technically get more than £25 cashback.

You get a separate £25 cashback limit for each American Express card you hold.

How does Shop Small UK work?

It is a simple process:

You MUST register your credit or charge card before making a ‘Shop Small’ purchase:

‘Shop Small’ should appear as a card offer online or in the app.  Look under the ‘Offers’ tab on the American Express website for each card you have.

(If you do not have the offer on your card, reach out to Amex customer services who will add it manually for you.)

You can register by going to the American Express website, logging in and looking under ‘My Offers’ on the statement page.

Corporate American Express cards do not quality, but the small business cards usually do.

You can also register a supplementary card (an additional card held by your partner or friend on the same account) as long as it has a different card number to your main card and has its own separate Amex log-in.

You must find a participating ‘Shop Small’ small shop:

The main Shop Small website is here which contains a link to an interactive map where you can find participating shops in your area.  You will also often see a Shop Small sticker in a shop window.

Beware that this map, in previous years, has not been accurate. Often in a good way (some shops not featured give the credit) and often in a bad way (shops on the map are closed or don’t even accept Amex).  Your best option is to use your Amex whenever you can during the Shop Small period and see what hits.

It is worth noting that it is not just sellers of ‘things’ who are taking part. You will find cafes and even the occasional pub taking part. 

You can even get credits when you are not expecting them – during the Summer 2021 ‘Shop Small’ offer, Rob found that purchases he made in Gibraltar were triggering cashback

You must make a qualifying purchase of £15 or more:

You can make one purchase per registered card per shop that is taking part in ‘Shop Small’.  

Supplementary cards can get credit at the same shop as a card where the main cardholder has already made a purchase.  You can also get credit for different American Express cards at the same shop.

For example …. Rob and his wife have six American Express cards, including supplementary cards, between them.  They can earn 6 x £5 cashback payments at the same store over the promotional period, as long as they use a different registered card each time.

American Express appears to have stopped sending email confirmations after a cashback transaction is made, so don’t expect to receive any notifications.  A £5 credit for every £15 purchase will be added onto your credit card account within a few days of the original charge hitting your statement.

Note that American Express has closed down card accounts before (including some HfP readers) when they believe that ‘Shop Small’ has been abused.  ‘Abuse’ includes asking a retailer to break down a transaction into chunks of £15 and paying each £15 with a different registered American Express card.  This is easy for Amex to spot when transactions are processed within a few seconds of each other.

For clarity …. this promotion is fully funded by American Express as part of its campaign to encourage more small shops to accept the card.  It is not funded by the shop so you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking part.

You can find out more on the American Express website here.

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Comments (54)

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

  • Cranzle says:

    Shop small is purely a marketing drive to increase acceptance of Amex. It was preceded by a drive by Amex to force all merchants to accept Amex. They did this by reaching agreements with merchant service providers such as Barclaycard and PaymentSense to automatically switch on Amex acceptance on all accounts unless the merchant spots the junk mail style letter that lands on their doorstep and then actively opts out. Furthermore, any Amex payments are not paid out to the merchant until the merchant then completes the sign up with Amex (so the terminal accepts the Amex payment, but Amex don’t pay the merchant out). Hence why you often hear the merchant say they don’t accept Amex when the terminal does in fact. They then started the hugely advertised Shop Small campaign and sent footfall into merchants.

    The default commission rate is very high for Amex, and they have only recently started negotiating them down for smaller merchants.

    Overall I think Amex has a bad reputation with small merchants, and their forced implementation strategy has led to all these merchants appearing on the map as outlets that accept Amex. But if the merchant chooses to switch to a different machine (iZettle etc), their name remains on the map.

    Sorry for the long and boring post!

    • Andrew says:

      What’s wrong with iZettle?

      I’ve had ShopSmall trigger when I’ve used Amex at an iZettle merchant.

      • Will says:

        That is very interesting to know.
        I had the opposite and iZettle didn’t trigger but I will retry this year as shop had very recently changed to iZettle last time.

        When I had a physical store our Amex rates were the same as visa/MasterCard, just paid a lot slower.

        • RussellH says:

          During the final years of my business, 2009-2013, my Amex rates were lower than Visa/MasterCard. At the time Amex said that they had decided to charge all businesses exactly the same rate, but as I was in travel, which is regarded by Visa/MasterCard as high risk, I was paying higher charges.
          At the time, many merchant acquirers would not touch travel businesses at all.
          Payment from Amex was 3 days, Visa/MasterCard was 2 days, all as per contracts.
          Shop Small came in just as I was in final stages of selling the business.

          • Bonglim says:

            That is interesting – I was speaking to our sandwich shop – who told me it took ages to get money when amex is used.

      • Chas says:

        I’ve never had iZettle purchases trigger which is really annoying as there are many small independent retailers near where I live who I regularly shop with who use it. Fingers crossed this will change for me time….

  • ankomonkey says:

    What pi55es me off is merchants that have been reported as not taking Amex still appearing on the list. Once upon a time Amex CS would give you a credit, but wouldn’t from last year. The merchant I reported and was refused credit for is still on the list. I only used them because of Shop Small. Yes, it was only £5, but if they appear on the map then Amex should give the credit or take them off the map!

    • Cranzle says:

      The reasons for this is that the merchant may have an active Amex merchant account (this appearing on the map), but the merchant may not be using the relevant PDQ machines on the shop floor. They may have moved to another provider and are just riding out the contract, or simply Amex don’t update the map.

      • Mattb says:

        A pub near me was on the list and when checking discovered it only accepted Amex at the upstairs bar. Noone understood why.

    • Char Char says:

      Yes it is completely badly run, I would only bother going to places I have been previously that I know accept Amex, no more trialling if you want your sanity!

      • JPa says:

        I did get credits for a local shop that is on the list every time and never works. Contacted for mine and my wife’s accounts and they got credited.

        If you just report them for not taking it you don’t get the £5 anymore.

  • Hotinnewcastle says:

    Anyone used shop small online with zig zag photography and got the offer?

  • Paul says:

    Slightly aside, anyone else finding Domino’s no longer accepting Amex? Website claims they do, but payment option has been removed…

  • Chris says:

    I’d be amazed if anyone got into trouble with Amex now for ‘gaming’ Shop Small – there’s nothing to game anymore.

    • Matty says:

      My butcher is quite happy to sell me 9 x gift vouchers across 9 cards for £15 each. He’d be quite happy to do 9 separate transactions of £15 on the cards but I don’t have enough room in the freezer for all the meat. This might be gaming the system.

      • Rui N. says:

        That’s exactly what gaming the system is. And, of course, the opportunity is exactly the same as it was before, the only thing that changed are the values involved.

      • Chas says:

        Just go in on different days and buy them. Or if your partner has a card use that to split a transaction – it’s not gaming it if you both made a transaction one after the other, as that could be genuine (whereas you making 2 transactions a minute apart looks dodgy).

      • Bonglim says:

        Gaming the system at the butchers…. were you getting pheasant and venison?

  • The Original Nick. says:

    I’ve just looked on the map for a certain business I buy gift cards from every December and it’s not showing but when I search for it in ‘Search by Business’ it is there. It’s always shown on the map in the past. I have taken 5 or 6 different Amex cards and used them all in the past but I don’t think I’ll be doing that this year.

  • PM says:

    Any intelligence on oyster top ups anyone?

  • John says:

    Have the “You’ve just used Shop Small” emails stopped does anyone know?
    We used it across various cards several times yesterday – but no emails.
    They were all reliable businesses we have used Shop Small in many times before and we’re not relying on the useless map.

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