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Amex OptBlue Credit Card Processing for Small Business

Accepting American Express cards hasn’t always been easy – especially for small business owners. When consumers think “credit card,” Visa and Mastercard are generally the two brands that come to mind first, because those two cards, along with Discover cards, are accepted by effectively every single merchant that offers credit card payments. For decades, American Express was the one major card type that customers likely wouldn’t see advertised at the average checkout counter because many small businesses either couldn’t or wouldn’t accept it. 

While payment processors have long offered Visa, Mastercard, and Discover bundled in the same merchant account, American Express has traditionally operated in its own closed system, separate from the other major card brands and only available through a stand-alone Amex account. Amex processing accounts were not only harder to get, but the fees were generally significantly higher due to the company’s positioning as a “premium” payment card. As a result, many small business owners were frozen out of accepting it altogether. 

But today, Amex is accepted by 99% of merchants taking credit card payments in the U.S., and that accessibility is due in large part to American Express OptBlue – the company’s olive branch to millions of previously spurned small business owners. 

What is Amex OptBlue?

OptBlue is a program that transfers the administration of Amex processing accounts to American Express’s third-party payment processing partners. With OptBlue, small business merchants are no longer forced to deal with American Express directly, but can instead apply for and manage their Amex processing through the same payment processors they use for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover. Distributed access not only makes it easier for merchants to apply for Amex services, it also offers a wide variety of other benefits that have transformed American Express from a major headache into a major opportunity and a must-have card option. 

How Does Amex OptBlue Benefit Merchants?

OptBlue improves effectively every aspect of Amex processing for small businesses, bringing the card directly in line with its major competitors in terms of transaction fees, ease of access, account management, and more. 

Pricing: Amex fees have traditionally been significantly higher than competing cards, but OptBlue changes that by putting pricing in the hands of the processing partners administering merchant accounts. Putting processors in charge promotes competition, making American Express far more affordable and, in turn, far more accessible for small businesses. 

For instance, a merchant accepting American Express through a traditional stand-alone account could expect to pay as high as 3.50% and $0.35 on each transaction. An OptBlue merchant signed up with BAMS – one of Amex’s major processing partners – could instead see fees as low as 2.30% and $0.10 per transaction. 

Reporting: American Express accounts were isolated from other card processors in the past, so merchants would receive a separate set of statements and reports on top of the reporting from their main merchant account. As a result, merchants would be forced to combine the data from multiple reports each month just to gain an accurate picture of their sales, fees, and profitability. 

With OptBlue, Amex reporting is no longer isolated and monthly processing data is rolled right into the same set of reports as a merchant’s Visa, Mastercard, and Discover transactions. That saves time and manual number-crunching, making it easier for merchants to maintain a clear picture of their business and financial health. 

Management: Having everything rolled into a single account also makes payment processing easier to manage, since merchants no longer have to juggle multiple points of contact and support systems. Any issues can be brought to the attention of a single account representative, helping the merchant both save time and build a stronger long-term relationship with their processing partner. 

Funding: Payouts from traditional American Express accounts are subject to standard holds that can range from three to five business days. A five-day hold ensures that merchants generally won’t see the money from a sale until at least a calendar week after that sale is made. 

OptBlue merchants have access to much faster funding depending on the processor they’re working with. BAMS OptBlue merchants see their funding hold reduced from as many as five days to as little as twelve hours, with the money from each transaction batched before 7:00 pm hitting the bank by 7:00 am the following business day.

What Types of Merchants are Eligible for OptBlue?

While OptBlue is available across a variety of industries, not all merchants are eligible and some will still have to take the traditional route with a stand-alone Amex account. OptBlue access is open to merchants in the following sectors:

  • Tuition
  • Office-Based Healthcare
  • Restaurant
  • Fast Food
  • Mail Order & Internet
  • Travel
  • Lodging
  • Retail & Wholesale
  • Supermarket

Merchants falling into one of these categories can access American Express at improved rates, alongside Visa, Mastercard, and Discover by signing on with one of American Express’s approved OptBlue payment partners. 

BAMS is a leading payment processor and an American Express OptBlue partner, offering some of the fastest funding and lowest fees in the industry, not only for American Express transactions, but across all card types. To find out more about how BAMS can help you begin accepting American Express through the OptBlue program, reach out to a member of the team or get started with your free five-point price comparison today.