American Express Company Review

American Express Company, American financial corporation that primarily issues credit cards, processes payments, and provides travel-related services worldwide. Headquarters are in New York.

The original company was founded on March 18, 1850, through the consolidation of three companies active in the express transport of goods, valuables, and specie between New York City and Buffalo, New York, and points in the Midwest: (1) Livingston, Fargo & Company (formerly Western Express), founded in 1845 by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo, later of Wells Fargo fame; (2) Wells & Co. (formerly Livingston, Wells & Co.), cofounded by Wells in 1846 and under his ownership at the time of the merger; and (3) Butterfield & Wasson, founded by John Butterfield and James D. Wasson.

American Express was at first an unincorporated association of investors headed by Wells as president and Fargo as secretary. By the end of the American Civil War, its business had so flourished, with some 900 offices in 10 states, that it attracted competition in 1866 in the formation of Merchants Union Express Company.

Also Read: About Dialpad, Review 2024 (Updated)

PulteGroup Revenue and Competitors

For two years the two companies engaged in cutthroat competition and, on the verge of financial exhaustion, finally merged on November 25, 1868, to form the American Merchants Union Express Company, with Fargo succeeding as president. The company was renamed American Express Company in 1873.

Britannica Money Britannica Money

Credit card companies: Who’s who and how they make money
On Fargo’s death in 1881, his younger brother, James Congdell Fargo (1829–1915), became president and guided the company for the next 33 years, introducing such innovations as the American Express Money Order (1882) and the American Express Travelers Cheque (1891), and opening the first European office in Paris (1895).

International expansion continued with the opening of offices in other European countries, including England (1896) and Germany (1898), and in the early 1900s the company began offering services in Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Egypt, and India. When the U.S. federal government nationalized the express industry in 1918, thereby consolidating all domestic express operations in the American Railway Express Company (see REA Express, Inc.), American Express turned almost wholly to its banking operations and its relatively new travel services, which had been launched in 1915.

The classic American Express green charge card was introduced in 1958. From the 1960s through the ’80s, American Express diversified its holdings by acquiring companies in areas such as investment banking, insurance, and publishing. It purchased Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company in 1968 (spun off in 1985), Shearson Loeb Rhoades, Inc., a leading brokerage firm, in 1981 (sold in 1993), and Investors Diversified Services, Inc., a large Minneapolis-based insurance, mutual fund, and financial advisory concern, in 1984 (spun off in 2005 as Ameriprise Financial, Inc.).

American Express is a leading issuer of personal, small business, and corporate credit cards. The company’s travel-related offerings include traveler’s checks, credit cards, corporate and personal travel planning services, tour packages, and agencies for hotel and car-rental reservations. By the early 21st century, American Express operated in more than 40 countries. The company also had a publishing division, which produced such magazines as Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine. However, it was sold to Time Inc. in 2013.

What Is American Express?

A female couple shops online while sitting on the couch with a credit card and laptop


American Express is a global payments company that issues prepaid, credit, and charge cards to consumers and businesses. In addition to issuing cards, American Express also processes transactions made with its card, including cards issued by third parties.

Key Takeaways

  • American Express is a global payments company that primarily offers credit and charge cards to consumers and businesses.
  • American Express is the credit card issuer and processing network for its cards.
  • The company’s primary source of revenue is card processing fees charged to businesses that accept Amex.
  • Cardholders can earn rewards on purchases and enjoy various perks and benefits.

Definition and Example of American Express

American Express issues and processes prepaid, gift, credit, and charge cards to consumers, small businesses, mid-sized companies, and large corporations worldwide.

Businesses around the world accept payments on American Express cards, similar to payments processed by Visa, Mastercard, and Discover. However, unlike Visa and Mastercard, American Express is both a card issuer and an acquiring bank, so it receives revenue from cardholders and businesses that accept their cards.1

  • Alternate name: Amex

American Express processes transactions made with its logo-bearing cards, including The Platinum Card from American Express, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, and the Delta Skymiles Blue Card from American Express. 

How Does American Express Work?

American Express is most known for its credit and charge cards, but the global payments company also offers merchant services and operates a card network.

American Express cards are accepted at 12.2 million businesses in the U.S., according to a February 2022 Nilson Report on the industry. By comparison, Visa and Mastercard are accepted at 12.4 businesses, and 12.2 million businesses accept Discover.

Globally, Visa and Mastercard have a stronger payment footprint, with acceptance at 80 million businesses around the world, according to a December 2021 Nilson Report. Discover, which also issues and processes its own cards, is accepted at 61 million businesses. American Express is accepted at 60 million businesses globally.


Charge cards don’t have preset spending limits, and balances must be paid in full, with no partial payments allowed. 

American Express Businesses

Card Issuing

American Express offers a variety of card products to consumers and businesses. Its card products offer rewards, benefits, and experiences to attract new customers. For example, cardholders can earn cash-back and loyalty rewards, access airport lounges, and receive travel insurance coverage depending on the card.

Merchant Acquiring

Businesses work with American Express to establish a merchant account and begin accepting Amex credit cards. In addition to working with businesses, American Express also partners with other acquiring companies and payment aggregators to make its cards accessible.

Card Network

American Express partners with other banks and financial institutions licensing the brand to offer its own credit cards. For example, its partners in more than 103 countries can launch credits to accept payments in their local currency.2

Strategic Partnerships

American Express works with various partners to provide additional benefits and services. Through its partnerships, American Express improves customer reach and provides value to cardholders through co-branded credit card offerings, expanded options for redeeming rewards, or additional credit card perks. Current partnerships include:2

  • Delta Air Lines
  • Marriott International
  • Hilton
  • British Airways
  • Amazon
  • PayPal

Types of American Express Cards

American Express issues personal, business, and corporate credit and charge cards in the following broad categories.  

Cash Back

Purchases on American Express cash-back consumer credit cards earn between 1% to 6%. Cash rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit. Higher-earning rewards cards come with an annual fee.3


Travel credit and charge cards earn rewards that can be redeemed for travel, flights, and hotel stays. Co-branded travel credit cards, such as airline and hotel rewards cards, earn rewards in the brand’s loyalty program. For example, purchases on Delta SkyMiles American Express cards earn miles that cardholders can use toward Delta flights and upgrades. American Express travel credit card annual fees can be as high as $695, with higher-fee cards offering more rewards and perks.4


American Express offers 14 credit and charge cards for businesses ranging from startups to large corporations. Business card options include cash-back, travel, hotel and airline cards, and co-branded business cards with Lowe’s and 


Even more general-use American Express cards may come with a slew of perks and benefits for travelers, including credit for airport screening programs, trip delay and cancellation coverage, and car rental loss and damage waiver insurance.

American Express Card (AmEx Card): Definition, Types, and Fees

What Is an American Express Card?

An American Express card, also known as an “Amex” card, is an electronic payment card branded by the publicly traded financial services company American Express (AXP). The company issues and processes prepaidcharge, and credit cards. American Express cards are available to individuals, small businesses, and corporate consumers across the United States and around the world.12


  • American Express cards are issued by American Express—a publicly traded financial services company—and are charge cards, credit cards, or prepaid cards.
  • An American Express card, also called an “Amex” card, can offer a variety of perks, including rewards points, cash back, and travel perks. Some cards are co-branded, such as those with Delta and Hilton.
  • American Express is one of the few companies that issues cards and has a network to process card payments. Visa and Mastercard have processing networks but don’t issue cards.

Understanding American Express Cards

American Express cards are issued by American Express and processed on the American Express network. American Express is one of only a few financial service companies in the industry that has the capability to both issue and process electronic payment cards.3

American Express is a publicly traded company in the financial services industry. It offers both credit lending and network processing services, giving it a broad range of competitors in the industry. As with traditional lenders, it has the capability to issue credit products, which it provides in the form of charge cards and credit cards.

American Express has its own processing network that competes with Mastercard (MA) and Visa (V). Its most comparable competitor is Discover Financial Services (DFS), which is also a publicly traded financial service company offering both credit lending and a processing service network.3 With multiproduct capabilities, American Express generates revenue from both interest-earning products and network processing transaction services.

The term “Black Card” refers to the American Express Centurion card, which is offered by invitation only.4

American Express Fees

American Express generates a significant portion of its revenue from transaction processing. Many merchants accept American Express cards and are willing to pay the transaction fees associated with processing because of the advantages that come with offering American Express as a payment option to customers.5

In an American Express transaction, the merchant’s acquiring bank communicates with American Express as both the processor and the issuing bank in the transaction process. Merchant acquiring banks must work with the American Express processing network to transmit communications in American Express transactions. American Express is also the issuer that authenticates and approves the transaction.6 

Merchants pay a small fee to American Express for its processing network services, which are part of the comprehensive fees involved with a single transaction. As both a processor and high-quality lender, American Express has built a strong reputation in the financial services industry.

Types of American Express Cards

As noted above, American Express credit cards and prepaid debit cards are offered to a variety of both retail and commercial customers. It is also an industry-leading provider of charge cards, which offer month-to-month credit with card balances that must be paid off each month.

American Express charge and credit cards follow standard underwriting procedures. The company seeks good- to high-credit quality borrowers—which means a credit score of at least 670—and generally is not a subprime lender.7

American Express credit and charge cards come with a variety of benefits in the form of rewards points and travel perks, which depend, in part, on the annual fee charged.8 American Express cards may offer cash back on certain purchases, though they aren’t among the best cash back cards currently available.9 American Express also offers numerous branded prepaid debit cards, which can be used as gift cards or special-purpose reloadable payment cards.

Annual fees for American Express cards tend to run high: $95 for the Blue Cash Preferred Card, $99 for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, $150 for the Green Card, $250 for the Gold Card, and $550 for the Platinum Card.10 That said, the Green, Gold, and Platinum cards have no predetermined spending limits.11 American Express does offer at least six cards with no annual fee.12 Customer service for all Amex cards is highly rated, with the company coming in No. 1 on J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study.13

Partnerships, co-branded cards

American Express issues many of its cards directly to consumers, but it also has partnerships with other financial institutions. In the U.S., for example, Wells Fargo issued an American Express card (new applications were paused in April 2021, although this doesn’t affect current cardholders), and in Mexico, Banco Santander offers American Express cards.1415 American Express also has partnerships with other companies to encourage consumers to apply for its credit cards. Two examples are its co-branded cards with Delta Air Lines, which allow consumers to earn frequent flier miles redeemable on Delta, and its Hilton Hotels co-branded cards.16

Pros and Cons of an American Express Card


  • Green, Gold, and Platinum Amex cards don’t have any predetermined spending limits.
  • Amex is known for the high quality of its customer service, ranking number one in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study.
  • Amex cards offer a host of rewards, perks, and cash back on purchases.
  • You must pay the balance on Amex charge cards in full each month, which prevents you from running up high interest charges.


  • Due to higher transaction fees than other cards, some merchants won’t accept Amex cards.
  • You can’t get an Amex card without at least a good (670 or higher) credit score.
  • Annual fees for Amex cards can be high.
  • You must pay the balance on Amex charge cards in full each month, so you can’t use them to “borrow” money.

About the Company

Founded in 1850 as an express mail delivery company, American Express is now one of the most well-known and trusted financial institutions in the world. Commonly referred to as “Amex, the firm has one of the largest global payments networks, driving more than $1 trillion in commerce annually. Most known for its credit cards and traveler’s checks, American Express also has subsidiaries such as American Express Travel Related Services, American Express Bank, American Express Centurion Bank, Accertify, and AMEX Assurance Company, among others.

The company’s mission statement is to “provide the world’s best customer experience every day,” and, to accomplish that, Amex focuses on its employees’ well-being. Two years in a row, the firm has ranked among the top 10 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For ranking. Amex offers a generous suite of benefits, including 20-weeks of paid parental leave, an on-site gym and café, public transportation reimbursements, tuition reimbursements, and on-site wellness centers. Meanwhile, all employees are encouraged to partake in the leadership and learning programs at the American Express Leadership Academy.

Amex aims to be as diverse and inclusive as the world it serves. Nearly half of its U.S. workforce are from varied backgrounds in terms of race and ethnicity, and more than half of its global workforce are women. In addition to its commitment to fighting bias and creating an inclusive culture, Amex is focused on empowering its people’s voices. Impactful careers with the firm range from product management and marketing to analytics and finance.

4 thoughts on “American Express Company Review”

Leave a Comment