Amex Shop Small Is Back: More Free Food & Drinks!

Update: It seems that multiple transactions at the same store are no longer triggering multiple $5 credits on the same card this time around. I’ve updated the article to reflect this.


One of the most lucrative promotions from Amex Canada in recent times has been the Shop Small event, which first took place in October and November 2018, and then again in March and April earlier this year.

Well, I’m happy to see that Shop Small is back for yet another round, this time from July 15 to August 31, 2019.

Similar to last time, Amex cardholders in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal can earn a $5 statement credit every time they spend at least $5 with participating small businesses, up to a total of five times.

That’s a total of $25 in statement credits that you can earn for every Canadian-issued Amex card that you hold – Membership Rewards cards, Bonvoy, Air Miles, etc. are all fair game. With many of us cycling through several Amex cards at any given moment, and even some of us playing the game in two- or three-player mode (or even more), I imagine there will be a lot of registrations from the Miles & Points community.


How It Works

You must enroll your Amex card(s) in the promotion before making the $5 purchases. First, click on one of the below links depending on which city you live in:

(You might also see the Shop Small promotion show up under Amex Offers for some of your cards, but not for all of them. Therefore, the best way to register all your Amex cards is to go through the above links.)

As before, there’s a limit to how many cardmembers can enroll for each city – the promotion is limited to 3,000 Calgarians, 3,000 Montrealers, 5,000 Vancouverites, and 7,000 Torontonians. Note that the Vancouver limit has been reduced this time, down to 5,000 from 7,000 registrations in previous promotions.

While none of the cities became “full” during the first Shop Small event in 2018, I recall that the Toronto offer ended up reaching the maximum registrations in the Shop Small event earlier this year with a few weeks still to go. Therefore, I’d encourage you to register all your cards sooner rather than later. 

Even if you live in another Canadian city but plan on visiting one of these four places before the deadline of August 31, then you can register for that city’s promotion and rack up your $5 charges when you’re in town.

Enter your first and last name, your card number, and your email address, then press the Enroll button.

If you see a “Thanks for registering!” message, that means your card has successfully been enrolled.

You can use the Amex Shop Small Map to look up the participating retailers, by filtering for “Spend $5, Get $5” under the Featured heading.

 
 

In the past, I had recommended that you purchase coffee shop gift cards at places like Second Cup in order to easily rack up the $5 charges.

For Toronto residents, another easy way to complete this promotion was to purchase groceries at Rabba Fine Foods, which is basically a neighbourhood grocery store where you can easily break up your purchases into chunks of roughly $5 each.

Unfortunately, for this promotion, it seems that a lot of the merchants that were previously very generously included in the definition of a “small business”, like Second Cup or Rabba, are no longer tagged as “Spend $5, Get $5”. 

I mean, Second Cup and Rabba are full-blown franchise stores, not small businesses, so it’s kind of fair. On one hand, this is probably good news for me, since I’m still trying to use up my several hundreds of dollars’ worth of Second Cup gift cards, with no end in sight. But on the other hand, many “easy” opportunities for knocking out those $5 transactions have now vanished, so we’re going to have to get a little more creative.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy $5 gift cards for dining establishments that you’d frequent anyway; for example, several popular eateries in Toronto’s Financial District offer gift cards and are participating in Shop Small

    • Spread out your $5 gift card purchases over the promotion period in order to avoid overburdening any particular cashier; if you do overburden someone, leave a generous tip!

 
Screen Shot 2019-07-19 at 7.30.07 PM.png
 
  • Ask the waiter to split your payment into $5 chunks when you go out to eat or drink, explaining the promotion to them and offering to tip them generously

  • Go out to eat or drink with other friends who are trying to maximize Amex Shop Small (maybe organize a local Miles & Points meetup!), so that everyone can make some $5 purchases when you split the bill

As in previous promotions, the terms and conditions do state:

A qualifying purchase of $5 or more in a single transaction that is made at a different participating business or different location of the same participating business will qualify for one $5 statement credit up to a maximum of $25 in statement credits per registered card during the offer period. One or more purchases made at the same business location will qualify for one $5 statement credit. 
— American Express

…and many data points show that these terms are actually enforced this time around, unlike previous Shop Small events. So you’ll need to visit five separate stores in order to avail of the full $25 in statement credits.

In my experience, the $5 credit posts within one business day of the transaction itself posting, so you can also take the portion of the terms and conditions that reads “Statement credit will be applied to your registered card account within 90 days after 31/08/2019” with a grain of salt. 


Conclusion

When Amex Shop Small first took place late last year, I ended up with over $300 in free coffee, and in March and April of this year, I came away with yet another huge windfall. I’m very happy to see Amex launching Shop Small for yet another round, and I can only hope that the enthusiastic uptake of this promotion among Amex cardholders convinces them to bring it back even more frequently in the future.