American Express OptBlue Program Tips

American Express OptBlue Program Tips

Amex OptBlue is a program designed to make American Express payments more accessible to small businesses. Traditionally, the high barriers to entry on the network and the extremely high transaction fees made American Express more trouble than it was worth for smaller merchants. To remedy that problem, the company created the Amex OptBlue program, which puts Amex administration and pricing in the hands of payment processors – just like Visa and Mastercard – and makes it easier and more affordable than ever for merchants to get on board.


Tip: Consider the “New Normal” of Shopping When Evaluating OptBlue

As the global pandemic winds down, the shopping habits we’ve learned over the past two years are proving to be permanent. Cashless, often contactless, payments are the new norm, which means your card offerings are more important than ever. If an Amex cardholder walks into your store or visits your website and you don’t accept their cards, rather than choosing an alternate form of payment, they may just decide to shop somewhere else that can meet their needs. While fees are still very important – even with Amex OptBlue – consumer choice is now so important that you can’t really afford to pass on Amex if the price is right. 


Tip: Look for “Cost-Plus” Pricing

Amex OptBlue charges all payment processors the same base rates, which they publish publicly, not unlike the way Visa and Mastercard publish their interchange rates. There are well over 100 price categories, and the base fee on any given transaction is determined by a few factors, including:

  • Card-present or card-not-present
  • Merchant Category Code (MCC)
  • Average transaction value

OptBlue processing partners then have a choice when it comes to setting their markups; they can build their markup on top of each of OptBlue’s 100+ rate categories – cost-plus pricing – or bundle those 100+ categories down into just a few categories with their own tiered pricing model. 

Cost-plus pricing is effectively the same as interchange-plus pricing for Visa and Mastercard; it’s transparent and almost always results in the lowest possible transaction fees. Tiered pricing generally results in higher fees because transactions are lumped together under the highest fee category they fit into. 

Cost-plus helps ensure you’ll enjoy the lowest fees you can access on Amex transactions, and the transparency helps ensure you clearly understand your fees. That’s a benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked since Amex OptBlue is only worthwhile if your processor isn’t jacking up your fees far above what you’d pay on Visa and Mastercard transactions. 


Tip: Make Sure You Understand Your Responsibilities to the Brand

When you sign up for Amex OptBlue, you take on certain responsibilities to the American Express brand and certain limitations on how you can and can’t operate under the program. American Express publishes a helpful operations guide that lays out every aspect of the program clearly, including your responsibilities to the brand. It’s important to understand the rules so you don’t accidentally breach the terms of service. For instance, if you sign up for Amex OptBlue and then realize later your processor is using a tiered pricing model that is resulting in unacceptably high fees, you can’t try to dissuade customers from using Amex or promote any other payment method over it. That’s another reason it’s so important to understand your fees. Once you’ve joined OptBlue, you must treat Amex exactly as you would Visa, Mastercard, or cash. 


Amex OptBlue represents an easier and more affordable way to accept American Express payments than traditional applications to the network. Most importantly, the program provides a way for small businesses like yours to maximize the payment choice you offer to your customers – a crucial aspect of customer experience, especially in a post-pandemic world. 

BAMS is a leading payment processor and OptBlue partner that enables merchants to bring their Visa, Mastercard, and American Express payments all under a single, highly affordable bill. Our interchange-plus pricing model ensures you’ll always have access to the most competitive fees, our dedicated support specialists are unmatched in the industry, and our comprehensive list of value-added services helps make your payment processing simpler, easier, and more convenient. 

To find out more about how you can benefit from a BAMS merchant account or our Amex OptBlue services, get started with a comprehensive five-point price comparison today.