American Express, often referred to as AmEx, is multinational financial services company based in New York City. American Express was founded in 1850 and is one of thirty stocks held in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. American Express issues credit cards, traveler’s cheques, and charge cards.
American Express was founded in 1850 as an express mail service, but expanded into financial services in 1857 by selling money orders and added money orders in 1891. American Express began issuing charge cards in 1958 as a major competitor of Diner’s Club. Charge cards differ from credit cards in that, rather than carrying a balance and paying interest, users must pay the balance in full every month.
American Express issues cards as well as providing branded products to companies that issue them. The most common co-branded American Express cards are those issued by airlines, hotels, and retailers.
Near the end of 2012, American Express partnered with WalMart to create Bluebird, a prepaid card with some of the benefits of other American Express cards, such as roadside assistance and identity theft protection. Unlike other prepaid cards, Bluebird cards are FDIC insured.
As of 2016, American Express held 22.9% of the market share of credit card purchases in the United States with 109.9 million active cards, including 47.5 million cards in the United States. American Express users charge an average of $17,216 per year. According to Interbrand, American Express is worth about $18.358 billion and is ranked as the 25th most valuable brand. In 2017, Fortune Magazine ranked American Express as the 17th most admired company in the world.
Despite holding such a large market share, American Express is not as widely accepted as many credit cards by merchant accounts. This is because American Express charges more to retailers for merchant service payments instead of relying on interest payments from revolving credit.