How Small Businesses Can Reduce American Express Merchant Fees


In a previous article on American Express, we recommended that businesses eliminate American Express from their signage and only accept American Express when asked by a customer if it’s an available method of payment. The reason we made that recommendation is due to the higher fees associated with American Express payments. While the ruling discussed in that article means businesses can now add their own fee to American Express transactions, only dealing with American Express when a customer requests it is a simple but effective way to minimize any hassles related Amex.

In addition to following that piece of advice, a new program from American Express makes it possible for small businesses with under $1 million in annual Amex charges to reduce their associated fees. Officially known as AXP OptBlue, the purpose of this program is to provide a way for smaller businesses to “bundle” Amex along with the other types of credit cards they accept. By bundling, small businesses can process Amex transactions for a lower merchant fee than American Express has traditionally charged.

Does OptBlue Require Small Businesses to Make Any Processing Changes?

According to American Express, more than 400,000 small businesses have signed up for the OptBlue program. A big part of why this program has seen considerable traction is businesses don’t have to make any changes to their current payment infrastructure or change to a different merchant account provider. Instead, Amex has designed the program to integrate into the existing processing flow of a business. That integration includes Amex transactions being included in the monthly credit card activity statement a business receives.

AXP OptBlue Rate Details

As mentioned above, this program is available to SMBs with under $1 million in annual Amex charges. If your business is under that threshold, you can apply for OptBlue. Once accepted into the program, your business will be able to take advantage of OptBlue’s wholesale rates. Instead of controlling processing fees, Amex takes a different approach with OptBlue by allowing merchant account providers to set their own rates.

In terms of exact wholesale pricing, American Express has several tiers. Most small businesses will fall into the lowest tier, which is for average sales that are under $150. Businesses will only see a significant increase in their processing rate if they sell products or services that cost more than $3,000.

If your business doesn’t currently accept American Express, the OptBlue program provides a way to process Amex payments for customers who request it while still keeping merchant fees under control. And if your business already accepts Amex payments, taking time to enroll in OptBlue can reduce the fee you pay for each transaction.