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Why Do Merchants Dislike American Express?

Posted By Jim On 06/16/2007 @ 2:39 pm In Credit | 128 Comments

I like my American Express True Earnings Costco card because it gives me 1% cashback, no cap, on everything and 3% at restaurants (though that was trumped by my Citi mtvU [3] card with 5%) and 2% on travel. It’s my backup card when another one doesn’t supersede it (like the Citi mtvU card) with a better offer because the cash back from American Express doesn’t have an annual cap whereas other cards do. However, if you’ve noticed, American Express (and Discover) seems to always been the odd card out when you go to a lot of merchants and while I’ve always heard it was the fees, I wanted to dig a little deeper to find out why Amex was so hated.

According to the North Carolina Office of the State Comptroller and this Schedule of Fees document [4], a $100 transaction on a VISA card results in fees of $1.62. MasterCard clocks in at $1.80 and American Express comes in a $2.19 (this is for the “best government rate,” whatever that means)

How does this compare to someone like PayPal? If you have their lowest merchant option, sales less than $3,000, you’re looking at fees of 2.9% plus 30 cents. So on $100, you’d be paying $3.20; more than Visa, MasterCard of American Express. (If you use Google Checkout, it’s fee free until the end of the year)

Anyone know why merchants hate American Express (and Discover)? Is it just the fees?


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[3] Citi mtvU: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/cards/citi-mtvu.php?tag=amexhate

[4] Schedule of Fees document: http://www.ncosc.net/SECP/Cards_Schedule_of_Fees.pdf

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