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How Amex has innovated to keep cardholders engaged in 2020

Dec. 01, 2020
9 min read
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Ah, 2020. It's been a year like no other.

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And when it comes to how we're spending money in 2020 versus years past, the distinction couldn't be starker. One of the biggest impacts? The sharp decline in travel and travel spending.

Demand for travel is now ever-so-slowly recovering from the depths of the pandemic earlier this spring. However, an October 2020 McKinsey survey showed that four out of five Americans have still yet to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of comfort with “normal” out-of-home activities. Instead, that spending has shifted to things closer to home.

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Credit card companies have had to adapt to this new normal, and American Express was one of the first to make accommodations for the drastic shift in consumer behavior earlier this year.

In May, Amex led the pack with tangible, limited time offers to provide value to cardholders in this new reality that we’re living in. Just a month later, their "Shop Small" promotional campaign elevated the profile of independent stores and restaurants at a time when they needed it most.

Finally, with an additional three months to earn a welcome offer, various retention offers, "Appreciation Credits" and other bonuses, Amex has been able to foster goodwill with its customer base.

During this period of uncertainty, Amex has come out swinging to engage cardholders. Let's dive into some ways cardholders have been able to benefit from these moves.

Limited-time offers on travel cards

One of the most newsworthy items from the last eight months has been how card companies have been introducing limited-time offers to cater to cardholders' changing spending. In fact, we've been keeping tabs on all of the changes, by regularly updating our evergreen guide to pandemic-era benefits.

Streaming has been a popular category in 2020. (Photo by Phil Barker/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Amex recognized this early on and became the first issuer to unveil temporary offers that related to staying connected, dining at home, working and running a business remotely and supporting small businesses.

Related: 6 Amex Platinum benefits you can use from home

Temporary yet still longer-lasting offers

Several cards even had offers last through the rest of the 2020 calendar year, showing that Amex had the foresight to engage with consumers for an extended period even at a time when no one knew how long the pandemic would continue.

For instance, cardholders have been able to benefit from credits on The Platinum Card® from American Express with its annual fee of $550 (see rates and fees). That card has been offering a pandemic-friendly up to $20 back as a statement credit per month each on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and up to $20 back as a statement credit per month each on select wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers since May. With the credits going through December 2020, that's a total value of up to $320. (Credits no longer available)

Full details of Amex Platinum limited-time offers here.

Of course, there have been other offers too, such as the ability to earn elite status through eligible purchases while staying at home. (Terms apply.)

(Photo courtesy of Hilton Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi)

Take the Hilton Honors American Express Card lineup as an example. Bonus points earned through eligible purchases made on any of the Hilton Honors American Express cards, if they post to the card member’s Hilton Honors account through Dec. 31, 2021, (offer extended recently by a full year), are now considered base points and will count toward elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.

That's a full 19 months to help cardmembers earn elite status while making everyday purchases using the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or Hilton Honors American Express Card.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Discounts at small businesses

Every year since 2010, Amex has had a "Small Business Saturday" event right after Thanksgiving to encourage shopping at small, local businesses. In fact, in 2019, the initiative helped generate a reported $19.6 billion in spending at these businesses.

Small businesses have been a large part of Amex's efforts. (Photo by Rafa Elias / Getty Images)

This year, Amex brought it back -- with a twist. The pandemic has ravaged small businesses and Amex refreshed a previous small business statement credit incentive for the summer months instead of the typical end-of-year holiday season period.

Related: TPG’s picks for Small Business Saturday holiday shopping

With the campaign, all consumer Amex cardmembers were eligible to receive up to a total of $50 in statement credits when shopping at small businesses. This was a win-win: cardholders would be enticed to shop with independent businesses while the businesses themselves would see increased foot (or digital) traffic.

Related: Best small business credit cards

Offers to keep you as a cardholder

Even if the limited-time card benefits and "Shop Small" campaign wasn't enough, Amex targeted many cardholders with unique "appreciation credits" and other offers to remain a customer.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Many of these credits were offers to keep your card open and active if you had an upcoming annual fee renewal date. For instance, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offered up to a $200 statement credit, in addition to the other limited-time offers (up to $200 in additional Dell credits for U.S. purchases with Dell Technologies and up to $320 when you use your card on wireless telephones services purchased directly from U.S service providers and on eligible U.S. purchases for shipping through December 2020) if you paid the $595 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Currently, those with the personal Amex Platinum card who renew the card (and pay the annual fee) between April 2020 and March 2021 can receive a $200 Amex Travel statement credit offer.

While these offers aren't available to everyone, they are a testament to how Amex has continued to proactively retain and engage cardholders. (Terms apply.)

Related: Complete guide to Amex Travel

What TPG readers had to say

We asked TPG readers how they've benefited from Amex's perks during the pandemic, here's a snapshot of what a few had to say.

Thomas S.: The Amex Platinum credits (up to $20 back monthly for select streaming services and up to $20 back monthly for select wireless services) were a huge win for me, I moved my cell phone and streaming services from another card over to the Platinum. The existing $200 Uber Cash benefit was helpful as well.

Melody S.: We have an Amex Platinum and we’ve used the full wireless credit (up to $20 back monthly for select wireless services) and only part of the streaming credit (up to $20 back monthly for select streaming services). The Shop Small credit (up to $50 back) was fully used and we absolutely loved it! We got a $200 Amex Travel statement credit on an escape from the city.

Steven P.: I shifted my cell phone bill and streaming services to my Amex Platinum card when the offers launched. Maxing out on both saved me over $500 so far. I also view the Platinum's temporary offers, combined with the Uber Cash benefit (which I use for Uber Eats) to be great.

Mark K. The additional up to $200 in Dell credits this year really came in handy on my Amex Business Platinum card. I was able to offset the cost of a new computer for my small business which I was planning on buying anyhow.

Bottom line

Card issuers, including Amex, have had to be nimble and adapt to the changing times of 2020. Amex has been one of the most innovative in ensuring cardholders stay engaged with limited-time offers and various credits.

All the while, Amex is working to attract new customers, too. In fact, new Amex Platinum cardholders can take advantage of one of its best offers ever -- 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in your first six months of card membership and 10x points on up to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets during the same first six months.

The American Express® Gold Card also has a generous welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months.

Finally, if cash back is more your style, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is offering a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first six months of card membership.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, click here.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.