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Amex brings "Shop Small" online with the ability to redeem points -- but is it worth it?

Nov. 23, 2020
4 min read
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For a decade now, Amex has had a "Small Business Saturday" event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This day spotlighted small businesses throughout the U.S. during the busy holiday shopping period.

However, Amex did things a little differently in 2020. Earlier this summer, Amex cardmembers were eligible to receive up to a total of $50 in statement credits when shopping at their local small businesses. These companies were particularly susceptible to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and Amex incentivized cardholders to shop small with statement credits.

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Now, Amex is also introducing another Shop Small initiative -- and this time, it's in the digital realm. The first-ever Membership Rewards Shop Small gift guide at ShopAmex.com is launching on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28, 2020). While gift guides are nothing new, this is Amex's first foray into a small business-oriented list of curated items.

The most intriguing aspect of this guide? It's the ability to redeem Membership Rewards points. Amex says that cardmembers can "exclusively redeem at attractive redemption values" which will vary from product to product. Unfortunately, that means there isn't a standard, one-size-fits-all rate at which you can redeem.

Related: Best Amex cards of 2020

Is it worth it?

Typically, it's not worth using your points for shopping purchases since you can get much more value when using points toward travel. In fact, TPG values Membership Rewards points as worth 2 cents apiece when taking into account Amex's numerous travel transfer partners.

However, during the pandemic, where travel may be less of a priority for many people, using points towards non-travel purchases can make a lot of sense. Your priorities may have shifted and perhaps, you may be re-focusing your rewards strategies. In fact, TPG's Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz has burned more than 300,000 points during the pandemic -- all without taking a trip far from home.

While the redemption rate for Amex's curated list of products will vary, a closer look at two sample products shows that there is some value to be had.

(Photo courtesy of American Express)
  • $149.00 or 10,430 points
  • 1.4 cent per point value
  • $95.00 or 7,125 points
  • 1.3 cent per point value

While you certainly can get outsized value from redeeming for travel, these rates aren't half bad. This is particularly true if you're sitting on a large stash of Membership Rewards points and don't want to overspend on gifts this holiday season.

At the same time, you're also supporting small businesses such as the ones outlined below:

There are many Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including several with elevated welcome offers.

That includes The Platinum Card® from American Express, with its current bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Featured image by Getty Images/Blend Images
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.