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2 Dec 2021

American Express Shop Small scheme returns this month - is it worth getting an Amex card?

Shoppers can earn up to £25 cashback for spending at least £75 with participating retailers

The American Express Shop Small scheme is back, running from 4-15 December and offering cardholders £5 cashback when they spend £15 or more with participating small businesses.

At a time when we're seeing lots of high street shops struggle to survive, and an increased interest in shopping locally and sustainably, this scheme from American Express offers shoppers a reward for avoiding the big chain stores.

Here, Which? how the Amex Shop Small scheme works, and whether it's worth signing up for one of the provider's credit cards.

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What is the American Express Shop Small scheme?

The American Express Shop Small scheme runs in conjunction with Small Business Saturday (taking place on 4 December), which Amex founded in 2013.

The aim is to support small businesses by encouraging people to buy from them in the run-up to Christmas.

To take part, you must save the offer to your qualifying American Express credit card. You can do this by logging into your online American Express account, or using the American Express app. You then need to make a qualifying purchase in-store at a participating UK small business before the end date.

Those who spend at participating small businesses while the scheme is on will receive £5 statement credit for transactions over £15. You can earn up to £25 cashback in total if you make five qualifying transactions with five different small businesses. This credit may be reversed if you later refund your purchases.

It's worth noting that this offer has been scaled down since last year, when shoppers could earn up to £50 in cashback if they hit the minimum spend with 10 different businesses.

You can also go to the American Express website to find a map of all participating small businesses; the number has almost doubled since last year, and all individual businesses are searchable.

What do Amex credit cards offer?

American Express is a Which? Recommended Provider for credit cards, achieving an impressive customer score of 80%. Customers gave it full marks for, among other things, its customer service, application process, and transparency of charges.

Its range of cashback credit cards is among the most generous on the market - and can be used in addition to the Shop Small scheme.

For instance, the American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card offers 5% cashback on purchases for the first three months from opening, up to a maximum of £10.

After the first three months, there's a cashback rate of 0.5% cashback on spending up to £10,000, and 1% cashback on spending over £10,000 - which isn't capped.

You can also add family members or your partner to your account, with complimentary additional cards, and their spending will also earn cashback.

The card has a 24.5% APR, so it's a good idea to pay off your balance in full each month. Credit is subject to status, and terms apply.

The American Express Platinum Cashback Credit Card also offers 5% cashback for the first three months, up to £125.

After this introductory offer, you'll earn 0.75% cashback on spending up to £10,000, and 1.25% cashback on spending above £10,000. There's no cap on the maximum amount of cashback you can earn.

Family and friends can also spend using additional cards.

The card has a 29.8% APR, and an annual fee of £25. Credit is subject to status, and terms apply.

Aside from this, American Express also offers a range of reward credit card deals, where you can earn points with schemes like Nectar and British Airways.

Where are Amex credit cards accepted?

It's worth noting that American Express credit cards are not accepted everywhere. The provider's website confirms that it is now accepted at all major UK supermarkets, as well as companies such as the Trainline, Nando's, M&S and Boots - plus many more.

Some retailers refuse to take Amex cards as payment because of the higher fees they have to pay to process transactions compared to Visa and Mastercard - but we've seen an increasing number of retailers and merchants start to accept Amex payments in recent years.

The issue of what kind of credit card is accepted where may be set to get more complicated in the future. Amazon announced last month that it would no longer be accepting payments from Visa credit cards from 19 January 2022 - this is also due to an issue with fees. Amazon will continue to accept Amex credit cards.

Other rewards for spending with independent shops

If you don't have an Amex card, there are other ways to get rewarded for shopping with independent retailers.

Local Rewards

Local Rewards lets you collect Local Reward points for spending money on your local UK high street using your existing credit and debit cards. You'll earn 1 point for each £1 you spend. These points can then be exchanged for a reward, which can be things like free parking or money off at a shop - rewards will depend on what your local businesses offer.

Local Rewards is live on more than 3,600 UK high streets - you can search for independent businesses on your local high street on its website.

The company is also involved in Independents' Day, which takes place on 4 July each year and aims to support and promote independent retail businesses around the UK.

Loyalzoo online loyalty cards

Loyalzoo offers a loyalty app for local independent merchants, who can reward customers without needing paper or plastic cards, or QR codes.

Through the app, shoppers can see all rewards from featured retailers in one place - these can either be in the form of reward points or a stamp card.

Businesses that have already signed up to the scheme can register customers (with their permission) using their phone number or email address. Shoppers can also register themselves by installing the Loyalzoo app on their smartphone.

South London Club

As a local solution to encourage and reward those in south London to frequent their local businesses, South London Club offers a membership card that offers discounts with more than 850 independent local businesses.

You can search for available discounts by area or category. While some cafes offer 20% off hot drinks, you can also get 10% off in participating gift shops, save money on bikes, flowers, and even local services and tradespeople.

The membership card costs £15 per year for an individual, £20 for a couple, or £38 a year for a group or family of four.

Ask your local shops

Not all retailers will be signed up to these kinds of apps or websites, but some will still offer things like loyalty cards and rewards for returning shoppers so it's worth asking them directly.

How to shop small this winter

Taking part in Amex's Shop Small promotion is just one way you can support independent, local businesses.

Firstly, you could simply take a trip to your local high street. Despite lockdown restrictions lifting, many high streets are still seeing reduced footfall, and many smaller shops are relying on Christmas sales to continue trading.

What's more, smaller high street shops often stock local, handmade or sustainable products that aren't available from bigger chain stores.

Alternatively, you could shop online - sites like Trouva allow you to find shops based near you, and excludes online-only sellers, so you'll know you're supporting a bricks-and-mortar store.

Online marketplaces like Etsy and Not on the High Street offer another way to find smaller sellers - but often, it's better to buy directly from the seller's own website if you can, so that they can keep more of the profits.