American Express Offering 2X Rewards for Shop Small This Year

In past years, the American Express Shop Small promotion typically offered statement credits when you used your Amex at small businesses on a specified day.

This was known as Small Business Saturday, which is set to take place on November 26th of this year.

It was actually quite lucrative a couple years ago because they offered three statement credits per Amex card, which translated to maybe 20+ credits per household, depending on how many cards you had.

But last year American Express toned things down and only offered a single credit via its Amex Offers to targeted cardmembers. I think I got one $15 credit, which paled in comparison to the prior year.

2X Rewards Through December

2x

This year they want to drum up excitement again with a 2X rewards offer from now until the end of 2016.

Once you enroll your eligible Amex card(s), you can earn 2X rewards on all purchases at qualifying small businesses through 12/31/16.

If it happens to be a card that earns 1% cash back, you’ll earn 2% cash back on those qualifying purchases for the next few months.

If it’s a card that earns Membership Rewards points, they’ll be doubled at small businesses through December.

Virtually every credit card and charge card is eligible for this promotion aside from a few legacy cards like Old Blue Cash, the Plum Card, Clear, and some others.

When you visit this page to enroll, it will let you know if your card is eligible or not.

It’s basically a no-brainer to sign up for the promo with all your Amex cards to earn double rewards until the end of the year.

How Lucrative Is This Offer?

As for it being lucrative, that really depends on what you charge with your Amex cards over the next several months.

Remember, it only works at merchants known as small businesses, so you won’t earn the double rewards everywhere.

Additionally, it only doubles your 1X category, so earning 2% cash back or 2X rewards isn’t necessarily amazing.

I’m sure some folks will figure out how to maximize it, but for many cardholders it likely won’t result in any major rewards boost.

For you big spenders, there’s actually a limit to how much you can get doubled.

If you somehow manage to spend $100,000 with a personal Amex you’ll be capped out. The same goes for those who muster $250,000 in spending via an Amex business card.

After that, you’re back to 1X for each purchase at small businesses.

There is at least one company already milking the promotion.

Plastiq, which allows you to pay rent or the mortgage with a credit card, is advertising the 2X rewards offer as an eligible merchant.

Remember, the small business category is pretty broad, so even seemingly large companies qualify in many cases, not just your neighborhood convenience store.

For those who use the company to make large rent/mortgage payments, double rewards is certainly helpful.

Still, it won’t offset the full fee 2.5% fee that they charge per transaction. But it will make it a little less painful if you’re trying to meet minimum spend or just increase your MR balance.

All in all, I’m not too impressed with this year’s offer. I enrolled my cards, but I don’t know if I’ll actually use them at small businesses.

I already have credit cards that earn 2X all year and I’m not a huge fan of MR points anyway.

Tip: Only the primary cardholder can enroll in this offer, so authorized users need not apply.

An Easy Way to Earn 3,300 Bonus Amex Membership Rewards Points

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to earn a small handful of American Express Membership Rewards points?

Well, look no further. There is a targeted (my guess) Amex Offer that gives you 1,000 MR points every time you spend $100 or more on your cell phone bill between now and January 1st, 2017.

That’s 10X points per dollar spent on your wireless bill. Hard to beat.

In other words, if you make your enrolled Amex card the payment card of choice for your cell phone bill you’ll likely earn at least 3,300 MR points over the next few months.

My assumption is everyone pays $100+ per month for their cell phone bill – for those of you who do not, more power to you.

Anyway, the terms of the deal are as follows:

10x wireless

You earn a 1,000 Membership Rewards® points award each time you use that enrolled card to make a single purchase of $100+ online at participating U.S. cell phone carriers by 1/31/17.

There is a limit of 3,000 additional Membership Rewards points earned via the promotion, which is why I noted that 3,300 points would be the total haul. Perhaps some more points if your actual cell phone bill is over $100.

The major carriers Amex lists are T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T Wireless, US Cellular and Verizon.

For the record, it says you must make cell phone bill payments directly to these accepting major U.S. carriers online or via mobile app. So I don’t know if buying a phone or accessories will work.

Nor do I know if paying your bill at a store will work – I wouldn’t chance it.

However, it does say “other services” that might be bundled with your wireless bill could be eligible. So perhaps someone with DirecTV that has an AT&T wireless account.

How to Maximize the Deal

In any case, it shouldn’t be hard to spend $100 three times between now and mid-January on your wireless bill.

If you want to maximize the deal, look for other Amex cards in the family (or household) that also earn the promotion. Check each account online to see if the offer is listed. Do so in separate browsers at the same time to avoid it disappearing from the other accounts.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to eke out 10,000 bonus points if it’s on three of your Amex cards and you’ve got three cell phone bills to pay.

Or if the bill is an all-in-one deal, you might be able to make split payments of $100 each as many times are you’re eligible to get the 1,000 bonus points each time.

And who knows, it might be just enough points to get you on that trip you’re looking for if you happen to be short a few thousand miles.

Affirm Offers New Way to Pay for Those Who Don’t Like Credit Cards

A company by the name of Affirm is looking to shake up the way consumers pay for high-ticket items they would normally just charge to a credit card.

Instead of swiping or dipping, individuals can get real-time financing for purchases during the checkout process.

How Affirm Works

affirm

For example, if a certain Millennial (I didn’t choose that age group arbitrarily) who eschews credit cards wants to buy a new couch for $1,000, but doesn’t have the cash on hand, they can finance it on the fly with Affirm.

As long as the merchant accepts Affirm, you simply enter in some pertinent details regarding the transaction (and a little about yourself) and you’ll be presented with various financing options.

It will show you exactly how much you’ll pay to finance your new couch over the term you select.

If you choose a shorter term, you will have to make a larger monthly payment, but you’ll save on interest.

Conversely, if you want to stretch out the repayment period, monthly payments are more forgiving and total interest paid goes up.

In any case, the choice of loan term is yours to make, which is a nice feature. And knowing exactly what you’ll pay seems to be the mission of Affirm.

Why Affirm Is Different from Credit Cards

stores

Affirm wants consumers who may be credit-averse to know exactly what they’re getting into, instead of just charging up some purchases that get muddled together and eventually wind up costing them much more than they bargained for.

That means unlike most credit cards that are revolving in nature, and thus allow you to carry a balance indefinitely, Affirm is a fixed-rate loan with a set term and repayment schedule.

You’re basically getting short-term loans for the larger purchases you make, instead of adding new purchases onto an existing credit card balance each month.

Affirm says APRs range from as low as 10% to as high as 30%, based on your creditworthiness.

That might be in line with prevalent credit card APRs, though it depends on the terms of the card and your borrowing profile.

In short, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate, and vice versa.

So even if you hate credit cards, you still need good credit if you want the most favorable terms.

Is a 0% APR Credit Card a Better Deal?

While you could stand to save some money with Affirm, one could also argue to just go the 0% APR credit card route instead.

Sure, you could get into trouble if you’re not responsible with the open line of credit, but a 0% APR credit card that allows you to pay no interest for maybe 12 or 15 months would save you even more if you’re disciplined.

In fact, you’d pay no interest whatsoever if you paid off the $1,000 couch during the introductory period.

And you can earn bonuses on that spending. This is especially true if it’s a higher-priced item that makes you eligible for a lucrative opening bonus.

To give you one such example, the Chase Freedom card pays out $150 if you spend $500 during the first three months.

If you bought that $1,000 couch using the card, you’d earn the $150 and you’d get 0% APR for the first 15 months.

You’d have more time to pay off the couch without any interest and you’d earn $150 on top of it. So your net cost would be $850, instead of some amount above $1,000.

Again, you have to be a responsible spender, and Affirm might be serving customers who don’t trust themselves with a credit card.

American Express Platinum Now Earns 5X on Airfare

In an effort to fend off the up and coming (or perhaps already top dog) Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, American Express Platinum will now offer 5X Membership Rewards points on airfare.

Specifically, you can earn 5X MR points on airfare booked directly with airlines and through American Express Travel.

Previously, Amex Platinum only offered as much as 2X on travel booked via AmexTravel.com.

So this is a huge upgrade to the card and really the only time Amex Platinum has offered a major category bonus.

In announcing the change today, American Express noted that travel was important to its cardholders, and that they wanted to launch the change before the busy holiday travel season.

While 5X on travel is certainly awesome, a lot of Amex Platinum cardholders probably use points to redeem travel, and often won’t pay for airfare out of their pocket unless it’s a short-haul regional flight.

Still, for the frequent flyer who does, it’s a very nice change.

The downside is that the $200 annual airline fee credit pales in comparison to the $300 travel category credit Chase Sapphire Reserve offers and is much more restrictive.

Business Platinum Now Offers 50% Airline Bonus and 1.5X Points on $5,000+ Purchases

If you have the business version of Amex Platinum, there are some exciting new changes as well.

However, let me first point out that you won’t get the increased 5X points on airfare, which is kind of lame.

Instead, you can earn 2X on travel purchases made at the American Express Travel website.

And you will now receive 50% of your points back when using “Membership Rewards Pay with Points” through American Express Travel.

Specifically, you get 5 extra points for every 10 points you redeem for either a First or Business class ticket on any airline, or for any flight with your selected qualifying airline.

This is known as the “50% Airline Bonus” and it should be noted that the airline you select for the 50% Airline Bonus must match the one designated for the $200 Airline Fee Credit.

Those with Business Platinum will also receive another new benefit; 1.5X MR points on all purchases of $5,000 or greater.

It has to be a single purchase of at least $5,000, not combined purchases that total that amount.

For example, if you buy something for $5,000 on the nose you’d earn 7,500 MR points for that transaction.

You can earn a maximum of 1,000,000 extra points via this benefit per calendar year per account, so big spenders be warned.

Who Are These Changes Good For?

I’m envisioning a small business owner with an Amex Platinum (ironically not the business version) who books lots of travel for his or her company.

If this individual is constantly booking flights for their employees using the card, they can earn 5X on those flights and rack up tons of points with no limit.

I could see such a person spending $100,000 on flights in a calendar year, which would equate to a massive 500,000 MR point haul.

But not everyone is in such a situation. For most folks, going with a card that offers a strong sign-up bonus, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Plus, might work out better.

After all, most people open these credit cards in order to get free flights with the bonus miles they earn, with no intention of actually paying for flights out of their own pocket.

So many cardholders won’t actually see much benefit to any to these changes.

Read more: What American Express Membership Rewards points are worth.

American Express Offering 10% Cash Back on Gas All Summer Long

We’ve all seen the rotating 5% cash back categories that often include gas stations, but how about 10% cash back instead?

Well, when I logged onto one of my Amex accounts this morning I was greeted by a surprising offer. A full 10% cash back on gas all summer long.

Specifically, you can earn up to $25 in statement credits on $250 in total purchases at U.S. gas stations until September 30th, 2016.

It’s one of the latest Amex Offers to hit one of my accounts and it’s clearly one of the better ones to come along after what has seemed like a bit of a lull.

10% Cash Back on Gas Purchases with Amex

10 offer

As you can see from the fine print, you get three months to use the Amex Offer once you add it to your eligible card, and the purchases have no minimum.

So you can make a ton of small purchases and still earn the 10% cash back. It’s a bit of a bummer that the maximum is $250 because most folks spend that amount on gas in a month, if not a week if they commute a lot.

It’s also unfortunate that this Amex Offer was only available on one of my many American Express credit cards.

I found it on my wife’s Amex Blue Cash card, but it wasn’t on any of my other cards, including my Blue Cash or my Amex EveryDay cards.

It’s also kind of weird that it was offered on a card that already earns 5% cash back on gas, but that could make this offer really sweet.

Can I Earn 15% Cash Back on Gas?

15 off

If I’m interpreting this offer correctly, I’ll earn 15% cash back on my gas purchases until the end of September, or $37.50 on $250 in gas purchases. Not too shabby!

Why? Because my card already earns 5% cash back on all gas purchases since I unlocked the higher cash back by spending $6,500.

I was expecting to earn just $12.50 on $250 in gas purchases, but confirmed with American Express that this offer works with my existing cash back structure.

This offer is good at merchants that primarily sell gasoline, though they “may sell other convenience items,” per American Express.

In other words, there’s a chance you could earn 15% cash back on other items if you get creative and find a gas station with a good mini market.

Be sure to check all your American Express cards ASAP to see if this offer is in one or more of your accounts. The offer is limited so it could fill up faster than your tank.

Chip Cards Are Super Slow and Now Visa Is Trying to Fix That

If you’ve used a credit card lately, you’ve likely made the mistake of trying to swipe it (even though it has a magnetic stripe) because it also contains an EMV chip.

I do it all the time and feel like a dummy, especially as a credit card blogger that should know better. It’s a sense of pride and I always kind of chuckle to myself when I do it.

The other day I caught myself at the last minute and managed to impress the clerk by not swiping my chip card at a local CVS.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice it took so long for the transaction to complete. As it stands now, you kind of stand around awkwardly while the clerk kind of looks at their register awkwardly as 10 seconds or more go by.

Then you finally hear that welcoming, yet deafening alarm sound go off. Ironically, the alarm sound means your transaction was processed successfully!

[The Best Credit Cards to Use When Traveling Abroad]

Enter Quick Chip for EMV

Well, apparently Visa was aware of this long, awful process, and decided to do something about it, thankfully. This week, they launched the so-called “Quick Chip for EMV,” a technology that aims to speed up checkout times when using chip-enabled credit cards.

Instead of waiting for what seems like forever, you’ll soon be able to just dip your card in the slot and pull it out “typically in two seconds or less.” The trick is that you won’t have to wait for the transaction to be finalized before pulling out.

I think the current setup requires the entire transaction to go through before you can touch a thing – and it’s so hard to stand there without pulling the card out…no one likes to be away from their credit card for that long!

Even better, this “simple software update” to a merchant’s point of sale system will allow customers to check out while the shopping cart is still being rung up, similar to what you can do with the magnetic stripe credit cards (I still like to wait to see my total).

Visa says merchants can easily download the free software update to the payment terminal so the existing hardware can remain in place. And no change to the chip card is necessary either, fortunately.

[Debit vs. Credit: Which Is Better?]

This Only Applies to Visa Credit Cards

Now the bad news, at least for now. The Quick Chip for EMV software is only for Visa credit cards. Those with American Express, Discover, or MasterCard credit cards may continue to experience long waits at the counter when using a chip card.

I’m assuming the others will follow suit sooner rather than later, but in the meantime you might have to wait that brutal ~10 seconds for so.

Visa has already issued more than 265 million Visa credit and debit chip cards to U.S. consumers, which makes it the largest chip card market in the world (pretty amazing considering we had zero a year or so ago).

Additionally, the company said more than one million merchants have enabled chip card terminals, so roughly 20% of all merchant locations are now on board.

I’m still swiping and dipping, and I’ve come across some merchants that have the chip terminals with tape blocking the bay. Clearly some merchants all still figuring it all out…now if only they could do something about that startling alarm sound when a transaction is approved.

Fidelity Amex Switching to US Bank Issued Visa Credit Card

For those who hold the quite lucrative Fidelity Amex credit card, changes are a coming.

Starting in July of this year, existing customers will have their FIA Card Services (a Bank of America company) issued Fidelity Amex replaced with a U.S. Bank-issued Visa credit card.

In short, this means you won’t have the perks of an American Express card anymore, though apparently nothing else is changing.

So you will continue to receive 2% back on all purchases, which you can redeem into your Fidelity account and put toward retirement. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s not going to be an American Express card anymore, which presents some challenges.

I’ll get to that in a minute. As for why the change was made, Fidelity reportedly chose their new partners because of “improved technology options and customer service.”

Last I checked, Amex customer service was pretty good, though you can’t use an Amex everywhere. Not really a tech issue, more an inconvenience. Visa is, after all, accepted everywhere.

Bank of America said it was mutual, noting that they’ve been terminating many of their co-branded relationships since it doesn’t get customers into Bank of America branches in order to cross sell.

The Drawbacks to the U.S. Bank Issued Fidelity Visa

Let’s talk about those drawbacks now. For one, it’s not an Amex, meaning you won’t be able to take advantage of the awesome Amex Offers constantly being churned out (no pun intended).

This could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost cash back, especially if you had lots of authorized users.

Secondly, for those who use Fidelity Amex to load Serve each month, this option will be gone unless you have the old, grandfathered version of Serve.

This obviously doesn’t affect everyone, but for those who are affected, they’ll need to find a new card that earns 2% cash back (or better).

I happen to have the old Serve account and was loading with Fidelity Amex. But I got the Discover it Miles card that earns 3% cash back the first year so I switched to that anyway.

But after a year, if Serve credit card loads still work, I’ll need to find a new alternative to maximize my cash back.

Why the U.S. Bank Issued Fidelity Visa Might Be a Good Thing

For one, it’s a Visa. So you won’t have to worry about merchants accepting it or giving you grief when you ask if they take Amex. You know the grief I’m talking about…

That’s the biggie. Secondly, you will still get the 2% cash back on all purchases, and there’s still no annual fee.

Another potential plus is that it’s being issued by U.S. Bank. Why is that a plus? Well, to me, it doesn’t get much worse than FIA. The FIA website is a joke and their customer service is questionable if not nonexistent.

I’ll be happy to partner up with any other card issuer aside from FIA, and I’m looking forward to having an app to track my spending and make payments as opposed to using the archaic FIA website.

All in all, this change shouldn’t bother too many folks, which is a good thing.

photo: Marcin Wichary)

Chase Offering 10% Cash Back at Amazon with Freedom Card

Chase just delivered an early Christmas (or any other holiday) present to its Freedom cardholders.

From November 23rd until December 31st, 2015, you’ll earn double the amount of promotional cash back when shopping at Amazon with your Chase Freedom card.

In fact, they’re doubling the fourth quarter rotating category in its entirety, meaning you’ll earn 10% cash back at Zappos, Audible.com and Diapers.com as well.

The same quarterly limit of $1,500 does apply, however, it will be reset on November 23rd so you actually get a brand new $1,500 to play with, even if you spent a bunch at these stores since the fourth quarter began on October 1st.

Earn $150 Cash Back in One Month

chase cash back

This means you can earn $150 in cash back in just over a month, along with whatever you earned from October 1st until November 22nd.

If you have Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus/Bold, those 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to airline and hotel partners as well.

So you could potentially get even more value out of this deal with certain non-cash redemptions.

Ultimately, the best bet for most people is to buy Amazon gift cards and earn 10% back for future spending.

You’ll effectively get your Amazon items for 10% off once you receive your cash back. And I’m sure most people can easily spend $1,500 at Amazon in the course of a few months, if not sooner.

No Need to Sign Up Again

If you already activated your fourth quarter 5% cash back bonus with Chase, there’s no need to sign up again to be eligible for this deal.

You’re automatically enrolled and will earn 10% cash back when making purchases at the merchants previously mentioned.

If you haven’t signed up, make sure you do so by December 14th in order to be included in the promotion. I believe it’s retroactive even if you sign up after spending.

Also, if you’re planning on making big purchases at any of these stores, you might want to wait until November 23rd or even a few days later to make sure you actually earn the double cash back.

Keep in mind that the extra 5% cash back can take 1-2 billing cycles to be awarded and reflected in your statement, so be patient.

And as with any type of date-based promotion, it’s wise to make the purchases well within the window to avoid any surprises.

For example, you won’t want to miss out by a day if your order isn’t processed immediately.

I’ll probably just buy Amazon gift cards for the full $1,500 unless I come up with a better idea.

I suppose you can also buy third-party gift cards on Amazon’s website as well and effectively shop at those stores at a rate of 10% off.

For the record, Discover it is also offering 5% cash back at Amazon during the fourth quarter, but new cardholders get their cash back doubled the first year.

So this essentially matches the existing Discover deal, which might be the whole point of it.

In any case, you can take full advantage if you have both cards and earn 10% back on up to $3,000 in purchases. Not a bad way to earn $300 or more.

Enjoy!

Get $15 for Adding Chase Freedom to Visa Checkout

If you’re looking for some low hanging fruit, check out (no pun intended) the latest offer from Visa Checkout and Chase.

Here’s how it works:

1. Register for Visa Checkout
2. Add your Chase Freedom card
3. Make a $15+ purchase on a website that accepts Visa Checkout using your Chase Freedom card
4. Collect $15 via a statement credit within 1-2 billing cycles

It’s that easy folks. I already have a Visa Checkout account with my Chase Ink card (due to an earlier promotion) so I skipped straight to step 2.

From there I just had to enter my Chase Freedom card details and I was off and running.

I cruised over to Staples.com and made a $25 Starbucks gift card purchase. They actually charge you $26.99 to cover shipping but I didn’t mind.

You can also shop at Newegg.com for e-gift cards with no fees, but they don’t have Starbucks gift cards.

They do have other restaurant gift cards though such as Domino’s or Cheesecake Factory, to name a couple.

Anyway, once you add the item to your cart, simply select the Visa Checkout option and it will redirect you to log in.

Once logged in, you simply verify the details of the payment (make sure it’s on Chase Freedom if you have multiple cards registered with Visa Checkout) and hit submit.

That’s pretty much it. In 1-2 billing cycles you should see a $15 statement credit to offset your $15+ purchase.

Get a $25 Gift Card for $10 with Chase Freedom

For some, this could mean a free $15 item. For others, like me, it’s a $25 gift card for $12.  It could be just $10 if you avoid the shipping fees.

I could have searched a little harder for a gift card with no fees but I couldn’t be bothered. You can get other gift cards at Staples with e-mail delivery for no fee, including eBay, Whole Foods, and Home Depot.

For the record, the Visa Checkout offer is valid from November 2nd through December 31, 2015 and there is a limit of one $15 credit per customer or card account.

Once you make your purchase, check to see that it says “paid with Visa Checkout.”  You may want to print the receipt for your records and/or save the e-mail for proof.

Enjoy!

Amex Small Business Saturday Statement Credits Targeted This Year

Over the past few years, American Express has been extremely generous in handing out statement credits for shopping small, otherwise known as swiping your Amex at non-corporate local businesses.

In fact, last year they gave enrolled cardmembers 3 $10 statement credits per American Express credit card when spending $10.

In other words, you could earn $30 for spending $30 on a single Amex card. The beauty of this promotion was that you could enroll ALL of your Amex credit and charge cards, meaning the savings were exponential.

For example, I have four American Express credit cards, including Old Blue Cash, Fidelity Amex, Amex Serve, and Amex Blue.

That meant I could earn $120 in credits when spending $120 at local businesses near me. I mostly went to liquor stores and small wine shops to purchase wine (hey, it was simple).

I also made my wife an authorized user on two of my credit cards, which meant she also earned $60 for $60 in spending.

In total, we snagged nearly $200 in savings on Small Business Saturday last year thanks to the very liberal policy employed by Amex.

But this year the promotion changed. Some assumed they wouldn’t be giving out the credits at all, perhaps because what I just explained was seen as abuse.

Or maybe Amex is feeling the need to tighten the belt a bit and stop handing out lots of free money.

In any case, they announced a month or two ago that instead of statement credits, they’d be increasing their support of small business owners with marketing, free online ads, and other promotional stuff.

Are You Targeted?

small biz saturday credit

But this past weekend, Amex cardholders began noticing targeted statement credits for Small Business Saturday in their Amex offers.

I logged in and found the offer on both my Amex Blue and Amex Blue Cash cards, though not on my authorized user accounts or on Amex Serve. I also can’t manually add it to Fidelity Amex.

So I’ll be getting $20 for spending $20 this year, which pales in comparison to last year but is still better than nothing.

And I have until November 28th to spend the $10 at participating stores, as opposed to having to do the spending on one specific day.

Be sure to check your accounts to see if you’ve been targeted for this promotion and add the offers quickly if you were.  I’m assuming enrollment is limited.

Tip: Some people argue that you should launch all your Amex accounts in separate browser windows at the same time in case the offer goes away once you add it to one of your cards.

For example, once I added it to my Old Blue card it may have no longer been available on my authorized user accounts.

You can try this is if you think it’s true, but it might just be a myth. I didn’t do it so I’ll never know if I truly missed out, but I’m happy to get my free $20 this year.

Read more: Get Amex statement credits for paying your phone and cable bills!