American Express Merchant Accounts

Guide to American Express merchant services

American Express, also known as Amex, wasn’t widely accepted by merchants until recent years. The reason for this is that Amex merchant account set up’s were renowned for being complex with additional higher fees to the business. Many companies see it as being more hassle than it’s worth, especially for start-ups and smaller companies.


Amex runs on a closed network basis meaning that American Express is the provider and the issuing bank. It also means that rates tend to be high, unlike Visa and Mastercard who use an open network, allowing various banks to process these familiar transactions. American Express make separate processing arrangements with the acquiring banks, i.e. Global Payments, WorldPay etc, meaning that costs don’t tend to get way out of control.

Accepting American Express

Merchant’s often ask  us about the best (and easiest) way to set up Amex processing for their business, this can be done in one of two ways;


Directly through American Express

This is most suited for high volume merchants. The agreement is made between your business and Amex directly rather than your processing bank. Acting essentially as separate account for American Express transactions, you’ll be charged by them as opposed to your acquiring bank.


“OptBlue” through your merchant account provider

American Express offer the account provider a wholesale rate and in turn they provide Amex options with a slight mark up to you, the business owner. This is often used by smaller companies and seen as the easiest way to accept Amex.

What are the American express interchange rates?

Understanding the world of merchant services is a tricky one, the rate and fee structures can be confusing – which is why we suggest you compare on a pound for pound basis. Business owners often ask the difference in American Express fees vs Visa and MasterCard.


The Amex interchange rate is one of interest to those merchants wishing to accept American Express via “OptBlue”.  As touched on earlier, American Express will offer wholesale rates to the card processor, they will then charge the business with a slight mark up. The wholesale rate is known as Interchange, the cost to the merchant being Interchange plus. American Express merchant fees/charges and rate percentages vary depending on your business type – speak to our UK based advisors today to find out more.


American Express Merchant Discount

If you’d prefer to go down the direct route to accept American Express, they will offer you one of two pricing structures – flat fees or discount rate plans. Remember this is a separate agreement from that with your processing bank.

Amex Discount Rate Plan

Very similarly to the ‘OptBlue’ the pricing structure of the discount plan is charges on a percentage of the authorised transaction. The amount will largely depend on the trading industry and predicted monthly turnover.

Flat Fee Plan

Merchants are charged a set fee per transaction and a monthly cost. This is suitable for businesses which transact constantly throughout the year at higher volumes.


Once merchants have been accepted to process Amex payments, they will be provided with an account number to pass onto the processing bank. Accepting American Express card payments in the same way in which they do Visa and MasterCard.


American Express Merchant Cash Advance

In 2011 Amex launched its Merchant Cash Advance facility, which is where the business owner can borrow against future card transactions. Largely used in seasonal businesses and companies shutting for refurb, Merchant Cash Advance is short term borrowing. Repayments are then made at an agreed percentage rate of the payments received through the chip and pin terminal. Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss this.

Merchant Advice Service – how we help

Merchant Advice Service is a non-biased platform built to assist business owners in all areas of card processing and business finance. From online merchant services for American Express to face-to-face transactions, our team of non-biased experts can help. Our service is free of charge, so if you’ve got a question – just ask.


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