Where is American Express Accepted?
American Express is currently accepted by 99% of U.S. merchants that accept credit cards, according to a 2022 issue of Nilson Report. However, if you’re traveling abroad or shopping at a small business, your American Express card is less likely to be accepted than a Visa or Mastercard. That’s because it typically costs businesses more to accept American Express payments.
We’ve rounded up which retailers, restaurants, countries and more accept American Express — and which ones don’t — so you can be prepared wherever you go.
Where is American Express accepted?
American Express is accepted at most large retailers, grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations in the U.S., including the following:
Small businesses in the U.S. may be a hit or a miss. To make sure a small business accepts American Express prior to shopping there, check out this interactive map of small businesses where American Express cards are accepted.
Where is American Express not accepted?
One major retailer that doesn’t accept American Express is Costco. Additionally, some small businesses may not accept American Express, since it tends to charge merchants higher fees than other major payment networks, like Visa and Mastercard.
American Express (and Discover) also tend to be less available outside of the U.S. than Visa and Mastercard. That said, American Express also typically limits earning grocery, streaming service and gas rewards to U.S. merchants. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, lets cardholders earn 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more), 1% Cash Back on other purchases. Terms apply.
Countries that accept American Express
Using American Express credit cards outside of the U.S. can be difficult compared to other cards.
Here are some countries that don’t accept American Express at all:
- North Korea
- Russia and Belarus (temporarily)
Aside from exceptions like those, it’s dependent on individual merchants to decide if they want to accept American Express — not countries as a whole.
Why isn’t American Express accepted everywhere?
American Express isn’t accepted everywhere because it costs merchants more in fees than Visa and Mastercard.
What are merchant fees?
Merchant fees are what businesses are required to pay to accept different payment processors. Some fees go toward the payment processing companies (American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover) — and some go toward the banks that issue credit cards (Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and more).
Here are some of the fees merchants are responsible for:
- Interchange fees: This fee goes directly to the credit card issuer. It’s usually the largest fee a merchant has to pay is presented as a percentage plus a small cost per transaction. Interchange fees vary depending on factors like the type of business and the transaction size.
- Discount rate: This is the fee paid by the merchant to the credit card processor to simply accept the card.
- Assessment fees: This fee is usually smaller than interchange fees and is paid to the credit card network.
- Voice authorization fees: A merchant is charged a voice authorization fee when they’re required to call a payment processor representative to accept a card payment. This may happen if a merchant’s point of sale (POS) system is unavailable.
Looking for a low-cost credit card? See our picks for the best credit cards with no annual fee.
What are American Express’s merchant fees?
American Express generally has higher merchant fees than its competitors. However, the payment network has a program called OptBlue, which can help small businesses qualify for lower merchant fees.
Still, American Express interchange fees are a bit higher than its competitors.
Payment network Starting interchange fees for consumer credit American Express (OptBlue) 1.60% + $0.10 Mastercard 0% + $0.10 Visa 1.15% + $0.10 Discover 1.56% + $0.10
While these may look like small fees, they can quickly add up for business owners — which is why some may want to opt not to accept American Express payments.
American Express vs. Visa, Mastercard and Discover
How does American Express match up against other major payment networks? The chart below shows approximately how many U.S. and international merchants each network has available.
Payment network International merchants U.S. merchants American Express (OptBlue) 44 million 10.6 million Discover 48 million 10.6 million Visa 46 million 10.7 million Mastercard 37 million 10.7 million
Source: Nilson Report
Even though American Express falls behind internationally, it’s still available at over 10 million merchants. So depending on where you’re visiting, your card is probably still worth packing — but bring a backup card just in case.
Types of American Express credit cards
American Express offers several types of cards that cater to people with different spending habits and rewards preferences, including the following:
Luxury travel rewards
American Express has several travel cards to choose from — but The Platinum Card® from American Express offers the most luxurious benefits for frequent travelers. The downside is its $695 annual fee.*To see rates & fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
The American Express® Gold Card lets you earn up to $120 per calendar year in dining credits (enrollment required).
Cash back on everyday purchases
Business credit card
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is one of the best cards for small business owners for a few reasons. It has no annual fee, a year-long intro APR offer and rewards on everyday business purchases.
*To see rates & fees for The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.Found a card you’re interested in? Learn more about how to apply for a credit card to improve your changes of being approved.
Pros and cons of American Express credit cards
Plenty of options to choose from, like balance transfers, cash back, travel and business cards
Renowned for premium travel benefits
Offers generous rewards and welcome offers on many cards
Limited acceptance abroad
Some cards have a high annual fee
Limited options for people with bad credit*To see rates & fees for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.*To see rates & fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.*To see rates & fees for American Express® Gold Card, please click here.*To see rates & fees for The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please click here.