How to Maximize American Express Small Business Saturday ($25 for Every American Express Card You Have)!

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American Express is usually disliked (& not accepted) by many small businesses because of their higher fees.  So on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 24, 2012 this year) American Express curries favor with small businesses by encouraging folks to shop at small businesses by offering a $25 statement credit for using an American Express credit card on a purchase of more than $25!

Last year Emily and I registered all 6 of our American Express cards and went shopping with her grandmother whom we were visiting in Toledo.  We ended up with $150 in free money (6 cards X $25 per card) just by using our American Express cards.

Here are a few tips on how to maximize the small business Saturday promotion.

Register for Small Business Saturday

You have to register your cards before using them at a small business, but the registration page is still not available.  I’ll update this post when the registration page is live.

In my experience, you don’t need a separate email for each credit card you register.

American Express Credit Cards issued by American Express

You can register your primary American Express card for the promotion, as well as additional cards!

That’s because American Express issues a separate credit card number for additional cardholders and folks reported getting the $25 credit for additional cardholders as well.

For example, if I add Emily to my American Express Starwood card as an authorized user and she gets a card in her name, we can BOTH get the $25 statement credit for using our cards.

However, I wouldn’t go overboard and add 7 additional users for ever American Express card you have, because some folks have reported having a financial review for opening too many authorized users.  In particularly,  adding even 1 user to the American Express Business Gold card has been known to trigger a financial review.

As always, be reasonable.  It is probably fine to have your partner or kids as authorized users, but adding all your cousins, uncles, aunts, and grand parents is probably pushing it.

Note that adding someone as an authorized user doesn’t prevent the person from getting the sign on bonus for him or herself.

You can call the number at the back of your card to add an authorized user or go online to add an additional user.  Infrequent Flyer Miles writes that you can also call 866-929-5163 to have your additional cards rush delivered to you.

Popular miles & points American Express cards include Membership Rewards point earning cards, the Starwood & Hilton hotel cards, and Delta cards.

American Express cards issued by other banks such as Citi or Bank of America

You can register cards issued by other banks, but carrying the American Express logo, such as the Citi AAdvantage American Express, Virgin Atlantic American Express, PenFed, Barclays, USAA etc. for the $25 statement credit.

However, you can’t register additional cardholders with these cards to get a separate $25 credit.  That’s because additional cardholders get the same credit card number as primary card holders.

Note that adding someone as an authorized user doesn’t prevent the person from getting the sign on bonus for him or herself.  You can call the number at the back of your card to add an authorized user.

American Express Gift cards

Unfortunately, you didn’t earn a statement credit with American Express gift cards.

Where can you shop?

The terms define small businesses as (bolding mine):

Qualifying small businesses include small, locally-owned storefront and online businesses with $10 million in annual revenue or less. Businesses in the following industries are excluded: government agencies, charities, non-profits, trade associations, shopping property management firms, political, religious and educational organizations. Small businesses that are part of a franchise brand with more than 100 stores are excluded.  Additionally, if a franchise brand has more than 20 corporate-owned units, then the entire brand is excluded.  Small businesses that promote any of the following are not eligible for the Program: pharmaceuticals, drugs, politics, pornography or sexual aids, diet aids, gambling, liquor, tobacco, firearms/weapons, or any sensitive topic with respect to current events

Most small shops & restaurants still qualify.   For example, we plan using our $25 statement credit at a small Greek restaurant, a bookstore, etc.

Franchises and large chain stores such as Barnes & Nobles, Starbucks, etc are ineligible.

How to Maximize the $25 statement credits:

  • Buy $25 gift cards, with separate American Express cards, for your favorite independent store or restaurant and use them later
  • Go to lunch or dinner and ask the server to split the check 5 ways (each above $25).  Don’t forget to tip extra!
  • Buy something you want and split the bill in $25 increments and pay for it with multiple cards
  • Buy gift cards or make purchases at small business online.  However, your card has to be charged on November 24th to get the credit, so it could be better to call and have them run your card immediately.

Bottom Line

The American Express Small Business Saturday is a fun way to earn $25 for every American Express credit card you have, as long as you spend at least $25 with an American Express card.  But November 24th is approaching fast, so start thinking about ordering additional cards for authorized users to take advantage of the deal.

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63 responses to “How to Maximize American Express Small Business Saturday ($25 for Every American Express Card You Have)!

  1. Will it work with BlueBird?

  2. Probably not, but why don’t you try it and let us know for next year

  3. You say to call the number on the back to add an additional user, but why not just go online and click on “Add others to your account”? Very quick and simple form to complete. Thanks for the tip. I’m just adding one person to each of my cards.

  4. Whoa, this is a bonanza. OK Darius, here is my strategy, let me know if this is flawed. Wife and I have collectively about 11-2 amex cards. Add the two kids and each other to each card, ending up with about 30-40 cards (only one is citi-amex, the rest are pure amex). Current money pit is converting fish tank to a reef tank. So find a mom and pop coral online store that takes amex, and buy 30+ $25 gift cards, all from the same place. 1) will this raise a flag, and 2) how do I verify that the store qualifies. Thank you!

  5. How about the Amex Prepaid card and the Amex BlueBird?

  6. Dluke: You say “online”….for some reason, I never thought of that. I’ve only been thinking about the lil’ places around my town. I gotta start thinking outside the box.

  7. would a university bookstore be considered a small business?

  8. @everyone AND DLUKE- it WONT work with prepaid or blue bird cards. It will work FOR ANY small business even if it is not on the amex list (they do provide a list once registration opens). As Daraius points out it wont work unless you have registered EACH card and that means if you have added authorized users you must register each card separately bec they each have different cc number. There is no red flag to using each card even in same store HOWEVER adding multiple authorized users on multiple cards at the same time DOES raise a red flag and can cause a financial review. While there is nothing to worry about a FR if you have the documentation to support your income, ALL your accounts are frozen during the FR which takes as much as 2-3 weeks. SOOOOOO were you to add all authorized users this week and then get hit with a FR your accounts would (likely) be frozen over period including small business saturday ! I speak as one who did EXACTLY what you did a month ago and finished financial review 17 days after submitting my documents and had the documentation to easily pass the review as my tax return supported my declared income on application at 100 percent. GOOD LUCK

  9. Don’t mean to be a “Debbie Downer”, but there’s no mention of any $25 credit this year under the FAQs on the site. in the “Why should I be a part of Small Business Saturday?” the only reason is philosophical/ideological, NOT financial. Sorry, but unless AMEX changes its policy this year, we’re all out of luck. There’s just nowhere to register our cards!

  10. @preacher- Kindly just relax. registration hasnt opened yet. it will. sometime in next week no doubt

  11. I suppose you can make multiple purchases at your favorite independent store–just make them separate transactions on separate cards?

  12. The best weapon for Small Business Saturday is the Barclays issued Travelocity Amex. All AUs on this card get unique card numbers that can each be registered for the promotion, unlike every other non-Amex issued card that I know of. You can add as many as you want with no risk of a Financial Review and a SSN is not required. I did a little write-up on it here (no affiliate links or anything):

    You can add AUs to any Amex-issued accounts and have the card shipped by UPS 2nd day delivery for free by calling 1 (866) 929-5163.

    DaveS – Sometimes AU requests online get lost in limbo. Calling is more reliable, but still not 100%.

    Dluke – I got a red flag for purchases like you describe earlier this year on a different promotion. It’s better to spread it around. Also adding that many AUs in a short period of time has been known to trigger a Financial Review.

  13. OK, calming down… How will I know, though, if the business I buy from will qualify? There’s no list of merchants on the site. What are some examples of businesses that you believe would qualify for the anticipated credit?

  14. @preacher- firstly there Is a list that comes out when registration opens city by city. so you could alwaus just follow the list. In addition ANY small business does qualify. Darauis has copied and pasted the language from Amex. Stay away from big chain stores and you will be fine.

  15. not shown or mentioned–Amex Delta skymiles credit cards. These work too, right?

  16. Do purchases at small business ex US count? I will be in Asia…

  17. @stephanie- absolutely
    @mw- the terms say the business must be located in the USA. but you can easily buy online from a usa small business on that day (make sure given the time difference it is saturday local usa time of the business you are purchasing from).

    • @veeRob @Kelly @Maury – I doubt it will work with Bluebird, but will try it out.

      @DaveS – Oopss… forget about that. I’ll add it to the post.

      @Dluke – If it is a small non-chain store it should qualify. That said, if the online purchase is purchased a few days after Saturday, you won’t get the credit so it could be better to actually call the store and have them run the cards over the phone or visit in person. Also, adding a lot of additional users is known to trigger financial reviews. But I don’t know what the threshold is and suspect it varies from person to person.

      @Lively – I bought a few certificates online last year as well. Just be sure that the charge hits your credit card the same day.

      @Brent – No personal experience, but I don’t see why not.

      @mike fein – Thanks for the tips and for sharing your personal experience.

      @Preacher – You’re right that registration hasn’t opened, but it should open soon.

      @Mary – Exactly!

      @MAn Infrequent Flyer – Thanks for sharing your tips!

      @stephanie – They sure do, and I included them in the post.

      @mw – What mike fein says!

  18. Folks, last year Amex almost immediately sent e-mail confirmations when using the card at a small business that qualified. It was actually pretty amazing how they could integrate the transaction, bounce it against a qualification list, and then match that you registered for the promo.

    So, my advice is use an e-mail you can access on a Smartphone and if a business is questionable, do a “test” transaction and see if it qualifies first. Then you can buy more with other cards.

    And I can also confirm, the e-mail doesn’t matter, so it’s not a big deal combining various cards under a single e-mail address.

    Also, don’t forget it’s easy to just buy several $25 gift cards, and use them later. In most cases the credit posted within a few days, so some accounts ended up witha $0 balance when the statement cut by just buiyng $25 gift cards.

    One last question to those that did it last year– was the wording on the exclusions for certain types of transactions the same? I was able to use my card at liquor stores the last few years and had no problem. The key word to me is “promote”. I’m reading that to say Amex doesn’t want someone posting a picture on twitter of say the local S&M store displaying the promo material on the front door, rather than I can’t use the card to buy a, er, whip, that day! Anyone have a take on whether a liquor store will count this year as long as they don’t put signage up?

  19. Out of curiosity, who is Joey Dubash?

  20. Is liquor store new for this year? Last year I used 3 AMEX cards & 2 different Liquor stores & they worked.

  21. Tom B, I was wondering the same thing. I used mine last year at a local liquor store for some craft beer, and it worked just fine. And it was yummy too.

  22. Amongst various other SBS transactions, we bought 11 x $25 gift cards from a local wine merchant last year, then returned the following week and loaded up for Christmas! Another winner for my wife was 6 x $25 gift cards from a local hairdressing salon she likes. Looking forward to SBS again this year! 🙂

  23. Just tried to add my husband as an AU on my Amex preferred rewards gold card and it is $35 to add one to five users. An AU has to be 15 for this card, my kids are younger, so I don’t have anyone else to add for this to make sense. Bummer.

  24. Thanks all for the advice, will scale back my grand plans and maybe add one person/card instead of 3 users/card. 1) Contacted the online fish/coral store I want to buy gift cards from. They are not a chain store and are privately held so neither Amex nor I know if they exceed $10M in sales/year. Guessing they are a safe bet, right? and 2) My takeaway from all this is to add users throughout the year or when you initially apply for the cards, thus avoiding risk of a financial review freeze.

  25. @Mary Kate – You could add your siblings or parents as authorized users. I did it last year and didn’t have any problem.

  26. does this work for cards like Bluebird and Serve? AMEX prepaid?

  27. But wouldn’t I have to ask my siblings for the SSN? That would be weird. Or maybe they don’t need an accurate SSN?

  28. Amex has a form online to add authorized users. It requires a social security number for the new user. The form says it will use the s.s. # to verify identity. Does this mean that there will be an inquiry that will show up on a credit report? If so, is this worth the $25/year from this promo?

  29. Anyone try this with online small business merchants last year – how well did it work?

  30. I had the same question about liquor for this year also. Last year it worked fine… Is that verbiage new?


  31. Seems like a good way to get 100-200 back from Amex and contribute to a local small business. I’ll be more than happy to do my part in helping Amex spend their advertising dollars.

  32. Do you have a dog named Joey?

  33. I just tried online to add my spouse as an additional user on my Delta Amex. I received a message stating that I am not able to apply for an additional card online. Could this be because he already has his own Delta Amex? Anyone else had this problem?

  34. Points For The People

    I’m wondering the same thing as Tom B. does a brewery, winery, or liquor store count as a business that “promotes liquor?” Does anyone have experience from previous years on this one?

    • @mjs @Tom B @Sheryl @Jebidiah @Points For The People– Last year I bought a bottle of wine for my dad and got the statement credit. This year, I’m not so sure. It is unclear if AMEX isn’t going to give the credit if you spend money at small business which lobby (promote) for, say, alcohol. Or if it is a blanket ban on purchases in those categories. The restrictive language for alcohol wasn’t around last year. I’d be conservative and say that purchases in the restricted category won’t earn the statement credit.

      @harvson3 @AK – Joey was added to a Bank of America Virgin Atlantic AMEX to get the 2,500 extra points for an authorized user.

      @Simon – Very nice!

      @MaryKate – Sorry it didn’t work out, but you can still get the credit for yourself.

      @DLuke – I agree. Adding users throughout the year is the best way to avoid raiding suspicion.

      @Chase – The terms last year didn’t allow prepaid cards to get the credit. But given the push behind Bluebird, AMEX could allow it. I’ll try it and report back (though it will be too late for this year’s Small Business Saturday).

      @JJ – I don’t believe there will be an inquiry (ymmv, though), but the account could appear on a credit report.

      @MileageUpdate – Very true.

      @Rachel – The online way is sometimes buggy. You can just call the number on the back of the card or in the post to add another user.

  35. Wait a minute. The terms and conditions you posted … was that from the “See Terms of Participation.” at the bottom of the page?

    The link you posted and verbiage you posted is from the “2012 Small Business Saturday® Free Online Advertising Program. Terms of Participation” which is for the Free Online Advertising Program that Amex offers with SBS.

    Is there additional terms that state where a PERSON CAN SHOP during Small Business Saturday?

    Just because the store isnt eligible for the Free Online Advertising Program doesnt mean the end user wont get a statement credit for shopping at a store that promotes liquor.

    And define “promote”. A restaurant promotes alcohol/liquor as that is a large part of their profit margin. Does that now count now?

  36. Registration is posted for Nov. 18th on their website now. It now states specifically that it is a $25 credit and it has a list of accepting businesses


    November 18th – the t&c’s say the participating store needs to be on the map – last year I did at stores not on the map that took amex & I got the credit.

    was this point in the t&c’s last year?

    if not I think we should be careful to only do it at a store on the map this year.

  38. The T/C seems to rule out any sort of online transaction:

    “spend $25 or more in a single, in-store transaction”…..
    and further down:
    ” identifies a transaction as having occurred in-store”….

    Seems pretty clear that online purchases will not count.

    The good news is that the map listing small businesses that are acceptable to AMEX for this offer in my area includes a “wine club” store.

    • @Jebidiah – You’re right. I used the wrong t&Cs and will update the post.

      @Dan – Thanks!

      @ih – I can’t remember if it was included in the t&c last year.

      @Robert Hanson – Thanks! I wrote the post before the t&C went live, so will update it.

  39. If I missed mention of this above, I apologize…..but I think once the Amex registration opens for our cc account numbers, there’s a limited total of cards nationwide that Amex can handle. So if that remains the case for this year, I’d suggest registering your account numbers sooner than later on 18Nov. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  40. Intersting that I looked at the businesses list on Amex’s small business Saturday website, and the liquor store I shopped at last year was listed. Not much to buy there besides alcohol, I guess, unless you buy $25 worth of candy bars. I wonder if there is a distinction between beer, wine, and liquor, since the language refers to liquor and not alcohol?

  41. It appears the “where to shop” section is not available at present time. I hope they are not changing too much, I already have the stores I want to use planned out.

  42. Additional cardholders:
    I called Amex tonight and Amex stated that e.g., if there is a primary cardholder + 2 additional cardholders, ONLY ONE CARDHOLDER gets the $25 statement credit. No $25 statement credit per cardholder.

    However, is this true in practice? Amex customer service has often been wrong.

  43. Amex cards issued by other banks:
    The Amex rep also told me that Amex cards issued by banks (e.g., the Virgin Airlines Amex) would NOT qualify for Shop Small.

    However, is this true in practice? Have Amex cards issued by Bank of America, Citi, etc. received the $25 statement credit last year? Thanks.

    • @Jo – That’s true. You should register the cards as soon as possible.

      @Sheryl – If it is listed you should be able to get the credit.

      @Eric – Last year you got the credit for additional AMEX cardholders and for using non-AMEX issued AMEX cards. But this year could always be different.

  44. Can anyone tell if Amex business card qualify for getting $25 back on SBS ?

  45. Hi,
    We have a magazine subscription business that counts as an Amex small business (do a search for Discount Magazine in zip code 33913).
    For all the people who want to get the easy $25 bonus, we will work with you to split the orders, give additional discounts, basically whatever it takes to get you that free $25. (We’ve been in business over 30 years also!)
    Magazines are a great christmas gift, so knock out 2 birds with one stone!
    We also match competitors prices, so you are guaranteed to get the best price.
    Call 800-999-5070 M-F 930-5pm EST. Ask for Marc.
    Mention you saw this on the blog posting and i’l take care of you the best I can…
    Easy way to spend the $25, get the bonus $25, and get your christmas shopping done!

  46. I don’t understand. You have to spend $25 in order to get $25

  47. Registration is live now.

  48. @marc, I think that’s a great deal for anyone who will be out of the country, traveling, or far from a local small business. I hope that those who can, however, will get out and actually support their own local small businesses, which is the point of the promotion. I found hundreds within a 10 minute drive of where I live.

  49. I have called Am Ex several times over the last two weeks. All the times I have called them I have specifically asked them about SBS and on the stores included. They have told me repeatedly, that ANY small business that takes Am Ex will get you the credit.

    I am still confused as all the wordage still states it has to be Listed on their map or to take Am Ex through Square.

    I live in a VERY small rural place in Arkansas, and there is nothing listed. I have called 2 local health food stores and plan to at least use 2 of my cards there.

    So……question is still: Does ANY small business qualify????

    • @Xen – Yes, you can get the bonus using small business cards, but corporate AMEX cards (the green cards) may not work.

      @marc – Thanks for the offer.

      @Michael Belisle – That’s correct. You have to spend $25 or more in a purchase and get a statement credit of $25.

      @gocong – Thanks!

      @chris – I agree. I suspect in practice almost any small business which accepts AMEX will be eligible to get the $25 back at. But the terms still say that it has to on the map.

      @Yi – Call marc and he’ll help you split the order.

  50. @Marc

    Do you have online forms which I can put 3 cards in to make an order? Or do you have the form that I can fill out by hand with 3 cards information and fax it back?

  51. @Chris – Any small business will qualify. If you have a local restaurant in town that accepts amex or a mom and pop grocery store that accept the card, you will be able to use your Amex and earn the required credit as long as you spend $25 or more.

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  53. I purchased 4 $25 giftcards at a restaurant that was on American Express Small Business Sat map at 12:15 pm today, all on 4 different cards ( some were authorized users cards ), It is 4:00 pm and I still did not get a confirmation e mail from Amex saying “Thank you for shopping small Business Sat ” like I did on my 2 purchases at 9 am. Are they too busy or should I call ?

  54. I only got the “Thank You for shopping” emails for AmEx Gold PR cards. No emails for using SPG and AmEx/citi cards.

  55. I got “thank you for shopping emails” on 6 out of 7 cards. I had 7 registered cards and split my purchases between two local biz ($100 @ 1 & $75 @ another). My wife, myself and our business all have spg amex accounts and have added each other to each account (3 seperate accounts, with 2 users on each – hope that makes sense). A few weeks ago, I did the double browser deal for the Citibank AA visa and amex and have not received a thank for the Citibank amex. However, I did receive a registration confirmation email for the Citibank amex (along w/ the other 6 spg cards)…anyone know if the “thank you for shopping email” is delayed because the amex is issued through another provider? Anyone have experience with this last year (this is my first year with the small biz sat)? Lastly, I wanted to thank you @Daraius for all the great advice here, I started last December and have collected over 350,000 pts/miles this year via your advice. My wife and I are planning a wonderful and almost completely free trip to Costa Rica in Feb…so appreciate it!!!

    • @Nathan – I’m beggining to wonder if non-AMEX issued cards will get the credit (like they did last year) because I still haven’t got a confirmation for my non-AMEX issued card, but have for my other AMEX cards. Congrats on the miles and safe travels to Costa Rica!

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