American Express’ Local Champion game is your ticket to earning an extra frequent flyer point per dollar spent in the places you shop the most: whether that’s the supermarket, your favourite local restaurant or café, or with retailers and other service providers across Australia.
You can nominate up to 10 businesses at which you’d like to be crowned ‘Local Champion’, and if you’re the AMEX cardholder who makes the highest number of purchases there in a rolling 30-day period, you’ll pick up an extra point per dollar spent every time you return.
That’s in addition to your card’s usual earning rate, so for AMEX Platinum charge card holders who normally receive three points per dollar spent at Australian restaurants, this can take your haul even higher to four points per dollar spent when you dine.
Similarly, if you hold a Qantas American Express Ultimate Card or the American Express Velocity Platinum Card – both of which normally provide 1.5 frequent flyer points per dollar spent – you could in fact be earning 2.5 frequent flyer points per dollar spent where you shop the most.
Here’s what you need to know about American Express Local Champion, including which AMEX cards are eligible to participate; how to find, nominate and change your 10 chosen businesses; how to check your progress; and also the rules you should know about.
American Express Local Champion: which cards are eligible?
For starters, Local Champion is available only with American Express cards issued directly by American Express: so if your only AMEX comes from the Commonwealth Bank, NAB or Westpac, you can’t participate – unless you apply for an AMEX card direct from American Express, of course.
That roster includes the following AMEX direct-issued cards which are open to new applicants, sorted below by the attached rewards program:
Other cards which support Local Champion but aren’t open for general application include the invitation-only Centurion Card, plus the Platinum Reserve and Platinum Rewards cards, the Gold and Green personal charge cards, the Qantas AMEX Classic Card and the AMEX Velocity Gold Card.
Bonus points earned via Local Champion are delivered in your card’s usual points currency, being one bonus Qantas Point on the Qantas cards, one bonus Velocity point on the Velocity cards, or one bonus MR point on the Membership Rewards cards in your usual Membership Rewards scheme.
That means cards like AMEX Explorer deliver one bonus Membership Rewards Gateway point per dollar spent on eligible purchases – equal to 0.75 frequent flyer points when converted at Gateway’s usual 4:3 rate – but cards like Platinum Edge offer one bonus MR Ascent point, equal to one frequent flyer point with most airlines, owing to Ascent’s more favourable 1:1 conversion rate.
American Express Local Champion: registering and earning bonus points
Have an eligible card? Fire up the American Express mobile app on your smartphone, browse to the main menu and select ‘Local Champion’ from the options:
New users will go through a brief introduction to the offer, before landing on the main Local Champion screen, where you’ll click ‘add a new place’ to get started:
AMEX makes this as easy as possible by suggesting businesses that you’ve recently visited at the very top of the screen…
… along with a list of American Express-accepting businesses nearby, if you have Location Services enabled on your device. Here’s what we saw when opening the app at the Brisbane Airport DFO, for example:
There’s a tally next to each business which shows how many transactions you need to make there before becoming Local Champion. With popular businesses, this number can be in the 20s or even 30s, but in most cases, it’s 3-5 transactions:
Some businesses may not appear in the 'places nearby' list but may show up in the 'visited' list within a few days of making your first purchase there.
In any case, transactions won’t contribute to your tally for a particular business until after you’ve added that business to your Local Champion list, so even though you may have shopped somewhere several times before, you won’t start earning bonus points until you’ve been crowned Local Champion.
You’ll know that’s the case when the shield turns yellow next to one of your 10 nominated businesses and the word ‘Local Champion’ appears directly below:
Because this is a ‘live’ game, realise that other American Express cardholders may also be vying for the title of Local Champion at the same businesses as you – and if their tally of transactions at a particular business in the last 30 days grows higher than yours, you’ll lose your title:
Of course, you can regain the throne by returning to that businesses more frequently than your competition, as the Local Champion tab in the app tells you how many more transactions you need to make to again become Local Champion, updated in real-time.
Again, you can have up to 10 businesses registered in your Local Champion list – regardless of whether you’re the Local Champion at each one – and you can remove businesses from that list at any time to make room for new ones, by using the ‘edit places’ option:
Just note that when you remove a business from your list, your transaction tally at that business will reset: so if you later decide to add that business again, your tally there starts from scratch – so you may need to make several purchases there first before becoming Local Champion again.
American Express Local Champion: fine print and strategy
Through the Local Champion game, cardholders can earn up to 10,000 bonus points per registered American Express card for the life of their participation. Upon reaching that ceiling, no further Local Champion bonus points can be earned on that card, unless AMEX changes the cap in the future.
However, that cap is per card, not per customer: so if you have two American Express direct-issued cards such as a Platinum charge card and an Explorer Card, you can earn up to 10,000 bonus points on each card.
(There can only be one Local Champion at each business, and transactions you make on one card won’t contribute to your ‘transaction tally’ on your other card: so even though you can play on both your American Express cards, consider them to be entirely separate when it comes to Local Champion.)
Also note that transactions made on supplementary cards do not contribute to your Local Champion tally of transactions – only spend on the account’s primary card contributes, and only spend on the primary card can deliver Local Champion bonus points.
This means that when you’re the Local Champion at a specific business on your preferred card (such as AMEX Explorer) and one of your additional cardholders on the same account shops at that same business, you won’t earn any Local Champion bonus points on that spend.
Unlike AMEX Offers, supplementary cardholders cannot register to participate in Local Champion: this is for primary cardholders only.
Because the crown of Local Champion is based on how often you visit a business rather than how much you spend on each visit, primary cardholders will also become Local Champion faster by returning more frequently, rather than spending more on each purchase.
For instance, if your goal is to become Local Champion at a supermarket but you tend to do one big weekly shop, you could duck in for essentials like milk throughout the week to build on your transaction tally, without going so far as splitting your main grocery shop across several visits.
In stores like Myer and David Jones, you might also decide to buy something in one department, before spotting something else you like in a different department and making a second trip to the cash register for a second, legitimate transaction.
In any case, your Local Champion bonus points will normally be credited to your account within a few days of that purchase being finalised, and the Local Champion tab in the app shows how many bonus points you’ve earned over the life of the program: and by extension, how close you are to the 10,000-point cap.