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Earn Big As You Shop Small With American Express
Smart Money

Earn Big As You Shop Small With American Express

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For many card members, one of the most appealing aspects of having an American Express card is the opportunity it provides to earn rewards. Within the extensive Amex range, pretty much every card is a rewards earner.

So, whether you want to keep costs down by paying no annual fee, or you’re happy to spend big on annual fees to get more back in extras, there is a rewards-earning American Express card for you.

But it’s more than that. Within the Amex range, you can choose which points program you want to earn on, whether that’s Qantas or Velocity, or indeed, American Express’s own Membership Rewards program.

As for earn rate, you may find that’s favourable too. When you compare American Express cards with those of a similar tier from other issuers, Amex cards often come out on top. And, unlike so many other of those options out there, American Express cards place no limit on the number of points you can earn.

Well then. Great selection, favourable earn rate, uncapped rewards. What could be better than that? How about the chance to earn even more rewards as you spend day to day?

Boost Your Points Earn With Shop Small

Shop Small is back! If you already have an American Express card in your wallet, you’ve probably heard of Shop Small. If not, we’ll go over the basics now.

American Express first introduced its Shop Small campaign back in 2013. Designed to encourage card members to spend within small businesses, that first campaign gave card members $10 back each time they spent more than $20 on their card at participating retailers.

Limited to a week-long period at the end of November, the campaign allowed card members to benefit from that $10 credit up to five times, providing a total of $50 credit back onto their card.

Over the years, American Express continued to offer Shop Small events, varying the spend amount, the amount of credit provided back to the card member, and the length of the campaign – all the while, keeping each campaign fairly short.

As card members Shop Small now, they can earn points on their spend instead of credit. With the campaign lasting a year – finishing up at the end of March 2022 – it gives card members the opportunity to up to a maximum of 40,000 points, providing an extra 3 points per $1 on their small business spend.

Small Businesses Suffering

Over the past year, small business has been hit hard. During lockdown, many shops had to close their doors, leaving consumers to turn instead to bigger retailers that had the processes in place to provide online delivery.

Coffee shops, bars and restaurants also suffered, losing out on business as punters stayed at home, either through choice, or because of restrictions put in place by the government. Businesses that relied on tourist dollars were similarly affected, as borders opened and closed, opened and closed.

While the government’s JobKeeper program helped to keep many of those businesses afloat over the past year, JobKeeper payments ended as the program wrapped up at the end of March.

Now, it seems it’s time for us as consumers to help out, spending locally to support those small businesses as they build themselves back up.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy and our communities,” newly appointed Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson said. “Their recovery won’t happen overnight and there are many factors that need to be addressed from the top-down – from access to capital and the reduction of red tape.”

“But 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.”

Which is exactly what American Express is tapping into with its new Shop Small campaign.

Channelling Our Small Business Spend

By creating a more enticing program, where card members can earn ‘bonus’ points for shopping small, American Express is working to channel more spending towards the small business community. And, not just over a matter of weeks this time – for an entire year.

“The resilience that Australian small business operators have shown throughout the COVID crisis has been extraordinary,” Lisa Belcher, Vice President of Small and Medium Enterprises for American Express Australia, said in a statement.

“It’s encouraging to see consumers, big business and government rallying to back the sector, but now is not the time for complacency. 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.”

So, how much of a helping hand could this be to small businesses? During the much smaller Shop Small campaigns that took place between 2013 and 2020, American Express card members channeled more than $6 billion into the Australian small business sector.

Given the scope of this campaign, Shop Small has the potential to have a significant impact on small business, encouraging card members to provide the support those businesses need, not just to survive day to day, but to grow and expand.

“We’ve witnessed first-hand the immense pressure that businesses have been under this year,” said Colin Birney, Head of Business Development for Square Australia. “But our sellers haven’t been defeated.”

“It’s brought out their resilient and entrepreneurial best. We’ve seen barber shops creating merch brands to add a new revenue stream; fish and chip shops giving their customers online ordering options; people that were laid off starting businesses for the very first time.”

But, we’re not out of the woods yet, Mr Birney stated. “Businesses still need help as we navigate the economic burden of the last twelve months.”

“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.”

Shopping Big

For many of us stuck at home during lockdown, online shopping became something of a pastime. We couldn’t go out to shop, so we shopped on our phones instead. Large retailers like Amazon benefited handsomely from this arrangement.

According to a recent study of more than 2,000 US consumers, Amazon is the first stop for more than half of online shoppers, way ahead of search engines like Google. But, it seems that’s something many would like to change.

Conducted by digital management software company Sitecore, the survey revealed that 40% of those surveyed said they’d like to reduce their reliance on Amazon. Broken down by age, this sentiment seems to have struck young consumers hardest.

More than half of Gen Z shoppers (53%) and 49% of Millennials said they wanted to cut back on Amazon shopping, compared to 36% of Gen X shoppers and 25% of Baby Boomers. Not only that, 30% overall – 43% of Gen Z and 37% of Millennials – said they felt guilty about shopping there.

So, what was the reason behind this desire to change? The survey indicated 21% wanted to break their Amazon addition because of the low quality goods on offer, 21% said they could find better choices from other retailers, and 12% said it was due to a desire to support other retailers.

“Because the crisis was so long, consumer behaviour shifted,” noted Eric Groves, CEO of Alignable, the online network for small business owners. “So they turned to Amazon to deliver everything to their front door.”

“As a result, we drained an enormous amount of capital out of our local economies and shifted it to Jeff Bezos and Seattle. For small businesses to recover, that shift has to come back in some part to small local businesses.” (1)

What Happens When You Shop Small?

Wondering what difference your dollar could make?

“Say you spend $100 to buy something on Amazon, very little stays in the local community,” Mr Groves continued. “But studies have shown if you spend the same amount of money at a locally-owned business, upwards of $50 to $60 stays and circulates locally, in the form of salaries, taxes, and supplies purchased locally.”

In other words, you can make a difference not just to the small business you buy from, but to other local businesses too. You can help support your local community, simply by choosing to buy small, rather than buying big. Some of the time, at least.

“To maintain a vibrant local community, people need to shift some of that spending back,” Mr Groves said.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t buy stuff on Amazon, but if you wean yourself off of it – instead of 100% of your money going there, spend 25% or 50% locally – that shift would change the economic picture entirely for small retailers decimated by the pandemic.”

Getting Into Shop Small

Ready to Shop Small? Let’s get into what you need to know about this particular Shop Small campaign as an American Express card member. First, the enrollment process.

Already have an American Express online account?

  1. Start by logging in to your American Express online account.
  2. Scroll down to the section ‘Amex Offers’.
  3. Find the Shop Small offer and click ‘Save to Card’.
  4. You are now enrolled in Shop Small for this year.

Have an American Express card and want to enrol manually?

  1. Visit the enrollment page for the 2021 Shop Small offer.
  2. Input your name, email and card details.
  3. Click ‘Save to Card’. You are now enrolled in Shop Small.

Once you’ve enrolled, you can start earning points. You can earn an additional 3 points per $1 at all participating small businesses, on top of your card’s standard earn rate. With the offer due to end on 31 March 2022, you have plenty of opportunity to earn up to that 40,000 extra points cap.

Now to some of that need-to-know small print.

Earning Points

    • If you have a number of American Express cards, you can only earn Shop Small points when using the card to which you have saved the offer. It’s also worth noting that only the primary cardholder can earn Shop Small points. Additional cards do not earn on the program.


    • In terms of earning points, extra points will only be accrued on each whole dollar spent. So, if you spend $22.50, you will earn 66 extra points as part of the Shop Small offer.


    • As for eligible purchases, most spending that would earn points normally – made within participating small businesses, of course – will earn those additional Shop Small points. Amex makes a point of noting you cannot earn Shop Small points on gift card purchases.


    • In addition to that, payments made through third party processors or establishments, such as PayPal, Afterpay or Zip, are also not eligible.


  • One last point on points earning is that you must be enrolled in the relevant loyalty program and have an active loyalty account to receive the points. As an example, if you want to earn Qantas Points, you must be enrolled to earn Qantas Points on the card, and have an active Qantas account.


Redeeming Points

  • As with all other points you earn on your American Express card, any Shop Small points are not redeemable for cash. You can redeem the points you earn within Shop Small in the same way as standard points.
  • When you spend on your card, the points you earn should appear on your billing statement within five business days, but may take up to 90 days from the offer end date.
  • Points will not be applied if your card has been suspended or cancelled. Points may be reversed if your qualifying purchase is refunded or cancelled.

Want more small print? You can find the full terms for Shop Small here.

What About Cashback?

As you may or may not know, American Express recently launched its first cashback credit card on the Australian market. Allowing card members to earn up to 1% cashback on their everyday spend, the American Express Cashback Credit Card creates a worthy alternative for those looking for a simpler way to earn rewards.

As an nice bonus, the card is currently offering new card members 5% bonus cashback on eligible spending within the first three months. Cashback is limited to $200.

What about Shop Small? Happily, the American Express Cashback Credit Card allows card members to benefit as they Shop Small, earning 1.5% bonus cashback on small business spending at participating businesses. Cashback again, is limited to $200 – and the offer ends on this card on 22 March 2022.

How To Reach 40,000

Back to everyday points earners again. Wondering how you’re going to reach 40,000 points by the end of March next year? At a rate of 3 points per $1, 40,000 points equates to a spend of $13,334. Within the next 11 months, that breaks down to a spend of about $1,213 per month.

Obviously you don’t have to earn up to the cap, but if you generally channel a large spend through your card – and are able to pay it all off at the end of each month before it starts accruing interest – you may as well try to make the most of this offer.

That way you win, and your local small businesses win as well.

First up, do some research to find out which businesses are participating in your local area. You can find participating in-store businesses by checking out the American Express link here. The same applies as you travel. If you’re heading off on holiday, check out the link to see where you can pick up Shop Small Points along the way.

And if you’re shopping online? There are heaps of small businesses operating online who are participating in the Shop Small program. You can find another Amex link to that list here.

From there, it’s all about putting thought into where and when you can use your card. Of course, you can use your card for everyday items, like groceries and petrol, but you can also use it to cover all the small stuff, like your morning coffee and banana bread.

If your gym participates in the program, set your card as the way to pay for your membership. Or, if you’re seeing a physio or visiting the dentist for a check-up, put that on your card. If your wardrobe – or home – needs an update perhaps, you can use your card to cover the cost.

From a visit to the GP to a lush dinner out at that gem of a place you love for special occasions, if the business participates in the Shop Small program, you can earn Shop Small points on your card.

You should also find that American Express sends out timely reminders throughout the next year, providing you with tips on how you can get more from the program.

What Can You Do With 40,000 Points?

Let’s say you hit that 40,000 points mark. What can you do with that nice little chunk?

What you get from your 40,000 Shop Small points will really depend on the rewards program you earn on – and how you tend to use your points. The general rule with rewards is that you get the most value from travel, with international flights and upgrades typically offering the biggest bang for your buck.

But, as that’s not really an option right now, you may need to consider other ways to redeem your points. Let’s look at Qantas Frequent Flyer as an example.

Gift cards first. If you redeemed your points for a Digital Prepaid Mastercard by The Card Network, you would pay out 39,520 Qantas Points in return for $150 in value.

On to domestic travel. If you want to use your 40,000 Qantas Points to book flights, you could book five shorter flights, say from Melbourne to Hobart, or from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast.

Longer domestic flights (up to 1,930km) cost 12,000 points plus taxes, while the longest domestic flights (including transcontinental routes) come in at 18,000 points plus taxes, giving you enough for a return journey.

As for domestic upgrades, this will depend on the flight you are looking to upgrade. Qantas Business Class domestic upgrades range from 5,400 points to 28,300 points, depending on the starting fare and flight distance.

Going from the cheapest fare to a Business upgrade will obviously require more points, especially if the flight is a substantial distance. On the other hand, jumping up from Flexible Economy to Business on a shorter flight would need far less points to upgrade, giving that 40,000 more oomph as you use them on more flight upgrades.

Alternatively, you could choose to wait until international travel opens up again in order to get more from your redemption. Hey, it’s got to happen sometime…

Time To Compare Cards?

If Shop Small sounds good to you – but you don’t have an American Express card to benefit from it, this is the time to apply. In general, American Express cards go big on perks, so you can take advantage of the extras on offer as you earn rewards.

Check out this page for our full range of American Express cards, including the American Express Cashback Card we talked about earlier. Whether you spend big or small, whether you want to earn on Qantas, on Velocity, or on Membership Rewards, we’re pretty sure you’ll find an Amex that’ll work for you.


Photo source: Getty Images
Founder - Roland B Bleyer

Roland Bleyer

Founder of Roland has extensive knowledge about credit cards in Australia. Known as a credit card expert, he has been featured on tv and in various publications. Some popular offers on our site right now include the ANZ Low Rate. This special offer has no annual fee first year, a low purchase rate and long 0% balance transfer. Have a look also at the huge 0% for 30 months balance transfer from Citi with no balance transfer fees.

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