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Naturally, the focus at TPG is on earning points and miles, but the American Express OPEN Savings program allows you to choose between bonus rewards and cash savings. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr discusses how select Amex business cards can earn you unexpected discounts at a variety of retailers.
There are plenty of high-value travel rewards card benefits that demand your attention, like large statement credits and lounge access. However, sometimes the less heralded benefits can be equally valuable, just in smaller doses over a longer period. The Amex OPEN Savings program isn’t highly touted, but it provides pretty effortless savings to American Express business cardholders that can add up in the long run. In this post, I’ll look at the partners available through Amex OPEN and discuss how you can maximize the program’s savings.
The OPEN Savings program offers discounts or bonus points to Amex business cardholders for purchases made with select merchants. If your card is enrolled in Membership Rewards, you can choose between a 5% discount or 2 bonus Membership Rewards points per dollar spent. If your card is co-branded with an airline, hotel or other partner, you’ll automatically receive the 5% discount. Simply pay your bill with your business card enrolled in OPEN Savings, and the discount or bonus points will appear on your statement within 12 weeks of the purchase.
OPEN has undergone several changes since 2013, dropping former partner OfficeMax and lowering savings with Hertz from 10% to 5%. Here’s a rundown of the current partners — again, each of them offers a 5% discount or 2 bonus Membership Rewards points per dollar spent:
Hyatt — Benefits apply to direct spending with a Hyatt hotel property. The bonus is capped on the first $10,000 of spending per card account in a calendar year. Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt Zilara, Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Residence Club locations are ineligible for the OPEN benefit.
Hertz — Benefits apply to rentals made at corporate-owned locations, excluding Hertz 24/7. No cap is listed in the terms and conditions of the program. Check here for participating locations.
FedEx — Benefits apply to the first $20,000 in combined spending on qualifying services at FedEx Express and FedEx Ground locations per card account in a calendar year. For a complete list of qualifying services, go to opensavings.com. The discount not available on FedEx shipments that do not originate from FedEx locations unless the method of payment is a FedEx account linked to a Business Card from American Express OPEN.
You can also receive the same benefits for an additional $20,000 in spending on FedEx Freight Priority and FedEx Freight Economy services. Invoices from FedEx Freight Canada or FedEx Freight de Mexico are not eligible.
In addition, you can receive the same benefits for an additional $20,000 in spending at the FedEx Office store or fedexoffice.com.
HP.com — Benefits apply to the first $30,000 of purchases made in a calendar year on HP.com. Certain transactions are excluded, such as gift cards, phone orders and retail store purchases.
1-800 Flowers — Benefits apply to all purchases, including delivery charges, from orders placed by phone or at 1-800Flowers.com. No cap is mentioned in the terms and conditions.
Barnes & Noble Online — Benefits apply to all purchases made at BN.com. In-store purchases are excluded from any OPEN benefits.
Best Cards with OPEN Savings
Twelve different American Express business cards offer built-in OPEN savings benefits, and many of them offer other lucrative perks — like the ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card, or the 5% cash back you can earn with the SimplyCash Business Card at office supply stores and on wireless telephone services.
Three cards stand out in my mind as the best. They each earn valuable Amex Membership Rewards points, which is one of my favorite transferable loyalty currencies. Here are my picks (in no particular order):
The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN — This card offers a vast array of benefits, including a $200 airline fee credit; lounge access via Delta Sky Clubs, Amex Centurion Lounges, and the Priority Pass Select program; an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; free Boingo Wi-Fi; automatic Starwood Gold Status; access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program; 10 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes; and no foreign transaction fees. The card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. The annual fee of $450 can quickly be recouped via the airline credit, lounge access, free Wi-Fi and OPEN savings.
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express — Apart from the fact that this card earns what TPG considers the most valuable loyalty currency out there, American Express just announced some new benefits that will be added to both the personal and business versions of the card in August. This card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints: 10,000 after your first purchase on the card, and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership. The annual fee is increasing to $95, but the first year is still waived for new card members.
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN — This card earns 3 points per dollar in your top choice from among five categories, while you’ll still earn 2 points per dollar in the other four categories. Choose from US shipping purchases, purchases made directly with an airline, US purchases on advertising in select media, US gas stations or US computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. Bonus points are capped on the first $100,000 in purchases in each of the 5 categories. The card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 on the card within the first 3 months of card membership. The $175 annual fee is waived for the first year.
How to Maximize OPEN Savings
The OPEN Savings benefits are useful on their own, but here are 6 tips to help you get the most out of them:
1. Combine the Business Gold Rewards Card with the FedEx discount — Shipping is one of the five categories you can choose from to earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar as a Business Gold Rewards cardholder. You can earn an additional 2 points per dollar from your OPEN Savings benefits when shipping via Fedex, bringing your total earnings up to 5 points per dollar. If you maxed out the OPEN cap of $20,000 in shipping with FedEx Ground or Fedex Express, you could earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points per calendar year.
TPG values Amex Membership Rewards at 2 cents apiece, meaning this strategy would earn you $2,000 worth of Membership Rewards points each year. If you ship via FedEx freight (which qualifies under the OPEN program as a separate $20,000 cap), then you could earn another 100,000 Membership Rewards points. Beyond that, you could still earn 3 points per dollar on another $60,000 worth of shipping with the Business Gold Rewards card.
2. Buy Hyatt gift cards — Several reports indicate that gift card purchases from Hyatt.com qualify for the 5% OPEN Savings discount. Hyatt sometimes offers gift card sales, meaning this is an easy way to get an additional 5% off already discounted gift cards. A 15% discount (or more) is a great way to cover incidentals or even hotel rooms during your next Hyatt stay. Note that Hyatt gift cards can only be used in the US, Canada and The Caribbean, but that leaves plenty of great properties where you can take advantage of this discount.
3. Earn discounted bonus points for buying flowers — Online shopping portals routinely offer large bonuses on flowers around major holidays. You can find bonuses as high as 30 points per dollar at floral retailers, including 1-800 Flowers. The 5% discount you can get through OPEN Savings (including 5% off delivery charges) makes it more worthwhile to go after those large bonuses even if prices are on the high side.
4. Combine HP.com coupon codes with OPEN — HP.com usually has a few coupon codes or sales that offer great deals on software, hardware or toner. The additional 5% can make a huge difference if you’re making a large computer purchase.
For example, the coupon code FIREWORK30 currently offers 30% off PCs costing $1,199 or more at HP.com. If you were to buy an eligible computer right at that $1,200 threshold and apply the coupon code, you’d only pay $840. Add in the OPEN Savings discount from Amex and you’ll pay $798 after your statement credit, saving you an extra $42. That’s a total discount of 33.5% on a new PC.
5. Combine the 5% discount with Hertz rental coupons — Much like with HP.com, there are several promotion codes or CDP numbers you can use with Hertz to save on car rentals. Paying with your OPEN card means an additional 5% off the total posted to your card statement.
I recently helped a friend rent a car for an emergency two-week trip back to the US. When he was checking out online, I reminded him to pay with his SPG Business Card. His total was $650 for two weeks of a full-size rental, so he saved $32.50 just by remembering to pay with the right card.
6. Get discounted access to even more discounts — With a Barnes & Noble Membership from BN.com, you receive free shipping with no minimum purchase, $50 in coupons by email, 40% off hardcover bestsellers, 10% off almost everything else and member-exclusive offers. By paying for your membership on BN.com with your Amex OPEN card, you get a 5% discount on top of all those other discounts.
The OPEN Savings program doesn’t get top billing next to other prized card benefits, but it can be highly lucrative nonetheless, especially considering how little effort is required to earn discounts or bonus points. If you already have an eligible Amex card, but haven’t been taking advantage of these discounts, consider whether your spending patterns offer any opportunities to put them to use. Naturally, be sure to compare prices between the OPEN Savings partners and their respective competitors to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
If you don’t already have an eligible card, I think my three top picks discussed above offer the best overall value, but there are others that may better suit your needs. The SimplyCash Card is a great no-fee option, and the other co-branded cards offer added savings to anyone who shops at Lowe’s or Costco. Check out the list and see which ones work for you.
How do you maximize your OPEN savings? With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.