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Libby James
Merchant Services Expert

Libby James is co-founder, director and an expert in all things merchant services. Libby is the go-to specialist for business with more complex requirements or businesses that are struggling to find a provider that will accept them. Libby is regularly cited in trade, national and international media.

Guide to Simplifying American Express Merchant Services

American Express, or Amex, has undergone a transformation in recent years, evolving from being less widely accepted by merchants to becoming a viable option. The perception of complexity and higher fees associated with Amex merchant account setups deterred many businesses, particularly start-ups and smaller companies. However, with recent changes, accepting American Express has become more accessible and beneficial for merchants.

Understanding American Express Dynamics

American Express operates on a closed network basis, distinguishing itself from open network providers like Visa and Mastercard. This closed network means that Amex serves as both the provider and the issuing bank. While this results in relatively higher rates, Amex makes separate processing arrangements with acquiring banks such as Global Payments and WorldPay, ensuring costs are controlled.

Ways to Accept American Express

Merchants often enquire about the optimal way to set up Amex processing. Two primary methods exist:


Directly through American Express:

Ideal for high-volume merchants, this involves a direct agreement between your business and Amex. Transactions are treated as a separate account, and charges come directly from Amex rather than your processing bank.


“OptBlue” through your merchant account provider:

Suited for smaller businesses, this method involves Amex offering a wholesale rate to the account provider, who, in turn, adds a slight markup for the business owner. This is often considered the easiest way to integrate Amex payments.

American Express Interchange Rates

Understanding merchant service rates can be challenging. For those opting for “OptBlue,” the interchange rate is crucial. Amex provides wholesale rates to the card processor, with the merchant incurring Interchange plus a slight markup. The specifics of fees and percentages vary based on business type.


American Express Merchant Discount Options

For those choosing the direct route, Amex offers two pricing structures:


Amex Discount Rate Plan:

Charges are based on a percentage of the authorised transaction, with the amount varying according to the industry and predicted monthly turnover.


Flat Fee Plan:

Merchants pay a set fee per transaction and a monthly cost, suitable for businesses with constant high transaction volumes throughout the year.


Once approved to process Amex payments, merchants receive an account number to seamlessly integrate Amex transactions alongside Visa and Mastercard payments.

American Express Merchant Cash Advance

In 2011, Amex introduced its Merchant Cash Advance facility, allowing business owners to borrow against future card transactions. This short-term borrowing option is particularly useful for seasonal businesses or those undergoing refurbishments. Repayments are based on an agreed percentage rate of payments received through the chip and pin terminal.

Merchant Advice Service – How We Help

Merchant Advice Service serves as a non-biased platform assisting business owners in card processing and business finance. From online services for American Express to face-to-face transactions, our team of unbiased experts offers free guidance. If you have questions, feel free to reach out.


American Express FAQs

Commonly Asked Questions
How does “OptBlue” differ from direct Amex processing?
“OptBlue” involves a wholesale rate through your account provider, while direct processing means an agreement with Amex, bypassing your processing bank.
What are the key considerations when choosing between discount rate and flat fee plans?
Consider your industry, predicted turnover, and transaction volume. Discount plans are percentage-based, while flat fee plans suit high transaction volumes.
Can I integrate Amex payments after initially setting up with other card providers?
Yes, once approved, Amex provides an account number to seamlessly integrate Amex transactions alongside Visa and Mastercard.
How does the Merchant Cash Advance facility work for Amex?
Introduced in 2011, this short-term borrowing allows businesses to borrow against future Amex card transactions, with repayments based on an agreed percentage rate.
What is the difference between American Express and open network providers like Visa and Mastercard?
Amex operates on a closed network basis, serving as both the provider and issuing bank, resulting in higher rates. Visa and Mastercard use an open network, allowing various banks to process transactions.
Is there a significant difference in fees between American Express and Visa/MasterCard?
Yes, American Express fees tend to be higher due to its closed network model. However, “OptBlue” offers a more accessible option with competitive rates for smaller businesses.
Can I switch between the Amex Discount Rate Plan and the Flat Fee Plan?
Depending on your business needs, you can switch between these pricing structures. Consult with Amex to determine the most suitable plan for your evolving requirements.
How can Merchant Advice Service assist in navigating American Express merchant services?
Our team of non-biased experts provides free guidance on integrating American Express into your business, offering support on various card processing and finance aspects.


American Express, known for its charge cards, credit card transactions, and unique merchant fees structure, has become an increasingly attractive option for businesses of all sizes. Understanding the dynamics of American Express card processing, including the differences in transaction fee structures and the flexibility of accepting American Express cards, is crucial for effective cash flow management.


Whether you’re a small enterprise considering accepting American Express credit cards or a larger entity exploring direct processing options, the decision can significantly impact your business bank account and credit card sales. The choice between the Amex Discount Rate Plan and the Flat Fee Plan should be made after careful consideration of your specific business needs.


Additionally, American Express offers like the Merchant Cash Advance can provide valuable financial support in the form of small business loans, allowing for greater flexibility and growth opportunities. It’s essential to consult with a credit card processor or financial expert to understand these options fully.


For businesses navigating these choices, Merchant Advice Service is here to help. Our team offers expert advice and support, ensuring that you make the most informed decisions about accepting Amex cards and managing your finances effectively.

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Libby James

Libby James Co-founded Merchant Advice Service alongside David Bird in 2016. Her finance background, coupled with retail and customer service experience, gave Libby the drive to bring transparency and non-biased advice to the world of merchant services. Having come from the heavily regulated mortgage and insurance industry, Libby found it puzzling that other financial sectors lacked regulation and transparency leaving customers confused and unable to make informed decisions when it came to accepting card payments. This was soon to become Libby’s obsession!

With the help of some of the industry’s best, Libby began to research acquiring banks, complex terminology/regulation, and the problems customers experience within merchant services and payment gateway markets. She spent years on sourcing solutions for complex clients, which previously others were unable to assist with. Libby established relationships with brokers and banks which would soon form the cornerstone of Merchant Advice Service. As a result Libby has been featured in high-profile publications across the web.

Libby is proud to be the entrepreneur’s champion, supporting start-up businesses regularly. Her industry insights can often be found on LinkedIn where she provides free of charge advice and money saving pointers. It’s safe to say she has her finger on the pulse of everything card payments related.

Libby speaks of her experience in founding and running Merchant Advice Service…

‘Merchant Advice Service is one of my greatest achievements to date. We help business owners to overcome card processing issues which can become detrimental to their business. We assist SME’s in finding suitable card payments solutions, helping them create their vision. Each and every day is different, exciting and fore filling. As technology advances I can’t wait to see the way in which the merchant services market advances, and I’m pleased that our business will play a part in educating company owners along the way.’

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