Free Holiday Cash From American Express and MasterCard

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I’m not a Nigerian oil minister trying to transfer my funds to you, and you haven’t won a European lottery that you’ve never heard of. Nevertheless, I’m here to say that you might be entitled to some money that two large companies are handing out over the holidays, and it’s not a holiday scam.

Deal 1: American Express Small Business Saturday

For the second year in a row, AmEx is responding to Black Friday hype by offering its “Small Business Saturday” promotion – by giving out a one-time, $25 statement credit to all of their customers who spend at least $25 at a small business on Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

To take advantage of this offer, you must register your card at the AmEx Facebook site. I participated in the promotion last year, and it was a success. I registered not just each AmEx account, but the authorized users on the accounts. Result? I received a $25 credit on my next statement for both my wife and me – a total of $50 on the accounts that had both of us as cardholders.

The trick with this promotion isn’t to just go out and spend money, but to identify a small business that you’d normally have visited. In my case, I went to a local restaurant that I frequent and used each card to purchase a $25 gift certificate for later use. If you’re on vacation over the holidays, you may be able to call up your favorite business and perform the transaction over the phone.

Remember to comply with the terms and conditions that exclude purchases from large stores and franchises. Finally, don’t forget to register your cards as soon as possible, since American Express can close the offer after it feels like enough cardholders have signed up.

Deal 2: MasterCard “Here’s to Moms”

MasterCard is giving out $20 gift cards in exchange for spending $200 online.

Like the American Express promotion, the MasterCard payment network requires customers to enroll their card at its website. Cardholders must then spend at least $200 online between now and Dec. 31. Customers will then receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to claim their $20 MasterCard gift card.

This isn’t as simple and easy as receiving American Express’ statement credit, but the chance to receive a $20 gift card is probably still worth the effort. This promotion is limited to the first 80,000 entrants, so (as they say) act now.

After the initial 80,000 people register for the gift card, an additional 10,000 can register to receive a magazine subscription. Unlike American Express cards, MasterCards are issued with the same number on all cards in the same account, so those who register multiple authorized users’ cards probably won’t receive several gift cards. As usual, be sure to examine their terms and conditions so that you can steer clear of any exclusions.

So why do these promotions exist? The struggle to win your credit card business isn’t just between banks but also among the large processing networks such as MasterCard and American Express. The competition is so fierce that they’re actually giving away money in the form of statement credits and gift cards.

This has been a year when we have seen the financial services industry create new and innovative ways to charge you money, so it is nice to end the year with a couple of promotions that will actually give you something back.

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