How Did You Do On Small Business Saturday?

Yesterday was Small Business Saturday (aka the day where American Express helps subsidize your annual fees), which is one of my favorite days of the year on the credit card front.

For the past several years American Express has run a promotion on this day whereby you can get a statement credit when you shop at a small business that day.


This year they offered three $10 statement credits per card. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great way to subsidize the annual fees on many American Express cards. 😉


So, I’m curious to hear what your strategy was for Small Business Saturday. The way I look at it, there are four kinds of American Express cardmembers when it comes to this promotion.

A) Hmmm, so I can buy how many gift cards at one place?

There are those that go to a retailer — maybe their favorite restaurant — and say “yeah, so I’d like to buy $300 in gift cards… but please swipe each card three times for exactly $10.” Then half an hour later they walk out with 30 gift cards.


B) I feel too guilty to do it all at one place.

Then there are those that feel too guilty/self conscious to do that all at one retailer. So they still only buy gift cards, but split it up a bit. Maybe a few gift cards per retailer, for example.

C) Spa/nails/liquor store/restaurant day.

Then there are those that make a “day” out of Small Business Saturday. They don’t make exactly $10 purchases, but instead actually visit a bunch of small businesses to go about their normal business and pick up statement credits that way.

D) I can’t be bothered.

Then there are those that can’t be bothered to take advantage of this promotion, since we’re “only” talking about a $10 credit per card per purchase.

So I’m curious, which category do you fall into? And how much will American Express be reimbursing you for your spending yesterday? 🙂



  1. I’m in category “A”. Except that I didn’t buy $10 gift card; I bought $50 gift cards and paid with five swipes for each card I bought.

  2. I’m a cross between B & C. I went to many of our local small business and did necessary Christmas shopping and got a few gift cards for future use. Between my wife and me our reimbursement will be $240

  3. If you followed A literally, your going to be disappointed, each card can only be used once at the same place. The minimum effort involves going to three places.

    I made my card circuit in 5 places (I have a lot of cards).

    The best tip I learned next year was that many places allow multiple cards on a purchase (like Chris did). That’s a real time saver.

  4. @ beachfan — What am I missing? That wasn’t in the terms, and lots of people got reimbursement emails immediately for multiple purchases at the same place with the same card.

  5. I always spend my money at the same place, which is a one store only, natural food grocery store. They love it and so do I. I will have them ring up my purchases in increments, so I do end up paying an extra $0.50-1 with each purchase. This year, I was out of town, so I called them, told them what I was doing, and they happily swiped our cards and are holding the gcs until I can get there. I love SBS!!

  6. I hit six places and just got $20 at each over two swipes, basically spread out over two different geographic areas. I just couldn’t make someone swipe more than two cards…

  7. i am in category A: i went to a local supermarket and bought Amazon giftcards. My reward is nearly enough to purchase a Tumi Super Leger which is on sale on Amazon

  8. Group C I guess… $10 breakfast at my favorite local diner followed by book shopping at independent bookstores followed by ice cream at a little gelato store followed by groceries at the corner market followed by a quick trip to the hardware store followed by picking up tickets for an upcoming concert at a little indie venue followed by dinner at a new restaurant I’d been wanting to try. A little hectic, but I felt like it was a good way to have a bit of fun with the day instead of just loading up on gift cards.

  9. @ Lucky – well I would have sworn I saw it in the T&C, but I reread it and don’t see it. I hope you are right!

    Although experience has shown me that putting all your eggs in one basket could be risky. While Amazon cards is a great idea (I don’t have a small store that sells locally), but having it all in one restaurant can be an issue if that restaurant closes (happened to me one year; luckily, I could liquidate them at another restaurant 35 miles away).

  10. @Lucky;

    Update to confirm you are right based on other blog’s report of first hand experience getting three email confirmation from 3 transactions at one store.

  11. Breakfast: $10.60
    Baker’s Dozen of Bagels: $11
    Store Purchase 1: $11.50
    Store Purchase 2: $13
    Lunch, Person 1: $10.50
    Lunch, Person 2: $12.50
    Thing Wife Needed for Job: $13.40
    Five Big Chocolate Chip Cookies: $10.60
    Dinner, Person 1: $11.50
    Dinner, Person 2: $29 (okay, they got us here)
    Dessert: $10.30

  12. My day was not as easy, and mostly frustrating. Sbs map is terrible. Was in Orange County California.

    1. Went to a corner deli that is on the sbs map and has amex small biz on the door.
    Went to pay and was told they don’t accept amex.

    2. Went to a diff Cafe on sbs map, building is torn down.

    3. Went to a sub sandwich place and asked for gift cards, told they don’t know how to manage the machine. Frustrated so far. 6 swipes of ~$10 in sandwiches for my family.

    4. Tried a few more places for gift cards. All Fail.

    5. Got a tire patched for $10 at corner tire center. 1 swipe.

    6. Had sushi dinner with friends. Swiped 3x.

    7. Went to teds liquor (on sbs map) told he doesn’t take amex.

    8. Went to Irish pub. Giftcards 7 swipes

    9. Went to clothing store. Gift Cards 6 swipes

    10. Went to coffee shop. Wait for manager to run gift cards. 3 swipes.

    Brother did 18swipes at boutique liquor shop.

  13. combo A and B. Went to 3 different restaurants and spent $30 or more at each ( I spent a little more knowing I would eat there anyway and some of the places only did $25 increments) – total of 3 amex cards

  14. Mixture of B & C at 7 merchants – $330. Purchased breakfast, restaurant gift cards, liquor, hardware store, swimming pool chemicals and flowers for yard. Everything was for something I would have otherwise spent…except I splurged on a bottle of wine where the store allowed 2 swipes for the one bottle. One merchant was very excited about splitting the multiple cards…I’ll go back next year as he was excited for the sale and knew about Small Business Saturday. I did 10 cards at one merchant that was curious, but ran them through separately without complaint. Fun day!

  15. $210 total-7 cards

    $10-7 cards-before I realized I should pay for one gift card with 7 swipes-duh!
    $50 + $20

    All at restaurants that aren’t really small businesses. Our favorite small place wasn’t participating 🙁

  16. What category is the person that uses Square Reader to pay himself? Used ZERO polluting gasoline and netted $210 – interchange fees. That’s money I can spend anywhere. The environment for the win.

  17. Hubby and I were of the B & C variety. We just would feel really embarrassed if we did more than 2 transactions at a store (many stores were happy to do two separate transactions for each of us). We are lucky because our street here in Santa Monica CA is a small business street- about 80% of the businesses are independently owned boutiques. So we simply walked up and down the street and made multiple small purchases at A LOT of the stores. Mostly we bought gifts (lots of baby gifts since a lot of our friends are having babies in the next 6 months, hostess gifts, and gourmet food and beer/wine). At the end of the night we went to the mall to finish our shopping at a few additional independent stores and splurged on slightly more expensive items ($20+ per transaction) for ourselves, and had a nice pizza dinner w/ craft beer. We had a total of 13 cards between us and still had a few transactions left over so I tried to buy some gift cards from local businesses online. I hope those get counted, but even if they don’t, we haven’t lost any money because there are no transaction fees or shipping costs for the GCs, and we will use all of them pretty soon to buy additional baby gifts! All in all, we netted over $600 in goods and gift cards for about $240. This includes a few splurges and gift cards that were $25/transaction because those were the minimum GC amount available & and we were trying to get the last few $10 credits via online purchases with our local merchants. Our more straightforward purchases averaged about $14.50 per transaction which includes the steep almost 10% sales tax here in Santa Monica. GREAT SUCCESS and lot of fun sharing it with sharing it with my very tired hubby!!!

  18. I manage 5 people in my household and registered 33 Amex cards. Four seperate trips with 99 total swipes for $10 each. Roughly I take out $200 for the annual fee for three cards while others were fee free, so I came out with approximately $800 net profit. Main challenge was to drag others out of the home where I cannot sign the cards myself.

  19. I did 24 ten-dollar reloads in my favorite coffee place. The clerk knew what to do. We spent about three minutes there.

  20. I tried to spread the spending among several businesses but many didn’t accept AMEX, even if they were on the list. I ended up getting lunch (x1) and buying chocolate gift packages from a local candy maker (x14 separate transactions – boy was that fun!) that I can give to clients this holiday. So we rang up fourteen boxes of $12.50 chocolates. All the email confirmations came through and I know my vendors and clients will love them.

  21. I prefer to spread wealth around. I spend $30 piece at retail consignment store where I shop regularly for my child, local theater and kical restaurant I often goto before or after a movie.

  22. A combo of A-C. A bit frustrating this year with 18 swipes between hubby and I. But made it work and discovered a nice breakfast place in the process.

  23. I took my dogs on a tour of the local independent Pet stores and got them their fancy wellness dog fod, dog vitamins, overpriced dog treats etc.They like being allowed in the stores instead of having to wait in the car.

  24. I’m a solid B – buying gift cards, but limiting the number of stores. The employees were all wonderful. The one at the 7 x $10 grocery told me that these “make such a great gifts,” even while patiently using a tediously manual logging system for their GCs involving a spiral-bound notebook. The one at the restaurant (2 x $30) was delighted to learn from her manager that there’s a “split 3 ways” button on their touch screen and happy to learn more about transaction processing.

    But I did go at non-busy hours (8:30am grocery and the restaurants before noon or after 2pm).

  25. I am A, used all 6 cards (incl hubby’s) and splitted the total cost for a case of wine over 18 transactions, knocking the price down from $65 a bottle to $50. We got a fabulous case of Cab while supporting the winemaker who is a very good friend! Gave her all the numbers on Monday and she swiped 18 transactions Saturday morning, no running around for either one of us!

  26. $480 dollar gift certificate to our favorite Thai place! 48 swipes…

    The coffee shop couldn’t fathom doing more than 3 swipes, the gelato shop panicked, and the home furnishing store got twitchy at 4. Red curry it is…my husband and I made out like bandits!

  27. $300 total, 30 swipes. Yes, same card more than once at same place is fine and received confirmation emails.
    I did $100 and $50 at two different places that also participate on dining rewards program, so got 5x miles as well. On the $100 place I tipped the girl $10 since she saved me some money with a promotion and had to swipe 9 cards.
    Also did 4 swipes at my favorite sushi restaurant that only sells gift certificates that don’t issue change, so had to truly do 4 separate transactions.
    Also went grocery shopping to two local supermarkets and had the cashier ring up remaining balances on $10 increments, $40+ at each supermarket.
    A good day.

  28. C – bought the special expensive cat food that we don’t normally splurge on, a few bottles of wine at different shops, a few swipes at the small local grocer & then the last charge towards dinner – had a $20 gift card the restaurant had sent me, as well, in appreciation for doing an online survey about how they could improve.

  29. Would have been $300, but I made a strategic error with the Bluebird card. Had made sure there was more than $30 left on it, but forgot while using it for a $14 transaction that there wouldn’t be enough for the last transaction, so only netted (if all credits post) $290.

    We have a tri-plex rental property, and it has been our habit to gift each of our tenants a $20-25 gift card at the holidays. The past two years, we’ve bought gift cards on SBS for a local natural foods store. This year, however, that store became part of Whole Foods. So, we decided to give each tenant a $10 gift card to each of 3 local restaurants. Felt good supporting the local eateries..$90 total.
    Then, we took our kids out for lunch before they went back to San Francisco…two separate transactions of about $16 each. Trainee clerk would NOT have been able to handle one ticket with multiple swipes so we didn’t even try.
    One son is a police officer in Washington, DC, and we knew we’d find some holiday gift things for him at our local Army/camping store, so bought 3x $10 gift certificates on 3 cards. We’ll do the shopping soon for the actual gift(s) to send.
    The rest was divided among 4 local restaurants: $40 from restaurant A over 4 cards; $40 from restaurant B over 4 cards; $20 from restaurant C over two cards; $25 from restaurant D over two cards ($12 and $13); $15 from restaurant D on one card. (We really enjoy restaurant D and certainly don’t begrudge them the extra spending, especially since they are also on United/American dining)

  30. Guess I’m a combo of B and C. Went to four shops in my local shopping area. Got a bottle of champagne, holiday cards (which I always get for this promo), water bottles, and flank steak. Went to four instead of three places since why not. Love the deal!

  31. Oops — forgot to add that we’ve been waiting to buy tickets for a concert. $18 ticket for each of us. Didn’t want to ask them to split it in 3 transactions.

  32. Unfortunately my favorite restaurant can’t do split tender on their gift cards…… I had to buy 42 gift cards but when I got home I had 42 emails from AMEX Small Biz Saturday………I am beginning to change my view of AMEX from very greedy to very generous…………I’m sure they’ll get back on the rebound but today I am grateful……..

  33. D

    not really worth it for $10 credits, and I hate to shop so really am not going to spend time trying to save a few bucks.

  34. C! I love SBS times 12! 4 cards 3 times each that is.

    Shopped at 3 grocery stores buying actual small groups of items $10+ at a time.

    Received emails for less than half the transactions though, so a bit worried I might have to follow up with AmEx customer support later.

  35. I bought lunch at Grimaldi’s, then picked up a $50 gift card for myself (which came with an extra $10 giftcard)…so two swipes there.

    From there, I went to the craft store and bought a couple things for $11.11 with my last swipe. (I only have one Amex card.)

  36. I am a B, so I did C! I had $180 to use and it was basically a splurge day on me. Lunch, nicer bottle of wine, then some jewelry, accessories, and treats for me that I would normally never indulge in. I’m a bit concerned that I haven’t rec’d all my notifications yet. I’ve never had a problem so not too worried and I have it all down to a science so I know that it’s not that I forgot to register or anything dumb like that. It’s fun to see what everyone else did, thanks!

  37. Wish I could say I was a D. Like @Brian I hate shopping, and $10 transactions are a pain. We all have scarce time here and really shouldn’t be spending it holding up lines in stores.

    That said, being a complete cheapskate, yesterday I was an “A” for four hours, with 100+ swipes, mainly for gift cards at hardware and specialty food stores. I feel bad but at the same time wish I had added even more secondary cards.

  38. I was somewhere between B and C. Only registered two cards. No way I was going to get ms. jmd001 to run around charging stuff with her cards. 🙁

    Was amazed and impressed that my iPhone buzzed with the confirmation email from Amex basically before I was out the door of each establishment. 🙂

  39. @vicente – my experience has been that some of the “ultra-small” businesses don’t process as smoothly/quickly. But I’ve never missed out on a SBS statement credit, without need to follow up.

    For example, there are a couple of places that don’t even show up on my “pending charges” list yet. I assume it’s a business size issue which causes them to batch-process rather than real-time post.

    Sit tight for a bit – I’m confident your statement credits will show up.

  40. Gave my husband a good time in three local wine shops splurging on wine a bit more expensive than we frequently buy. Bought a few gift cards from local restaurants, never more than two at time. We got $350 in credits, but also definitely spent some extra money at the wine stores! Since it was fun at the wine stores in particular, the two and a half hours we spent out Saturday morning was worth it for us.

  41. Combination of B and C.

    I have a rather large family who all let me run their Serve/Bluebird accounts. And each Serve/Bluebird has 4 subaccount cards. Plus all the regular Amex cards and AUs. Buying a lot of gift certificates was necessary to get through the $2400 I had to spend.

    Best find was a local hardware store that sold us $300+ in True Value gift cards.

  42. I went with “C”, I don’t like trying to push the limits/intent of the program because I feel like it will only end sooner if people do that too much. Anyway, my results were far better than expected. I knew I would not be able to go out shopping Saturday, so I only registered 3 cards “just in case” and told Mr. Cyhu that the option was there for him to use if he wanted. Usually he HATES any kind of “use this card” and “only for this amount”. When he came home he was all excited and said, “I used EIGHT; only one left and I can go out again to do that!” I was flabbergasted but very pleased. I think we have another true believer on our hands. I also appreciate that Amex does this program every year.

  43. A – wife managed to spend $580 a boutique bra shop (I’m in her good books!) – which took 2 hrs as were very patient & stepped aside for other customers, & we then spend remaining $50 on gift cards at a local restaurant chain (21 cards).

  44. I’m ‘A’ all the way! I went to my two favorite Chinese restaurants in town, both are a mom & pop placed and got me some nice gift certificates. The attendant at the first one, knew something was up with AMEX that day, the minute she saw the stack of cards in my hand. She immediately snapped: “You too? How many $15 gift certificate you want? I said: “How did you know I want gift certificates?” She replied: “Because everybody with an American Express card like you have, want gift certificate today, crazy So, how many?” To what I replied: “6 please, but of $10 each!” So, thanks to AMEX, I’m getting $150 back, not bad at all!

  45. I was a D this year. When it was a single $25 discount, I participated. But this new arrangement of three $10 discounts is just too fiddly. Not worth the trouble.

  46. My second SBS but 1st with a strategy! 5 cards = $150. I received confirming em after each purchase. I had misunderstanding only 1 swipe per card per merchant. Still ok, had fun and bought things I needed.

    florist $30.03
    bakery $20.17
    beauty salon GC $50
    gift boutique for holiday gifts $57 (this place advertised no sales tax to pull in SBS shoppers and packed all purchases in SBS totes!)

  47. Was “B” but only because like beach fan was not aware could get multiple $10 at same ace so wife and I went to 3 places for a total of $210 7 x 30

  48. D. I hate to shop under the best of circumstances, and, for me, shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving is the ultimate opposite of “the best of circumstances.” At the last minute, I thought I might at least hit a restaurant to get a $10 meal subsidy, but a really nasty cold sapped all my energy, so I didn’t even bother with that. So, $0 for me.

  49. We were pretty much A. We have 25 cards between the two of us. We called restaurants on Friday night to find out if we could come before they opened for service. They were all happy to oblige.

    My hubby went to two restaurants and I went to one that is actually a small chain type with 4-6 different restaurants. I accidentally left one card at home so we dropped by a small toy store later. The owner there was under the impression that only one transaction per card would be accepted. I did three with one card and got the emails. I was a little worried because I read in the terms that they might not work if posted through a square reader but like I said, I got the confirmation emails anyway.

  50. I’m a blend of B and C. We had a wonderful time shopping and eating around town with kids. Thank you AMEX, we should get $290 back! A local fish market was very eager to help us getting couple of gift cards and has commented that SBS a great program while a local restaurant cashier was giving me the suspicious look because I was not the first person asking for 3x$10 gift cards in three transactions….she even try to see if my cards was the same as her previous customer’s receipt. Totally weird!

  51. @Ken and @Jeff R – not worth the trouble? I spent 10 minutes in my favorite restaurant that I eat in anyway. They did 36 swipes of $10 each. I got 36 emails from Amex, and with a $360 gift certificate will probably have 2 great dinners with my wife this month. They were happy and so was I. That’s worth my trouble.

  52. 13 cards registered. Wife and I did some planning and pre-shopped at local “smart” toy store. Ended up with $400 worth of goods, and get $390 of it reimbursed. Plus I earned $40 in future store credit, so will end up with $440 worth of goods for a whopping $10. It’s going to be a good Christmas in my household.

  53. 47 different AmEx cards registered (additional cardholder as employees), 3 $10 transactions on the 47 different AmEx cards (141 $10 transactions), so I received a $1,410 gift card from a small business gas station.

  54. C. Our family happened to be in New York for the weekend so we used it for touristy shopping fun. The kids had a great time picking out Christmas ornaments and going slightly wild at FAO Schwartz and M&M World (both were on the map, though I wonder whether they really count). Most of our transactions were in the $11-$13 range though one or two transactions ended up being more. We were so tired from our day we stopped at a tiny pizza by the slice place for dinner and found the Shop Small sticker in front – using up our last credit. I look forward to next year.

  55. i have 2 amex cards and maxed out with 6 swipes. however, there were some bumps along the way achieving the goal.
    2 shops did not accept amex even though they were advertized as participants.

    and at another participating store, the owner asked me if i had visa or discover instead. when i insisted using amex to purchase the $12 wine, he said the minimum purchase amount was $25 when using amex.
    you can bet he won’t see me in there again.

    anyway, with the AT&T offer and this SB Saturday deal, my business amex annual fee has been paid for.
    thank u, amex, thank u, lucky.

  56. Category B and C. We Registered 12 cards, but like to spread it around to several businesess.

    1. 12 x $10 Gift Cards at theatre 1, and netted 4 x $5 in bonus gift cards (1 $5 card for every $30 in gift cards bought) for a total of $140 in theatre gift cards

    2. 12 x $10 Gift Cards at theatre 2, and netted 4 x $5 in bonus gift cards for (1 $5 card for every $30 in gift cards bought) for a total of $140 in theatre gift cards

    3. 4 x $10 gift cards at barber shop

    4. $30 merchandise at wine boutique

    5. $10 merchandise at camera store

    6. 4 x $10 in gift cards at Nail Salon for stocking stuffers

    Total- $360 dollars plus $40 bonus gift cards = $400

    Thanks Amex!!!

  57. Went for lunch in a nice local place, stopped by at the bakery, and then liqueur stores all the way home 🙂 Wife and I would each select a bottle of wine in ~15$ range and pay separately. Stopped in 4 stores for a total of 8 bottles of decent California wine. Still 3 email confirmations short, but I expect them to eventually come through.

  58. Pretty surprised at the low usage rates here;) I personally did 64 cards spread out among different stores for a total of $1900. I heard of someone who actually had 600+ cards. Yup, he got 18K in gift cards!

  59. I wanted a new conceal carry gun, so I dropped by my local gun shop and explained the deal. The guys helping me out loved learning about it! I find each year that once you explain it, it isn’t a big deal to do it all at one place. 45 swipes later and I had a brand new gun for ~$25 out of pocket.

  60. Hmmm, didn’t realize we could do it on multiple cards. Seems like with some of the abuse listed here (64 cards), Amex might not do this again next year.

  61. I did 12 at 1 store, though on the 2nd swipe (separate txn) it didn’t like the $10 amt, so had to change it up with $11 and $10.50.

    I was worried, 4 emails came thru..then nothing for about 10 mins…then the other 8 came thru about 10 mins later. Could be b/c of the “denied” on the 2nd set of $10 txn’s.

  62. kept it simple – Mom & I went to the spa, they rang up two separate bills for each of us although I was paying – got instant email of the $10 savings. Bought the girls at spa cookies for the holidays so everyone was happy. Went about my normal routine, only had one amex card this year.

  63. I decided I didn’t want to pay the fees on 6 GCs.. so I bought actual items and had them swipe my cards 6 times instead.. win-win 🙂

    Of course I didn’t know the dozen swipes for a single GC trick…

  64. $300 across ten cards (four of those AUs on my accounts). Had gotten excited when I saw the bridal store my fiancĂŠ bought her wedding dress from and still had the final payment to make. The store appeared on the Amex sbs map but when I got there I was told that they didn’t take Amex. Ended up buying $100 GC to restaurant A, $50 GC to restaurant B, and $150 to a local natural foods grocery store. Compared to last year’s $100 take I was pretty happy but only wish I had added more authorized users to all of my cards! It’ll be interesting if they alter this for 2015, perhaps preventing AUs without a fee (only allowing AUs on plat & gold).

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