Sunday, July 14, 2013

Small Business Saturday - Nov 30

I realize it's still 4 months away, but if you're looking to maximize the value of your credit cards, then now is the time to start thinking about Thanksgiving.

Well, to be more specific, thinking about Small Business Saturday ("SBS") which comes after Thanksgiving Thursday.

For those of you who don't know, SBS is a program run by American Express (similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday) where there are special promotions for shopping at retailers.

What is SBS?
The way it has worked in the past, you go online and register your American Express credit cards. Then if you spend over $25 at a small business (i.e., not a chain retailer/restaurant), then American Express will give you a $25 credit a few days later. So if you spend exactly $25 at your local independent restaurant using your Amex, it will end up 100% free!

How does it actually work?
I'm just a 21 month old toddler without any connections at American Express, so can't confirm the 2013 details with 100% certainty, but here's how it worked last year (November 2012).
  1. On Sunday November 18 (few days before Thanksgiving), they opened the online registration. My father went online that morning and registered each of his American Express cards (Starwood Amex, Hilton Amex, etc). It's unclear if there's a limit on how many people can sign up, but he didn't take any chances so he did it first thing.
  2. During the week, my father looked on Amex's Small Shop Map that listed all the small businesses that qualified for the SBS statement credit, including dry cleaners, independent retailers, small grocery stores, non-chain restaurants, wine shops, etc. Of course, my obsessive super organized father actually scheduled out his Saturday with stores he would visit and which Amex cards he would use to make sure he got full value.
  3. On Thurs November 22, we enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner (thanks to pre-ordering from FreshDirect).
  4. On Sat November 24, we spent at least $25 at each of the following places:  Ivory Dry Cleaners ($25), 11AM family dim sum brunch at Golden Unicorn ($50 split across 2 cards), picked up our favorite sandwiches at Defonte's of Brooklyn ($25) to eat later, nice dinner with family friends at Tre Dici ($75 split across 3 cards) and picked up a bottle of red at the local wine shop ($25).
Within 1 week, all 8 Amex cards received $25 statement credits each. $200 of value. Not a bad Saturday.

Why are you telling me now?
But why am I talking about SBS in the middle of July?  Because now is the time to think about applying for a few American Express cards so that you'll have 1 or 2 opportunities before November comes. As you may recall, my parents like to spread their rounds of applications out by about 3 months. So if they applied now (mid-July) for a few cards, then they would apply for their next round in mid-October.  Hopefully between the two rounds, they could get a bunch of American Express cards to use for SBS.

Baby Songer Tip
Yes, you heard correctly, my parents had 8 different American Express cards registered for Small Business Saturday. But we didn't have 8 different American Express card accounts.

Remember, unlike Visa or Mastercard, getting an additional authorized user card (or two) for an American Express account will result in having several unique American Express card numbers - meaning multiple $25 SBS statement credit opportunities.
  • For example, my father's personal Starwood Amex card account also lists my mother and my grandmother as secondary card holders (3 different Amex cards under my father's account). 
  • In addition, my mother's own personal Starwood Amex card (where she is the primary cardholder) also has my father as a secondary authorized user. 
  • Then my mother also has a SPG Business Amex card with another 2 secondary cardholders. So between 3 SPG Amex card accounts, we have 8 unique SPG Amex cards. 8 x $25 = $200 of potential SBS statement credits! 
As you know, we love Starwood's loyalty program, so opening separate multiple accounts allows us to access those 25,000 SPG point sign up bonuses multiple times. Since the first year has the annual fee waived, we cancel old accounts and open new accounts for one of my parents (personal or business) each year. But given my father's account is one of his oldest active accounts, we keep that one open every year and pay the $65 annual fee on it. But with SBS, we can more than offset the annual fee.

OK, other than SPG, what other American Express cards are out there?  
Well, you can obviously check out the dozens of Amex cards available at, but not every card is worth having and I sure don't recommend opening a new card just for $25-50 of SBS statement credits. We only open new cards if they have big sign up bonuses or offer incredible benefits (at least $500 of value). So with that, here are the ones that we have (for now):
  • Starwood Amex (8 cards across 3 accounts, only 1 account has an annual fee this year)
  • Citi American Airlines Amex (1 card, annual fee waived 1st year)
  • Hilton HHonors Amex (4 cards across 2 accounts, no annual fee ever)
  • Platinum Personal Amex (3 cards across 2 accounts, $450 annual fee + $175 for 3 additional users, but you can offset much of the annual fee if you're smart about the benefits)
  • Gold Business Rewards Amex (2 cards across 1 account, annual fee waived 1st year)

That's 18 unique American Express cards, or as my crazy toddler math skills tell me, $450 of potential free spending. The question is though, can we find enough small businesses to spend that much money at on one Saturday?


  1. can you register amex branded store cards? bloomingdales, macys...

  2. I'm doubtful, but might as well try.

  3. Dear Baby Songer,

    You probably already know this, but your father is a genius.

  4. I'm sure he'd love to hear that. Thanks for reading!