American Express first launched their Local Champion game back in 2013, which allows users of their apps to earn an additional bonus point per $ spent at retailers where they shop the most.
The premise is pretty simple - Amex knows the physical merchants where you use your card the most, and is willing to reward you with an additional bonus point per dollar spent at those merchants if you become the ‘Local Champion’ for that specific store.
Today Amex have updated their main iPhone and Android app, bringing Local Champion to Android users and opening it up to Qantas and Velocity branded cards too - and allowing existing players to earn up to another 10,000 points.
How Local Champion works
Local champion status seems to be achieved by having the most transactions (over an unknown time period) of anyone also playing the local champion game.
You can select 10 stores from a list Amex presents you in the app to play Local Champion at, and it seems that if no-one else is playing for status at a given location, then it takes either 3 or 5 transactions in 30 days to become the Local Champion.
For popular locations, the number of transactions could be as high as 10 or 15 - it all depends how much competition there is.
The additional bonus point per dollar is accrued on top of category bonuses for the spend, e.g. on the Platinum Edge you’ll start earning 4 points per $ on your local supermarket spend at a spot where you have become the Local Champion.
You don’t need to have your phone on you, or pay using your device (e.g. via Apple Pay while you make a transaction, it’s all done via the transaction appearing on your statement. Samsung Pay’s also launching soon
Getting set up
On logging in using your usual American Express online credentials, the app now presents you with a 'Play Local Champion' message.
You then have to select which merchants you want to 'play' at. Note that unselecting a location will reset your Local Champion tally to 0, so only change if you’re sure you want to.
As you make more transactions than anyone else playing the game, status is gained at each retailer.
The app keeps tally of how many transactions you have left to go before gaining Local Champion
The app now also contains a neat 'Places Nearby' map view of merchants, showing how many transactions it would take to become local champion with them
Playing the game and raking in the most points
As I mentioned before, the game is based on the number of transactions at a given location in the 30 day period, and then points are awarded based on your dollar spend. As a result it’s easy to get involved - I probably have two or three transactions a week at my local Coles, and without trying I’m now the Local Champion at my local secondary supermarket, dry cleaner, petrol station and typical work lunch café.
You can of course play this more strategically in a couple of ways –
First, you could go hard and try and get Local Champion status more quickly by adding more transactions to your account for a location you’ve selected to play at, over and above your everyday spend.
Second, you could strategically target locations at which you know you’ll want to make a larger transaction at in the future to become Local Champion at , in order to then earn bonus points on that transaction - say, a TV at Harvey Norman or Bing Lee. Making a few transactions on the Amex for low dollar amounts and gaining Local Champion status first, before then spending up on the TV would then earn you the bonus points on that larger transaction.
Why this is a great way to earn more points!
The Local Champion is super-personalised so I can make it work easily, by both selecting the right retailers to play at, and then adjusting my behaviour a little to gain the extra points. I assume that it won’t be hard to gain Local Champion status for most people as the pool of competition is likely to below:
Limitations of Local Champion
The first limit is the 10 retailers at which you can play Local Champion at at one time. This is fine, it's just a rule of the game you need to know about.
Another is that Business cards aren't eligible for Local Champion - personal cards only - and supplementary cardholders don’t get their own account to play within, their transactions count within the Local Champion game of the primary cardholder.
And finally, there's a limit of 10,000 bonus points, total, that can be earned from playing Local Champion. For those who really use it, that limit can be reached quite quickly.
Thankfully this limit has been reset as of today, so all existing players have another shot at more bonus points - we just have to hope that Amex will continue to develop the game and reset that points cap again in another future update.
I’m a big fan of Local Champion as a way to boost my points earn.
For my local supermarket, it allows me to pick up 4 points per dollar when using a Platinum Edge for example, and now it’s been opened up to Velocity and Qantas American Express cards like the Velocity Platinum or Escape cards or the Qantas Premium.
The 10,000 point limitation on the game is the most frustrating aspect, as it disincentives heavy card users and game players from engaging once the 10,000 point cap is hit. That said, Amex have been running the game with different iterations and improvements for several years, so I would hope that it if usage keeps growing, this might be looked at in future.