American Express Merchant Services Review

American Express Merchant Services Overview

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The Payment Processing Division of American Express

American Express Merchant Services is a division of American Express Company that serves the merchant processing side of American Express charge card and credit card transactions. 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 a 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. Anre 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 3,006 complaints and 175 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

American Express Merchant Services Statement Analyzer

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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

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American Express Merchant Services Rates, Fees, and Costs

Key Points

Swiped Rate 3.5% + $0.05
Keyed-in Rate 3.5% + $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.

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Response from American Express Merchant Services

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American Express Merchant Services Complaints & Customer Reviews

Key Points

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.

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Response from American Express Merchant Services

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American Express Merchant Services BBB Rating Summary

Key Points - BBB

Product & Service Complaints 1,896
Billing & Collection Complaints 725
Advertising & Sales Complaints 281
Guarantee & Warranty Complaints 50
Delivery Complaints 54

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 BBB is reporting 3,006 complaints filed against American Express with an additional 1,025 closed in the last 12 months. 525 resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. 1,896 relate to product and service issues, 725 pertain to billing and collection issues, 281 are related to advertising and sales, 50 relate guarantee and warranty problems, and the remaining 54 complains 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.

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Response from American Express Merchant Services

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Truth In Marketing & Advertising

Key Points

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.

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Response from American Express Merchant Services

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American Express Merchant Services Marketing Example

American Express Logo

Our Opinion of American Express Merchant Services

A Good Option at a Higher Cost

Small merchants often refuse to accept American Express due to the high processing rate the company charges. However, good merchant support and the lack of a long-term service agreement are appealing aspects of AMEX merchant services, and consumer demand often makes accepting AMEX cards a necessity. Merchants are encouraged to sign up with American Express Merchant Services directly and to take precautions against customer chargebacks as they appear to be the most common reason for merchant grievances. If they wish to apply for OptBlue pricing, they should do so through a top-rated merchant account provider.

We rely on your feedback about American Express Merchant Services to keep this review accurate and up-to-date. Please take a minute to tell us about your experience. We and the small business owners of this world thank you!

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

I'm a former credit card processing sales director who left the industry to start my own a small business. From the time that I starting working in the merchant services industry to when I left to write about it, I've been on the pulse of payments for nearly 15 years. It didn't seem fair to keep this insider knowledge to myself, so built this website to help small business owners research which service providers to use and how to save money on rates and fees. 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 here. I can help you save money with your current merchant account or help you find a new one. Message me here to get started.

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18 Reviews Leave Your Review for American Express Merchant Services Below

  1. Isla Pyatt says:

    The Customer service is horrible. Refunds to my account are very inconsistent and the CSR always sticks to the script and claims it takes 7 days. That is a false statement. I have gotten the majority of my refunds within 2 business days. Then they claim you have to speak to a supervisor in order to speak to a manager. You will be put on hold for about 45 minutes to an hour in hopes that you will hang up. Then when you speak to the supervisor they ask you all the same questions you already answered all over again. Then give you the same spiel as the CSR and claim no manager is available. This is unacceptable! YOU SUCK11111


    This post will help: Best Merchant Accounts for Great Customer Service

    – Phillip

  2. Rasha says:

    American Express Merchant Services is terrible for the small business owner. We are a small animal clinic and a patient brought us her puppies near death with parvo, and they were saved. The customer paid with cash, Amex and Visa, now she is disputing the charge on the Amex that she did not receive the service, $2,500!!!!!!! that is alot for a small business. The worst part is that they don’t allow you to communicate with them directly, you have to go through your merchant services company. they don’t care!!!

    The worst of all is that the client sold the puppies to someone else who now comes to us for services. So how the heck can you say she did not get the services.

    We will no longer be receiving AMEX for our business.


    From The Editor
    This Post Might Help: How to Fight Chargebacks and Win

  3. Lois Burke says:

    Awful service! No one went over the tons of fees and I can never get in contact with anyone. I stopped using it tried to get rid of it only to find out it cost 500 to terminate which was never explained either. It’s awful. With terrible customer service!

  4. Cathy Empson says:

    Worst customer experience ever! I have had some of the same issues with non complying documents. It’s taken them a month and it’s still not sorted. They want all of my children’s ID and addresses for our business to accept AMEX cards! I have already provided them these even though there should be no reason they even need them! And all they can say is that the documents do not comply! DO NOT accept American Express cards unless you absolutely have to! I have wasted soooo much time already!

  5. DO NOT ACCEPT AMERICAN EXPRESS CARDS FOR YOUR BUSINESS. We are very disappointed in American Express Merchant Services. They are holding $168,699.43, most of it for over 2 weeks now, and no one can give me a straight answer as to when we will receive our funds. The poor, slow, unresponsive service is a serious problem for this company. I changed my bank account, and Amex screwed it up, so they deleted our bank account info. Then they say they tried to call an invalid phone number (we’ve had the same phone number for over 7 years), and they “sent checks” to an invalid address. They would not stop payment on the checks because you need to wait 7-10 days to initiate a stop-payment, even though there was no hope of us ever getting the checks. There is no one to talk to other than some really low level, useless customer service technicians that cannot get any answers.

    If you don’t need your money, sign up now.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I have been quite horrified at my experience with Amex. I used to process Amex through a Merchant service account. Then amex courted me and offered me an incredible rate direct.
    Big mistake. Suddenly for no reason they decided to add a hold on my account because they felt travel was too risky. That is a little fishy considering they sell travel direct and I will into this. The amounts they wanted to hold in account was almost my whole revenue even though I need to pay out suppliers. Didn’t even try to read or understand my financials.
    I talked to other people and it seems to be a common practice for Amex.

  7. Roland Martino says:

    Not a benefit to small business. Cardholder is too easily able to do chargebacks without contacting the company first. We will be declining future acceptance and understand why fewer metchants want to accept. Goodbye AMEX!

  8. Doreen DeStefano says:

    American Express SUCKS! They cost more, hold my money longer, and have no merchant customer service. They send out a mass email and then don’t staff up for the response. I’m currently on hold and it’s been over two hours. Why should I accept this card? I’m really not sure!

  9. Not professional, not in your best interests.
    These folks have an unreasonable payment schedule that is completely bizarre, with different payments due each month.
    When your loan is complete they will not help you change your routing back. The letter provided had NO letterhead, NO signature. Worthless. No help from them at all. You will have to wait a month or more until your Statement shows paid-in-full to move your card charges back to direct deposit instead of their pass-thru account. That means you wait for 5 days for their processing even though your loan is paid in full. They’re making more money on yours, while you wait for the funds. Very poor business model, not in your interest. Convenient for them.

  10. Shannon says:

    Every single interaction I’ve had with American Express Merchant Services and Disputes have also been beyond horrible. The agents are usually friendly, but incompetent. My issues are never resolved. Every department blames another department. It is so truly surprising and frustrating every single time I call.

  11. JC says:

    AMEX merchant services is horrible. The first person you speak to sure is nice enough, but thats about it. I had similar experiences to the commenters about on the Indian Hit Squad.
    Amex had a ridiculous policy that neither Visa, MasterCard or Discover has required a certificate to do business at a certain address. My company is 100% web based, there is no storefront, not merchandise, no office. business can be transacted anywhere there is an internet connection. however they are required a certificate to do business. After processing several payments I got the same unknown number call and an email saying the account was canceled.

    Stay away. Its a shame so many consumer value their points.

  12. Al Mazzone says:

    I only wish we had read these reviews before we began working with AMEX Merchant Services. In over thirty years in business, I have seldom been subjected to the kinds of nonsense we endured with AMEX.

    Our company averaged over $200,000 in Monthly volume with AMEX over the course of three months, until I finally cancelled our account. There was never a single month in which we did not experience delays, overcharges, uncoordinated communications, and downright ineptitude.

    I regularly would be transferred to multiple departments in an attempt to resolve issues related to AMEX’s mistakes. In each case, I would hear a different explanation and it seemed that none of the departments ever communicated with each other.

    Months after closing the account we still receive computer generated letters from them notifying us of fees due, with no explanation and with a threatening tone. Today, I received a bill for $31.73 demanding immediate payment or they would send to a collection agency. This, despite the fact that we not only no longer have an account with them, but ended up paying unearned fees just to get out of the relationship.

    It is sad that a company that used to be a trusted brand is fueling its profits by abusing its merchants so frequently.

  13. Derek Best says:

    My company has had a well-maintained AMEX merchant account for some years, with never a single dispute or chargeback or complaint of any kind. Maximum single charge amount (to date) about $9,000.00.
    In early February 2013 I, as the company CEO received a phone call from a blocked number. The caller claimed to be from American Express and stated they needed certain documents faxed to them verifying our company standing, registration, address, etc. My reaction was that 1/. all such documentation had already been provided at the time of originally signing up with American Express, and 2/. we categorically refused to send semi-confidential documents to anyone on the basis of a mere anonymous phone call, so would they please send their request in writing on company letterhead, or at least send an email. The caller refused and said “the company does not do that” and said we could verify the authenticity of the call by calling a certain phone no. and navigating through various voice menus to reach a certain department, and ask for a certain individual …. etc. etc. To think that I, or anyone would waste time going through such a procedure is ridiculous. I told him I was much too busy, and in this age of spam and phishing and other frauds, he really should know better. End of conversation.
    A couple of weeks later we received a letter saying our account was closed. No reason was given.
    We called American Express merchant services, who told us they were unable to handle the matter and we had to speak with a special department that handled these matters.
    It turns out that this “special department” is in India, and I ended up having a conversation with someone with a thick Indian accent, who quite frankly had the IQ of a small-appliance bulb, who simply repeated over and over again that our request for documentation had not been complied with. When I asked him repeatedly to simply make the request in writing, he responded repeatedly that they had asked for it by phone and had not received it so the account was terminated. When I told him they were terminating a perfectly good account for no good reason, and with no due process, he just repeated the same thing again. I insisted on speaking to his supervisor, and was placed on hold listening to recorded messages about what wonderful customer service I could expect as an American Express merchant. After ten minutes on hold I hung up.
    I called back the American number and explained what had happened. I was told again that I had to speak to India. I asked the agent “What is the first word in the name “American Express”? He thought about it for a moment and then said “… I guess that would be ‘American’ “. I said “Correct. So why must I speak with someone in India? What does this have to do with India?” Nonetheless he assured me they were the only ones that could help me.
    So I called India again and this time spoke with someone with a little more intelligence, who sympathized with my feelings but told me “tough luck” that’s the way Amex does things and either I comply or my account is closed. I learned from him that AMEX operates a kind of “hit squad” from somewhere in India (my words, not his) who randomly call merchants in the United States and demand documentation to prove their legitimacy, seemingly obliviousof the fact that this documentation is a pre-requisite for enrollment in the first place, and seemingly oblivious of the fact that in America, people do not send out confidential documents to any Tom Dick or Harry who calls and demands them. If they don’t get what they demand, they shut you down.
    Do I have such documents? Of course! Will I send them? Of course, if properly requested. Do I even want to reinstate my account with a company that uses such nazi-style, unjustified, unbusinesslike, techniques, and has apparently no respect for its merchants’ rights? I’m not so sure. This may be a matter for my congressman. As I recall, it was my tax money that was used to give bailout money to American Express after they rushed to declare themselves a “bank” in order to avail themselves of the free handouts, which they certainly did not need.

  14. As a current or express card holder and as a current merchant using American Express merchant services. I must say I have not had an issue I realize the people that have voiced how they feel probably don’t want to hear what I’m saying but I cannot say something negative about a company if the company has never done anything wrong to me. I will say there customer service is impeccable and I have not had an issue. Now I will say this I’ve never had a chargeback problem not one chargeback so I can’t say never been down that road.
    I do have friends that have with other services and essentially I think the idea that the merchant should be responsible for the money owed if somebody using a stolen credit card in the purchasing items via the phone or the web. its the financial institution’s job to protect itself and they should focus a lot more on preventing theft and Congress should step in and force them to pay in the event of somebody stealing a credit card and using it as long as there’s no negligence on the merchant side and that should be checked for I do not see why there are no laws to protect business especially in this economy. I understand American Express is a very large corporation I’m not just talking about them obviously any Fortune 500 has a lot of connections to the government that’s fine and good I don’t really see a big problem with it please do not tell me that they get special treatment obviously wake up. However who supplies the jobs in this economy employers like ourselves to have 5 large employers the credit card companies stomp out almost all mid to small business by making them pay for chargebacks is criminal. This is a issue that will not be solved by petitioning any credit card company it will solely be resolved by getting up and calling your Congressman writing to them e-mail whenever make contact and make contact often.

  15. Tom Gambon says:

    I will never work with American Express Merchant Services again. My company previously had a Merchant account that had been open for years. We did small amounts of AMEX transactions each month (usually around $500 to $3000). Mainly for one client of ours. Our last successful transaction was back in April, 2012. We tried to run a new AMEX charge for $50,000 for a different client of ours in late July. The transaction was denied by AMEX and the only information we had was “do not honor”.
    We had our client call AMEX and pre-approve the transaction, but were still getting the “do not honor” message from Merchant Services. When I called Merchant Services, we were informed that our account had been closed, but only given the reason of “internal review” and that we could re-apply in one year. I asked for further explanation as to why, but was never given any reason other than “internal review”. We were never sent a letter, nor were we called to let us know the account had been closed.
    I did not accept the answer of “internal review” and “we can re-apply in a year”, so I managed to get the name of the Business Development Manager for Merchant Services in the Area and asked him for assistance in setting up a new account. We filled out a new Merchant Services Application. It was submitted and approved later that week and all banking links were verified. We were good to go and we received a new Merchant Services ID #. Now that we had a new Merchant Services Account #, we tried to run the $50,000 transaction amount again for our client on Friday, August 10th. It was APPROVED with an approval code. Since, we had an approved / valid Merchant Services ID and a transaction approval for $50,000 from AMEX, we released the product to our client.

    The $50,000 was funded and deposited in our bank account in Tuesday, August 14th. The $50,000 was PULLED BACK from our account on Wednesday, August 15th. I immediately called Merchant Services to find out what happened, and the agent, informed me that our new account was now closed, again due to “internal review” and we would have to get a new form of payment from our client!

    I had a VALID merchant services account #. I had a VALID approval code from AMEX for the $50,000 transaction. My company released product based on these 2 FACTS. AMEX did NOT dispute the fact that it was a valid transaction. So, WHY would they not fund the transaction? Why did AMEX again close our account? Why is this now my problem to get a different form of payment from my client? Why go through the process of establishing a Merchant Services account and get an approval code for a transaction if AMEX can take the money, close the account and NOT refund the card member for over a month? Does this seem right, fair or reasonable to you?

    My client (the AMEX cardmember) finally received their $50k refund on Setpember 7th, 4 WEEKS after the initial charge, adn 23 days after AMEX took the money back from us. My company no longer had the product (we shipped it!) and no longer had the cash (AMEX pulled it back out of our account on 8/15). AND, to top it all off, on 9/5, AMEX Merchant Services tried to auto-withdraw ~ $1,200 for what I assume were the fees associated with this $50,000 transaction. I have filed complaints with various government agencies, but I just keep getting passed from one to the next to the next. We can’t afford to fight AMEX with attorneys, so I can only post here and hope that others will read this and stay away from AMEX Merchant Services.

  16. JOHN LEAR says:

    American Express favors customers even though the customer was 100% wrong my advise to merchant stay away.

  17. Nancy Mullen says:

    Courtney – I hear you! this past month American Express has denied our charges on 3 separate occasions. Each time you talk to someone different and you get a different reason. There is absolutely no continuity. Actually this last time when they refused two charges made the same day I was not even told the second one would be refused until I was ending the call and the customer service representative indicated that the chargeback would be for an amount that equaled that day’s total deposit. They only ever indicated they were disputing the one charge. When I questioned why that was they indicated thatt the preapproval was over 7 days. I completed the preapproval on 5/1 and processed the charge on 5/8 – that is 7 days in my accounting. She then proceeded to insist it was processed on 5/9. I have the settlement sheet and unless they have changed what the number “9” looks like it says 5/8. I was then told I could reprocess both charges. I have decided we will no longer accept American Express. I contacted the customers in question and the one told me she was contacted the day before and questioned whether they had received the product. She assured them she had. I really don’t understand but I am beginning to think this is a way they can hold onto your money for a few weeks longer before payout and have you jump through hoops. I will no longer play their game.

  18. Courtney says:

    I have had a BEYOND horrible experience with American Express Merchant Services. The same customer has disputed a charge FOUR times, I have responded each time, and had the issue resolved in my favor. On the fourth time, although I had fax confirmations that I sent everything AGAIN, someone there dropped the ball and didn’t log it in. As a result, I got a chargeback, had to immediately contact AM EX merchant services and they opened a “reversal case” – because it was their error and it should never have happened to begin with — in the meantime my business account has been depleted by $2500.00 for two weeks on a fourth dispute on the same item because of a mistake by American Express, after submitting 90 page responses to each of the three of the exact same disputes – and all of them being resolved in my favor. Dealing with these people has been absolutely the worst customer service I have ever experienced. I will never again allow my business to accept American Express.

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