American Express Merchant Services Overview
The Payment Processing Division of American Express
American Express Merchant Services is a the merchant account division of American Express Company. Just in case you are unfamiliar with this industry, you should understand that merchants who wish to accept American Express cards have historically been required to set up a dedicated American Express merchant account that is separate from their VISA, MasterCard and Discover merchant account.
American Express Location and Leadership
With the founding year of 1850, American Express is one of the oldest financial service companies in the United States and continues to be one of the largest today. The company is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “AXP” and makes up one of the 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. American Express is best known for its consumer service offerings such as traveler cheques, charge cards, and credit cards. The company is headquartered at 200 Vesey Street New York, NY. Anré Williams has been American Express’s president of global merchant services since January of 2018.
American Express Merchant Services Review Table of Contents
- Costs & Contract: American Express offers a month-to-month contract with no early termination fee.
- Complaints & Service: American Express has received more than 20 public complaints.
- BBB Rating: American Express Merchant Services (as American Express Company) has an “A+” rating and has received 2,974 complaints and 178 reviews in the past 3 years. The company has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 1948.
- Sales & Marketing: American Express does not hire independent sales agents and has not received any complaints about its sales practices.
- Rates & Fees: How Merchants Got The Best Rates With American Express
Products & Services Offered
- American Express card acceptance
- Sales analytics
- Merchant financing
Types of Businesses Served
- Any business that wishes to accept American Express payments from its customers
Our unbiased reviews are supported, in part, by helping you find highly rated merchant accounts. You can learn more here.
American Express Merchant Services Rates, Fees, and Costs
|Swiped Rate||3.50% + $0.05|
|Keyed-in Rate||3.50% + $0.30|
|Early Termination Fee||$0|
|PCI Compliance Fee||$0|
|Equipment Lease Terms||Not Applicable|
Qualifying for an American Express Merchant Services Account
Businesses must be able to accept American Express for card payments to open a merchant services account. Additionally, merchants must have been in business for at least two years while processing at least $50,000 per year, $12,000 of which must have been made from debit and credit card sales. This policy means that the provider does not accept new business for this service. Merchants not meeting that qualified should review the best merchant accounts for new businesses to find an alternative that is better suited for their unique needs.
High Cost, Low Commitment
Overall, American Express Merchant Services scores well in this section because the company does not lock merchants into lengthy service agreements and has no early termination fee for canceling accounts. The factor that lowers the company’s rating is the processing rate charged to merchants for accepting an AMEX transaction, which is typically between 3% and 5% of the sale amount (in some cases, though, merchants can just pay a flat monthly fee). The transaction rate is typically based on a merchant’s sales volume and business type. For instance, the company charges a swipe rate of 2.89% plus $0.05 to retailers but 3.5% plus $0.05 for restaurants. Rates are set upon account activation, but it will rarely compete with the rates offered by budget-friendly merchant accounts.
American Express vs. Visa/MasterCard
American Express argues that its processing rate is roughly equal to VISA’s and MasterCard’s in most cases when factoring in all of VISA’s/MasterCard’s additional monthly fees, Dues & Assessments fees, Interchange fees and PCI Compliance fees. If you are unfamiliar with these fees, be sure to read “Fee Sweep – How to Get the Merchant Services You Need without Getting Scammed.” Under its most common pricing plan, American Express does not charge any additional monthly fees, annual fees, or monthly minimum fees. Merchants are encouraged to inquire about rates and fees, and factors can affect their cost, when setting up an account.
American Express Authorization Fee
Since most merchants usually sign up for merchant services through a VISA and MasterCard dealer and then subsequently “attach” their American Express Merchant Account in order to process through the same hardware and gateways, merchants may notice additional fees on their VISA/MasterCard statements for accepting AMEX cards. Often called an “American Express Authorization Fee,” this fee is not charged by American Express but instead by the VISA/MasterCard merchant account provider as a convenience fee for routing the transaction to American Express. Again, merchants are encouraged to inquire about this fee as it is often negotiable. Merchants may also encounter variable pricing from providers who are part of American Express’s “OptBlue” program. A copy of American Express’ Merchant Services Agreement was updated as of April, 2019 and is available for review.Are you happy with your American Express Merchant Services fees? Tell us about them before your go!
American Express Merchant Services Complaints & Customer Reviews
|Total Online Complaints||20+|
|Live Customer Support||Yes|
|Most Common Complaint||Fund Holds|
Low Complaint Total
American Express has a reputation for providing great service for its consumer products and this appears to also extend to its merchant services, as there are very few online complaints directly targeting the merchant side of the company. Of the complaints that do exist, most are due to fund holds or chargebacks that American Express settled in a consumer’s favor. One very severe complaint filed below this review describes a fund hold of over $160,000 and poor customer service, but this is an extreme outlier that may be afflicting a very high-volume merchant. There are also a few complaints about the high processing rate and the fact that withheld payments are not necessarily refunded to the merchant even if the merchant refunded the customer (which is also standard with most VISA/MasterCard merchant accounts).
American Express Merchant Services Lawsuits
In 2018 the Supreme Court issues a decision in the matter of Ohio v. American Express Co. holding that the company’s “steering policies” did not violate federal antitrust laws. Those policies were included in merchant services contract, preventing merchants from suggesting customer use different credit cards which would have processing fees lower than American Express’ rates. Ultimately, the policy meant that merchants would pay higher rates as the court voted in favor of American Express by a vote of 5-4.
American Express Merchant Services Support Options
American Express offers phone support to all of its merchants, but its website currently does not list any direct customer support contact information for payment processing. This falls short of our expectations for top-rated customer service merchant accounts.
American Express Merchant Services BBB Rating Summary
Key Points - BBB
|Product & Service Complaints||1,853|
|Billing & Collection Complaints||749|
|Advertising & Sales Complaints||273|
|Guarantee & Warranty Complaints||46|
No Dedicated Merchant Services Profile
The Better Business Bureau does not have a profile dedicated solely to American Express Merchant Services, but it does have one for the company as a whole. As of this review, the BBB is awarding American Express with an “A+” rating based on the company’s time in business, volume of complaints filed versus the company’s size, complaint response time, complaint resolution ratio, and the fact that the BBB has sufficient background information on the company. The company has been accredited by the BBB since 1948.
The BBB is reporting 2,974 complaints filed against American Express in the last 36 months. 525 resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. 1,853 relate to product and service issues, 749 pertain to billing and collection issues, 273 are related to advertising and sales, 46 relate guarantee and warranty problems, and the remaining 53 complaints regard delivery issues. The grade will not be factored into the company’s overall rating for the purposes of this review because it is not specific to the merchant services division.
Truth In Marketing & Advertising
|Employs Independent Resellers||No|
|Advertises Deceptive Rates||No|
|Discloses All Important Terms||Yes|
Direct, In-House Management
Unlike VISA and MasterCard, which outsource their sales and account management to third-party banks and sales organizations, American Express Merchant Services primarily manages all of its accounts directly. A major difference in this business strategy is that American Express typically does not allow third parties to set processing rates and fees for its merchant accounts, whereas VISA and MasterCard’s processing rates can be greatly influenced by both the sales organization and, in many cases, the agent setting up the account.
American Express OptBlue
American Express merchant accounts can be obtained directly through American Express or, in some cases, through a VISA and MasterCard merchant account provider. Generally speaking, it is a best practice to deal with American Express directly for account setup so as to obtain the best rates and fees. However, American Express recently launched a new program called “OptBlue,” which allows certain third-party providers to set their own American Express pricing and costs for the service alongside Visa and MasterCard payments. This marks the first time that American Express’s rates can be altered by third-party providers and bundled with Visa/MasterCard processing, which could result in increased costs or savings for merchants on a case-by-case basis.
No Deceptive Quotes
American Express Merchant Services uses no deceptive marketing or sales tactics that are apparent to this reviewer. However, it is possible that a third-party reseller could inflate the company’s rates under the OptBlue program. If you suspect that this is happening to you, we recommend seeking a third-party statement audit to eliminate hidden fees.
American Express Merchant Services Marketing Example
About Phillip Parker
Thank you for reading my review. I hope that it has helped you with your research.
Why I'm Qualified to Write About Credit Card Processing and Merchant Account Services
I'm a former credit card processing sales director who left the industry because I didn't like how it takes advantage of small business owners. It feeds like a leech on businesses and thrives by imposing fees that are nearly impossible to comprehend. Seeing a need for change, I left and built this website help business owners better understand the industry, research merchant services providers, and get refunds of excessive merchant account fees. My experience of working "behind the curtain" in the industry, and using that knowledge for good, has resulted in millions of dollars returned to hard-working small business owners as well as enterprise-level companies.
From the time that I starting working in the merchant services industry to when I left to create this website, I've been on the pulse of payments for nearly 15 years. It didn't seem fair to keep this "insider" knowledge to myself. To lift the fog, I've reviewed hundreds of companies, read thousands of user reviews, and learned the pricing tricks of every provider. If you have questions about credit card processing, you can find the answers on this website.