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Perks and welcome bonuses aside — none of which are insignificant, of course — your credit card is only as useful as the merchants that accept it. That’s one area where Amex has historically lagged behind other card issuers such as Visa and Mastercard, which are accepted at many more retailers both in the US and abroad.

Five years ago, Amex started to heavily focus on increasing acceptance so that you can use your card where you want to. Here’s a look at the progress it’s made in that time.

The Case for Amex

It’s obvious why Amex wants you to be able to use your card at more merchants, but the issuer makes a compelling case for merchants to want this as well.

According to a Nilson report, Amex customers spend on average 3.1x a year more than non-Amex customers. Similarly, the average transaction size of an Amex customer is 1.8x larger than a non-card member’s. The same report also showed that Amex customers spend an average of $14,000 a year on their cards. In short, Amex customers can be more valuable to merchants because they tend to spend more and make larger purchases.

So why do fewer merchants accept Amex? Historically, the answer has been because Amex charged higher credit card merchant fees than Visa and Mastercard.

According to Amex, this is no longer the case. On average, the cost for merchants to accept Visa and Mastercards has risen, while the cost to accept Amex has decreased over the last 10 years. In that time, Amex has invested heavily in fraud prevention capabilities and other business tools such as Shop Small/Small Business Saturday and Amex Offers. With Amex adding 10 million new card members globally in 2017, businesses now have a much better reason to accept Amex.

It’s clear that Amex’s initiatives are working, with 1.5 million new locations in the US alone deciding to accept Amex cards in 2017. In 2018, Amex has added at least a million more locations. A big part of this has been Amex’s OptBlue program to support small businesses.

OptBlue

The primary goal of OptBlue is to remove the hurdles associated with accepting Amex cards. This program highlights an important point: It’s the credit card processor that sets the credit card merchant fees, not Amex itself. OptBlue will help you find a rate that works for your business, and combine your statements and payments no matter what cards you’re accepting. This means if your customers use a mix of Visas, Mastercards and Amex cards, you’ll still receive one single payment and one statement.

Amex also provides free marketing for OptBlue merchants to drive customer traffic and help Amex customers discover all the places where they can use their cards.

This means everything from providing free signage indicating that a business accepts Amex to promoting the business to Amex card holders, both in email alerts and through their online accounts. Amex will even use a customer’s transaction history to promote businesses where they are most likely to spend, all at not cost to the business.

Bottom Line

Amex still has work to do before it completely closes the acceptance gap with Visa and Mastercard, but programs like OptBlue go a long way toward that goal. The issuer expects “virtual parity,” or essentially the same level of acceptance as Visa and Mastercard, by the end of 2019. Amex clearly understands how valuable its customers are, and are taking a constructive approach to support businesses and make it easier and cheaper for them to accept Amex cards.

While TPG is partnering with American Express to promote Amex acceptance to merchants, this content is not provided by Amex and any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone.

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The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$595
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.