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 money back for every £15 spent at small businesses. You can get money back from shops, restaurants, pubs and even places like hairdressers, galleries and dentists in the form of a statement credit.
Sadly this year the offer has been massively scaled back. But with a few little tricks, you might be able to get around some of the new restriction.
Here’s everything you need to know.
When is Amex Shop Small 2023?
American Express Shop Small 2023 will return for the winter on Friday 1 December 2023. The offer will appear on Amex accounts from 17 November, where you’ll need to add it to your card,
This is a change to the normal kick off date of Small Business Saturday, which this year is on 2 December 2023.
How long does Amex Shop Small last?
Shop Small keeps getting shorter! In 2023 it’ll last for just three days. THREE. This means it’ll end on Sunday 3 December and you’ll only have a single weekend to take advantage of the offer.
This reduction is a huge difference to previous years. In 2022 it lasted for 10 days, down on the 13 of winter 2021, and 16 days in the years before this.
How Shop Small 2023 works
The other pretty big change this year is a further reduction in how many times you can use the offer
- Earn £5 back for a spend of £15 or more (before 2021 this was £5 for every £10 spent)
- You can get the offer at up to three different small shops (previously five shops in 2021 and 2022, and before that in ten shops)
- There’s a cap of £15 earned per card (previously £25 in the last two years, and £50 before that)
Other conditions have stayed stay the same, including the rule that you can only earn a Shop Small credit once per retailer, per card.
Is Shop Small still worth it?
It’s disappointing to see such a drastic reduction in how often you can take advantage of the offer, and how long you’ve got to visit these retailers.
It’s certainly bad news for those who already have plans over the first weekend of December. In the past they’d have had more time to take advantage, but now they will miss out.
It’s also going to be frustrating for those who don’t live in a decent sized town or city. In previous years I’ve shopped locally, but also been able to spend if a trip to London happened to fit in during the fortnight the promotion used to run.
And a cap of £15 also makes it less enticing to get out and make an effort to use the offer. Though, as I share below, there are ways to increase the total return via Shop Small, it’s a far cry from the potential savings just a few years ago.
However, if you have an Amex and you want to a) support local shops, and b) have things you want to buy, it’s still a way to get money back ahead of Christmas.
How to make the most of Shop Small
Here’s what you need to know to take advantage of the offer, and how you can double or more your access to the credit.
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. If it’s not showing right now, keep an eye out in the week. You’ll be able to find it 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 £250 off a £500 United flight, £20 back from a Eurostar trip, 10% off LNER bookings and £100 back from a £250 hotel booking spend – and there are plenty more. I reckon I easily make another £50 to £100 each year from these offers, sometimes much more.
Add it to your partner’s card
If you’ve got an additional, or ‘supplementary’ 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 it also means you can shop twice at the same retailer – once with each card.
You’ve got time to request an additional card if you don’t already have one – though since you are responsible for any spending on the card make sure the person you give it to won’t go on a spending spree.
Apply for an extra American Express credit card
You’re also not limited to a single American Express card. Since the offer is per card not per person if you get another card or two in your name it increases the retailers you can spend at. Remember to perform an eligibility check before applying.
It might even be that you can get a welcome bonus on a second or third card as the Platinum and BA Premium Plus have different eligibility conditions, depending on which cards you already hold. I’ve written more about how to get multiple Amex signup bonuses here.
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 about hotel bars too
- 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
Buy gift cards
If there’s nothing you want to buy right now but you know there will be purchases you’ll make at specific businesses in the short term then you can buy a gift card using Shop Small and it should track fine.
Just remember there are risks with gift cards. They can be lost or expire, or the business can go bust before you get to use the voucher.
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. Be careful if you do this with more than one of your own cards as I’ve seen reports of cards being cancelled as a result – though it’s not happened to me.
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.
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 Shop Small map with a postcode tool that 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, otherwise you might be seeing just a retailer that takes Amex but isn’t part of the promotion. Ticking the Shop Small filter will help avoid this.
Last summer it was a bit erratic (some local shops were showing up as in the middle of the Atlantic ocean!). Hopefully the issues I spotted have been fixed.
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 you’ve already eaten!
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. This tends to happen to me once each year and I’ve always had the credit applied.
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 five 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.
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How I’ll use Shop Small in 2023
What I’ll be buying this year
The changes to the promo in 2021 changed how I take advantage, and that’s even more so with the latest cuts in 2023.
Where as over the last few years I’d mainly spend in restaurants and bars, using it as an opportunity to enjoy a meal out with a little discount, that’s going to be harder over a weekend, especially over multiple cards.
So this year I’ll also look out for retailers that sell gift cards. This means I can extend the offer by a few weeks and months. Though be careful here not to forget you have the voucher or let it expire.
How to get an Amex credit card for Shop Small
If you don’t already have one, you can still apply for one and should get it in time for the promotion. 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 spending every month, then don’t even apply! The interest charges will far outweigh the benefits you get).
Right now there are a couple of boosted refer-a-friend welcome bonuses, which is normally a great extra. You can get the increased deals via: