By Jill Jaracz


5 Min. To Read

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Since 2010, American Express has encouraged consumers to spend at least one day a year shopping at small businesses in their area. Small Business Saturday, as it's known, takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving--or in shopping parlance, the day after Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The U.S. Senate got into the celebrations by recognizing it in 2011. Since then, lawmakers and neighborhood champions have worked to encourage people to shop locally.

These efforts may have helped small businesses thrive to the tune of an estimated $14.3 billion that spent at them in 2014 and 95 million people shopping at them in 2015.

This year, American Express is enticing cardholders to shop small businesses throughout the holiday season by offering twice the rewards when they shop at recognized small businesses with an eligible American Express card.

Cardholders must register their cards online at Amex's Shop Small website. Most--but not all--personal and business cards are eligible for the offer. The website specifies which ones can participate in this program. If you have more than one eligible Amex card, they all may be enrolled--it's not limited to one card per person. However, each card must be enrolled separately.

Once you enroll your card, you can then shop at qualifying small businesses that are listed on Amex's Shop Small Map, located on the Shop Small website. You'll earn an extra reward point--or mile, if using specific Delta Miles cards--per dollar spent at the store. The map is searchable and includes a wide variety of businesses, including restaurants.

Cardholders can earn double rewards on the first $100,000 in purchases they make during the offer period, which runs through December 31, 2016. Those who have eligible Amex OPEN Small Business cards can earn double rewards on up to $250,000 in purchases. In order to earn the bonus rewards, accounts must be active, in good standing and isn't in default.

One caveat of the program is that if you're already earning bonus rewards, this program won't double those. It only doubles the single point or mile you're earning on purchases. Also, purchases at gas stations or for political campaigns or political action committees are also not eligible, even if they appear on the Shop Small map. Purchases of traveler's checks or prepaid cards and the cost to reload a prepaid card are also not eligible for the bonus.

Rewards accrue throughout the duration of the period, but they'll be credited to your account once the bonus offer is over at the end of the year. Bonus reward points may take 10 to 12 weeks to show up on your account statement after the offer ends.

Shopping at small businesses helps insure their survival in the coming year, as holiday shopping often has a big impact on their bottom line. In a recent survey American Express conducted, 59% of small business retailers think they'll have stronger holiday sales than last year. Another 34% think sales growth will be relatively flat. In terms of potential for growth in 2017, 59% said that holiday shopping absolutely impacts that ability, so strong sales are important to small businesses.

"Retailers are optimistic about the upcoming holiday season and the impact it will have on their growth in 2017," said Susan Sobbott, president of global commercial payments at American Express, in a statement. "As small and middle market retailers gear up for this critical season, many are offering promotions to draw customers in, and hire additional staff to ensure quality customer service during the busy season."

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