This time of year is expensive for people, there are no two ways about it. That’s why this particular promotion is so timely. Shop Small is a campaign that has run for roughly the last 3-4 years (in the UK), offering an incentive for customers to shop at smaller local businesses.
Small Business Saturday traditionally kicks off the promotional period and this year it takes place on 2nd December 2017.
If played cleverly, you can save hundreds of pounds on shopping and restaurant meals!
How it works
The basics of Shop Small are really straightforward. All you have to do is spend £10 or more at participating small business and you will receive a £5 credit back on your card.
There is no limit to the number of £5 credits that you can receive during Shop Small although a credit will only be awarded once per card, per retailer. Note the emphasis on per card, this is key to maximising Shop Small as I will explain shortly.
You just need to register your card(s) once and you are set to go for the duration of the promotion.
Shop Small runs from 2 – 17 December 2017.
How to find participating retailers
Technically, the easiest way of locating participating shops is via the Shop Small Map.
This will show, based on your current location, a list of nearby retailers that accept Amex and are a registered ‘Shop Small’ shop.
However, in past years, changes to the map have been slow and the list may not be comprehensive. The best practice is to use the map as your starting point. If you know of a local shop that does take Amex, the chances are good that it will trigger a credit, even if it’s not listed on the map.
Traditionally, Amex has also been very good at manually adding credit for those who used their Amex cards at Small Shops who were not listed on the map. If your spend doesn’t trigger a credit, give them a ring.
Register your cards
The majority of Amex cards are eligible for Shop Small whether they are directly issued by Amex or not.
MBNA and Lloyds-issued cards are included but Barclaycard or TSB ones are unfortunately not.
Directly issued Amex cards
When you log-in to your online account, either via the desktop site or the app, under the Offers Tab there should an entry that looks like this:
Simply save the offer to your card. If for any reason it isn’t showing, contact Amex and they will add it manually for you.
MBNA/Lloyd’s Amex cards
You need to register your card(s) via this special registration page.
How to maximise savings
So while you could approach Shop Small passively, with the odd £5 off here and there, what would be the fun in that?
You need to think out of the box. Instead of doing your regular weekly supermarket shop, see if you can buy those same items at a local Shop Small shop. Then split the bill over a number of cards and the savings will quickly add up. Just pick a quiet time so you don’t hold up the whole shop behind you.
The king here is supplementary cards. Earlier, I highlighted the wording that allowed for a £5 credit per card, per retailer. Crucially, every supplementary card has a different card number – allowing you to register it separately for Shop Small – thus allowing you to earn multiple credits at each retailer.
If you were to have four supplementary cards plus the primary card, you could visit a single shop and split a £50 bill into £10 chunks across the cards. The result: 50% off and a £25 saving!
Here are some straightforward tips that will help you scale up your savings via supplementary cards:
1.) Add as many (complimentary) supplementary cards as you can
Amex allows you to add a number of people to your card as supplementary cardholders for free. You may have some added already, to allow your partner/children to spend using your account.
However, their website is fairly ambiguous about how many additional cardholders you are allowed to add to each card.
The rough guidelines are as follows:
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card – 1 free supplementary card, £45 per card thereafter.
American Express Platinum Card – 1 free supplementary Platinum card, 4 free Gold/Green cards.
British Airways Premium Plus Card – No limit listed – website simply states additional cards are free.
British Airways Credit Card – No limit listed – website simply states additional cards are free.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card – No limit listed – website simply states additional cards are free.
As an aside, any supplementary cards that you order should arrive at the primary cardholder’s home address. This means you needn’t worry about your family member/mate having a go at maxing out your credit limit with their new supplementary card, just for a laugh.
2.) Get a supplementary card in your own name
This is a great trick. For a quick and easy additional cardholder, you can get yourself a second card! This is often used by people as a simple way of separating business and personal expenses. But for Shop Small it’ll do the job very nicely indeed.
On the application form simply fill out your own details and select ‘Other’ when prompted for your relationship with the primary cardholder.
It’s worth noting that adding supplementary cards via either of these two methods is redundant for MBNA-issued Amex cards. That’s because the long card number on the primary card and all subsequent supplementary cards is the same – though I’m not quite sure why. This, unfortunately, means it will be strictly one £5 credit per account per retailer when it comes to the MBNA cards. Shame, as it would have been nice to make back some more of the £140 annual fee on my Virgin Black card.
3.) Split your bills
As alluded to earlier, obvious as this might sound, there’s no need to just pay with one card. If you visit a Shop Small restaurant, don’t make do with just one £5 credit back, split a £30 bill into £10 chunks across three cards. You can scale this up as much as you want. Restaurants should be used to groups coming in and having to split the bill at the end of a meal, so you shouldn’t encounter too much trouble.
4.) Buy (gift) vouchers
This is about thinking beyond Shop Small. While you may not want to spend all 15 days of Shop Small eating at restaurants three times a day, you will likely dine out at various points during the rest of the year. Many shops/bars/restaurants will be happy to issue you with a voucher to use, valid long beyond the end of Shop Small. Stock up on these and you can enjoy discounted shopping/eating out for months.
Again, more common sense but if you are going to do this, pick a time when you know a shop will be quiet. You’ll find staff much more willing to accommodate your requests if they don’t have seven impatient people queuing behind you.
Shop Small is a very effective promotion. Simply from speaking to friends, this is a time of year where people discover local shops and restaurants that they have never stepped foot in previously. Yet, because those shops are a Shop Small retailer, they’ll check out their offering and more often than not end up returning throughout the year.
Effective planning is important here. Start by applying now for any new Amex primary /supplementary cards you might need, in advance of the 2nd December start date. It is also worth taking 5 minutes to draw up a quick list of interesting shops within a reasonable radius of your office or home.
For some people, this will all be far too much faff. They might register their card and end up picking up a couple of £5 credits along the way. For others, this is a great opportunity. If you are paying an annual fee on an Amex card, this is also a great way to ‘recoup’ a good part of that fee!