How to make the most from Amex Shop Small 2021

Get £5 back when you spend £15 at small shops during the American Express Shop Small event.

Every year, American Express runs a Shop Small offer giving £5 cashback for every £10 spent at small businesses. You can get money back from shops, restaurants and even places like hairdressers, galleries and dentists in the form of a statement credit.

There’s usually a £50 limit to each card, and you can only use the offer once per participating retailer. That means you can shop at 10 different retailers at most to get the credit.

Though it’s traditional outing is just before Christmas it’s going to return in June 2021, albeit with slightly different rules.

Here’s everything you need to know.

When is Amex Shop Small 2021?

Shop Small will return from 5 June 2021, running for almost three weeks. It’ll end on 25 June 2021.

This is an extra Shop Small, and the promotion has been confirmed to return in December 2021. This is when promotion normally runs, lasting two weeks. In recent years has been the first two weeks of the month or the last two weeks just before Christmas.

How Shop Small in June 2021 will work

There are some changes to the scheme for this summer. There’s no indication yet whether this is a permanent change which we’ll see when it returns at Christmas.

Here’s what you can earn:

  • You now earn £5 back for a £15 spend (previously this was £5 for every £10 spent)
  • You an get the offer at up to five different small shops (previously this was 10)
  • There’s a cap of £25 earned per card (previously this was £50)

So you can only earn half as much as you normally would. Plus you’ll have to spend at least 50% more.

Other conditions stay the same, including the rule that you can only earn a Shop Small credit once per retailer per card.

Why I love Shop Small

It’s my favourite money saving deal of the year – I get to save money and help small businesses. Win win!

In previous years I’ve nabbed credit for posh chocs at fancy Soho shop Paul Young Fine Chocolates, bought cheese and spices from Borough Market, picked up a nice bottle of wine and some beers from local off licences, cut the price of some drinks at pubs, and ate for less at loads of restaurants. And since Becky has a card too, she does the same.

Is it still worthwhile with the cuts?

In previous years, by maxing out the usual cap of £50 per cardholder we’ve easily been saving £100 as a couple. And though we weren’t ever spending exactly £10 per purchase to say it was a 50% discount, we often weren’t too far off.

That’s obviously changing. For a start we’re going to be down to £25 down per card. This fifty percent drop is a big difference. It’s also a shame that as part of that we can only save at five shops rather than 10.

And we’re going to have to spend at least £5 more per transaction to get the discount. That means the total spend per card will be at least £75, rather than at least £50.

So it’s frustrating, and definitely means it’s not as good as it used to be. Even discounting the increased spend for smaller rewards, it also means I’ll be enticed to shop at fewer retailers.

But I still think it’s a great promotion. As with any offer, the idea is to only buy things you need. So you’re hopefully still saving money on the things you were buying. Just not as much.

How to make the most of Shop Small

Here’s what you need to know to take advantage of the offer.

Add the offer to your card

The offer isn’t automatically applied to your account. You need to “add” the offer to your card to take advantage. This can be found in the offer section of your online account or app.

Throughout the year you’ll also see other decent offers. Over the years I’ve gained £20 back from a Eurostar trip, £5 back from Amazon and £10 back from a £50 Gap spend – and there are plenty more. I reckon I easily make another £50 to £100 each year, sometimes much more.

Add it to your partner’s card

If you’ve got an additional card on your account for your partner, then make sure they also add the offer to their card. This means you can both take advantage of the promotion. And if you have more than one Amex, make sure you add it to that too.

Think beyond your normal shopping

It’s easy to always buy things at the same big shops, or visit the same places. Well this is your chance to try new stores and businesses.

Some of the businesses I’ll be looking out for:

  • Off-licences – great for stocking up on wine and beer
  • Corner shops – again, good for booze, but also food and random household things
  • Cafes and restaurants – plenty of places to get a cheaper lunch or meals out
  • Bars and pubs – don’t forget to about hotel bars
  • Small boutiques –  a good opportunity to find small gifts
  • Museums and galleries – even if you don’t want to see an exhibition, check out the shop or cafe
  • Services like dentists, dry cleaning or picture framing

Stack your savings

I love a good deal stack, where you use multiple promotions at once. So when you’re using Shop Small, look for other offers. A really good one is the set menu at participating restaurants. 

Split the bill

If you’re using Shop Small at a restaurant and you’re with someone else using Amex, you can split the bill so you both get the credit. Of course with the increased minimum spend this means the final bill needs to be at least £30 when previously it was £20.

Pay off the card each month

Obviously you should only spend money you can afford, so though it’s great to support small businesses, especially now, only spend money you have.

It’s vital you don’t get charged interest on your purchases so try to clear the full balance each month.

Of course, if you limit your spend to close to £10, or just over, you’ll be saving near to 50% on your purchase.

How to find out what shops are taking part in Shop Small

Lots of shops will have a Shop Small sticker in the window, but there’s an easier way to check who is taking part.

On the American Express website, you can use a map with postcode tool which shows you all the businesses near you.

It helps to zoom in and refresh the map as it won’t display every shop if you’re looking at a large area. You can also filter by shop, entertainment, eating and drinking, travel and “services”.

Make sure the Shop Small logo is displayed in the search results, or you click the Shop Small filter. Otherwise you might be seeing just a retailer that takes Amex but isn’t part of the promotion.

> Search for local small businesses taking part in Shop Small

What if the shop says it’s not taking part in Shop Small?

I’ve had this happen to me a few times. It’s listed on the map as taking part, but when you go to pay you’re told they don’t take American Express.

It’s frustrating and potentially embarrassing. At a shop you can just say you’ve changed your mind, but in a restaurant you don’t have that luxury!

If this happens, make a note of the shop and keep your receipt, then call up Amex. They’ll investigate but as long as it’s on the map with the Shop Small logo they should pay you the money.

What if the Shop Small credit isn’t applied?

When credit is applied to your account it says which retailer it relates to. This should happen within 5 days. But sometimes the credit doesn’t come through.

As above, if you’ve paid with American Express at a shop that’s listed as part of the promotion but the credit isn’t added to your card you should call up. They’ll probably ask you to wait for 90 days after the offer ends.

I’ve had this happen a few times, so it’s worth keeping track of where you’ve spent the money and what hasn’t come through so you can ask for the manual credit.

Who pays for Amex Shop Small discounts?

Don’t worry – the money all comes from American Express. So the shops and retailers won’t be out of pocket at all. You genuinely are helping shops by using this offer.

How to get an Amex credit card for Shop Small

If you don’t already have one, an American Express cashback credit card is a great way to earn a little back from your spending. It could take up to two weeks for your card to arrive, though it’s usually much quicker. Even so don’t delay if you want to use it during Shop Small.

(A quick aside, if you don’t feel confident you’ll be able to pay off your spend every month, then don’t even apply! The interest charges will far outweigh the benefits you get).

There are a few decent cashback options, which I’ve written about in full in a separate article. But in brief:

If you’ve not had an Amex reward or cashback card in your name in the last two years then the best is probably the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card. This gives:

  • 20,000 points (worth up to £186 in Nectar points) if you spend £3,000 in the first three months
  • 1 point on every pound spent after that (worth 0.8 Nectar points)
  • There is a £125 annual fee in the second year

You can also get a Nectar Amex Credit Card

  • 20,000 Nectar points (worth £100) if you spend £2,000 in first three months
  • Two Nectar points (worth 1%) on every pound spent after that
  • Up to three Nectar points at Nectar partners
  • There is a £25 annual fee (zero in the first year)

If you don’t qualify for the bonus then the Amex Platinum Cashback Credit Card is worth considering, though rates drop in July 2021. This gives:

  • 5% (up to £125) for the first three months
  • 1% cashback on every pound spent after that (0.75% from 1 July)
  • Increases to 1.25% if you spend more than £10,001
  • There is a £25 annual fee (though Quidco will give you £20 cashback when you apply)

An alternative is the Amex Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card:

  • 5% (up to £100) for the first three months
  • 0.5% cashback on every pound spent after that
  • Increases to 1% if you spend more than £5,001 (£10,000 from July 2021)
  • No annual fee

Check if you’re eligible before applying as a rejection could hurt your credit score. Each of these cards allows you to do this before you apply.

Get bonus cashback when you apply for a card via Quidco or TopCashback

Quidco currently offers £20 cashback if you apply for the Platinum Cashback card via them.

If you’ve not already signed up to cashback site Quidco you can get another £17 for joining up via a link that’s exclusive to my newsletter subscribers. You’ll need to spend £10 at any other shop first, then apply for the card’s cashback as the Amex application won’t count towards this £10 spend as you’re not spending anything to get the credit card.

If you’d rather apply for the Nectar Amex, you can get £30 cashback from TopCashback. Again, if you’ve not signed up to them, there’s a new member bonus. You’ll need to spend £10 at any shop and you’ll get a £10 bonus.

13 thoughts on “How to make the most from Amex Shop Small 2021

  1. Thought this was an ‘ all you have to do is spend with this retailer ‘ offer. Do Amex ers now have to proir apply ?

  2. Hi, the offer is launched in the Amex app. December 5 to 20, 2020.

  3. How do they notify customers as I just stumbled across it on my app.

    1. I got an email, but I regularly check the app for new offers

  4. Is it possible to obtain a comprehensive list rather than the map ?

    Is the £5 applied to your account shortly after you have used your card you don’t have to wait for your statement ?

    1. It depends. Sometimes it’s pretty fast, other times it takes a while – do keep an eye on your statement to check it comes through

  5. Prof Tim Noakes on YouTube December 7, 2018 at 11:31 pm

    I’ve just got a new Amex card but this is not in my Available Offers (the only offer there is Transport for London 10% back).

    1. Call them up – it’s a huge promotion for them so should be on every card

  6. This has happened to me a couple of times in previous years, the listed business I have registered for on the Amex list has refused. Both times I rang Amex customer service and they credited my account with the £5’s

  7. I love this offer, but in the past I’ve found that quite a few shops on the Amex map don’t even take Amex. So check before you spend!

    1. Oh really? Luckily I’ve not had that but great tip for people

    2. Tell Amex – they told me they are tracking it and contacting the shops. I told them about the one place that refused it despite being listed in the promotion (but as I wanted to go there anyway I still bought my shopping).

      1. Often they do take ex but the fees are higher so try to stop you. Best to just do contactless without asking. By the time they have noticed it is too late…. Or add the card to apple pay / Google pay to help. That still tracks ok.


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