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Get £5 back when you spend £10 at small shops during the American Express Shop Small event.

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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.

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

Last year I 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 two local off licences, cut the price of some drinks at a couple of pubs, and ate for less at three or four restaurants. And since Becky has a card too, she did the same. And if we had more time, we’d have eaten and drunk out much more!

When is Amex Shop Small 2020?

* Update: Shop Small 2020 will start on Saturday 5th December and run until Sunday 20th December. It’s now available to add to your card on the app or in your account*

The promotion normally runs for two weeks in December. In recent years has been the first two weeks of the month or the last two weeks just before Christmas.

How to make the most of the scheme

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. 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.

Of course not every shop will be open in June or even July, which is no doubt why the offer is running until mid-September.

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

Last year Becky and I ate out at three or four restaurants (and split the bill so we each got our £5 back), picked up spices, meat and cheese at various stalls in Borough Market, stocked up on beer and wine at a few off-licences and lots more.

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. 

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:

I think the best is the Amex Platinum Cashback Credit Card. This gives:

  • 5% (up to £125) for the first three months
  • 1% cashback on every pound spent after that
  • 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
  • No annual fee

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 four Nectar points at Nectar partners
  • There is a £25 annual fee (zero in the first year)

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.

> Sign up to my newsletter and you’ll get an exclusive offer at Quidco to get a £17 bonus when you spend £10, then apply for an Amex Platinum Cashback card and get £25 cashback

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 £15 at any shop and you’ll get a £15 bonus.

> Sign up to TopCashback to get a £15 bonus when you spend £15at any shop, then search for Amex Nectar and get £30 cashback

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