Are American Express Cards Accepted Most Places?

Are American Express Cards Accepted Most Places?

June 11, 2018         Written By Bill Hardekopf

LowCards is an American Express partner. View our full editorial disclaimer here.

Some American Express cards offer excellent cashback, travel, and other rewards. However, American Express cards are not accepted in as many locations as Mastercard or Visa cards, which may lead you to wonder, are they accepted in most places? The short answer is, yes, American Express is accepted by most major retailers, chain restaurants, and airlines. Before applying for an American Express, though, you will want to consider a few things.

Why is Amex not more widely accepted?

Part of the reason American Express and Discover are not as widely accepted as other cards is due to their credit card processing fees. Visa and Mastercard typically charge vendors between 1.1% and 2.95% per transaction, while American Express fees can range from 2.3% to 3.5%, according to gobankingrates. This higher fee cuts into the retailer’s profit, which makes them less inclined to allow shoppers to pay with an Amex.

The reason American Express charges a higher fee to merchants is because they make money in a different way than Mastercard and Visa. Many American Express cards are charge cards instead of credit cards, which means that cardholders must pay their balance every month. Mastercard and Visa, on the other hand, do allow cardholders to carry a balance, but they must pay a rather hefty interest rate on the balance. Since Amex doesn’t generally make money from interest fees, they pass on the fees to retailers in order to generate a profit.

Where is it accepted?

If you are shopping at a chain restaurant or major retailer, such as Walmart or Target, chances are good your card will be accepted. You may run into issues, though, when you are shopping at smaller businesses.

While the card is not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard at local mom and pops, American Express is taking steps to change this. To appeal to retailers, the company has stated that nearly 50 million people in the United States carry an American Express card, and they spend 3.7 times what other cardholders spend each year as well as 1.8 times as much on individual transactions.

In addition to the numbers, Amex is also offering free advertising to merchants who opt-in to the American Express network. American Express offers cardholders an app and website that lists all merchants in their area that accept the card. The company said their “Shop Small” Map has helped cardholders make 7.5 million searches in 2016, which they say can drive customers to merchants. They also offer signage to make it easier for American Express cardholders to find stores where their card is accepted.

Since the card issuer is increasing their efforts to sell their system to merchants, it is likely the card will reach greater acceptance rates. In fact, in Australia, 50,000 new merchants began accepting the card in the past year.

Solution

If you want to take advantage of American Express rewards, feel free to apply. But make sure to always carry a back-up Visa or Mastercard (or cash) so you can pay for your goods or services.  You could use the American Express Shop Small Map or call ahead to see if the retailer or restaurant you were considering accepts Amex.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of June 11, 2018. For up-to-date information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website. Many of the offers on this article are from our affiliate partners, and LowCards.com may be compensated if you take action with any of our affiliate partners.

Review LowCards.com Editor’s Top Cards!

2020 Top Credit Cards by Category
Featured Fair Credit Card
Reflex Mastercard® Credit Card
EDITOR RATING
Featured Fair Credit Card
Reflex Mastercard® Credit Card

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: All credit types welcome to apply!

Featured Low Interest Card
ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard®
EDITOR RATING
Featured Low Interest Card
ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard®

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: No annual fee; $150 statement credit after spending $1,200 in first 90 days; 0% on Purchases for 12 months

Featured Bad Credit Card
First Digital NextGen Mastercard® Credit Card
EDITOR RATING
Featured Bad Credit Card
First Digital NextGen Mastercard® Credit Card

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: Reports to all three credit bureaus, perfect credit not required for approval

Featured Bank Account
Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account by Green Dot
EDITOR RATING
Featured Bank Account
Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account by Green Dot

Applying for this card will securely direct you to the issuer's website.

Top Features: Unlimited Cash Back Rewards


bill-hardekopf

About Bill Hardekopf

Bill Hardekopf is the CEO of LowCards.com and covers the credit card industry from all perspectives. Bill has been involved with personal finance for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, The Street and The Christian Science Monitor.