Credit card rewards: Big Amex Shop Small changes explained

Posted: 1 April 2021 7:21 am

American Express has swapped cashback for extra points and made Shop Small a year-long offer in 2021.

This new version of Shop Small offers card members 3 extra points per $1 spent with participating small businesses and runs from 1 April 2021 until 31 March 2022. That gives you around 12 months to earn the maximum 40,000 points on offer.

This means Amex card members have a year to get rewarded for supporting small businesses through challenging times – and it comes just as support through JobKeeper is ending.

"It's encouraging to see consumers, big business and government rallying to back the sector, but now is not the time for complacency," American Express Australia's vice president of small and medium enterprises, Lisa Belcher, said in a statement.

"That's why Shop Small is returning all-year round to remind shoppers that if they want to see these businesses survive, they have to take action and spend with them regularly."

How Amex Shop Small works in 2021

To earn extra points through Shop Small, American Express card members need to save the Shop Small offer to their eligible card and then shop directly with participating small businesses between now and 31 March 2022.

Eligible cards include those that earn Membership Rewards points, Qantas Points and Velocity Points. The points you do earn should be added to your account within 5 business days of meeting the spend requirement, although the terms and conditions state that it could take up to 90 days from when the offer ends.

A screenshot of the saved Amex Shop Small offer for a card that earns Qantas Points. Screenshot has been edited to remove identifying information.

How does this compare to past Amex Shop Small offers?

I have an American Express credit card and have always appreciated how much Amex encourages card members to support small businesses. But, to be really honest, the idea of cashback was a lot more appealing than extra points. Until I crunched some numbers to compare this offer with the Shop Small in 2020.

Last year, an eligible card member could earn up to $50 cashback between 10 June and 31 August. To get the full amount of cashback, you had to spend a minimum of $10 at 10 small businesses that were part of the program. That's a total spend of $100.

While the dollar value you'll get from Shop Small in 2021 isn't as clear as it would be with cashback, you have the potential to get a lot more value from this year's offer.

As an example, if you earned the maximum 40,000 points through Membership Rewards, you could redeem them for $200 worth of shopping at David Jones.

Or, with 40,000 Qantas Points or Velocity Points, you could get a return business class flight between Sydney and Melbourne which would usually cost at least $600 if you were paying for it.

It's worth pointing out that to earn the maximum number of points offered through Shop Small, you'd also need to spend around $13,333 at participating small businesses between now and 31 March 2022. But based on the examples above, even spending a quarter of that amount would give you a similar level of value to the 2020 Shop Small cashback offer.

How Shop Small helps small business owners

You can't put a price tag on the feeling that comes from supporting people running a small business and that is at the core of American Express's Shop Small program.

In fact, internal data from American Express shows American Express card members have contributed more than $6 billion to the Australian small business sector through Shop Small between 2013 and 2020.

This year, American Express said there are thousands of additional businesses taking part. That includes sole traders and other sellers that use Square for payments, thanks to a partnership between Amex and Square.

"We're not out of the woods yet, and businesses still need help as we navigate the economic burden of the last twelve months," head of business development for Square Australia, Colin Birney, said in a statement.

"That's why we're delighted to be partnering with Amex to enable every single Square seller to be a part of the Shop Small initiative and benefit from the extra business that will come their way as a result of it."

This really is the heart of Shop Small: supporting small businesses. As the small business and family enterprise ombudsman Bruce Billson said in a release about the 2021 version of Shop Small: "every Australian has the power to play a role in helping the sector, just by being conscious of where they're spending their money and ensuring that wherever possible, they put small business first."

Getting some extra value in the process? For me, that's the icing on the cake.

Got an American Express card? Log in to your account today and see if you're eligible to register for Shop Small. If you don't have an Amex card and want one, you can compare your options on Finder now.

Images: Amy Bradney-George

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