More Retailers Than Ever Are Accepting American Express - Forbes

More Retailers Than Ever Are Accepting American Express - Forbes

More Retailers Than Ever Are Accepting American Express - Forbes

Posted: 13 Jun 2019 06:41 AM PDT

Forbes has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. Forbes and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

First impressions are incredibly important because it takes much more work to change an opinion once someone has made up their mind. That's exactly the predicament American Express finds itself in as it works hard to overcome the notion that fewer merchants accept Amex cards compared to Visa or Mastercard. While that absolutely used to be true, Amex is in the midst of a five year long campaign to increase acceptance at merchants around the world and the results are quite impressive.

Amex Is Closing The Gap 

It makes perfect sense that Amex would want you to be able to use your card at more stores, but Amex believes that it's customers are actually more valuable for merchants as well. According to a Nilson report, Amex customers spend an average of $14,000 a year on their cards, 3.1x more than non-Amex customers. Similarly, the average transaction size of an Amex customer is 1.8x larger than a non-card member's. So why is it that fewer merchants accept Amex cards? Historically, the reason has been because Amex charged higher interchange fees or "swipe fees" than Visa and Mastercard did. 

According to Amex, this is no longer the case. The average cost for merchants to accept Visa and Mastercard has risen over the last 10 years, while the cost to accept Amex cards has decreased over the same period. In addition to lowering its processing costs for merchants, Amex has invested heavily in fraud prevention technology and other business friendly programs like Shop Small/Small Business Saturday and Amex Offers. All of this investment is clearly paying off, as over 2.5 million new merchants in the US began accepting American Express during 2017 and 2018. 

A big part of this success comes from Amex's OptBlue program which makes it easier for merchants to process Amex cards. This program highlights an important point: It's the credit card processor that sets the credit card merchant fees, not Amex itself. OptBlue will work with your business to find the best processing rate possible, and combine your statements and payments even if your customers are using a mix of Amex, Visa and Mastercard. OptBlue participants will also receive free marketing help from Amex, including physical signage, email alerts, and data driven advertisements that identify which Amex customers would be most likely to shop at a given merchant.

Amex still has some work to do to close the acceptance gap with Visa and Mastercard, but the issuer has said it expects to achieve "virtual parity" by the end of 2019. Amex can score a win-win by increasing acceptance- it makes more money when its cards are used more, and merchants stand to gain more from Amex's statistically more valuable customers.

Forbes has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. Forbes and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Small Business Saturday 2018: What Is It? When Did It Start? What Deals Are There? - Newsweek

Posted: 23 Nov 2018 12:00 AM PST

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday, a day created to encourage holiday shoppers to buy from local businesses.

Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday takes place each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. American Express started the shopping event in an effort to boost spending at small businesses during the holiday season and help establishments remain open during the recession.

"As a consumer, you're a key part in helping small businesses thrive. By shopping or dining at small businesses throughout the year, you're showing your support for the small businesses in your neighborhood and in the communities you call your own," American Express said.

small business saturday 2018
A general view of atmosphere at Small Business Saturday Night on November 29, 2014, in New York City. Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Just a year after the shopping event was created, the Senate passed a resolution in support of Small Business Saturday. In the years since American Express created the day, an estimated $85 billion was spent at independent retailers and restaurants.

"It's our busiest day of the year," Mackenzi Farquer, a small business owner, told CNBC. "I think people in this neighborhood especially are trained to know that this the day to come out and shop at small businesses. They are not only coming for holiday shopping, they also want to be here to support us."

Farquer explained that sales on Small Business Saturday account for eight percent of the store's overall holiday sales and each year she's noticed more interest.

The day is recognized by government officials nationwide, who encourage constituents to spend Saturday at stores in their neighborhoods. One official even decided to offer tax incentives to help stores get a bigger turnout. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez announced on Wednesday that Saturday would be a tax-free holiday.

"I'm proud to announce the first-ever tax-free Small Business Saturday, in New Mexico," Martinez said, according to KVII. "Get out and support your local small businesses and use this opportunity to save a few bucks when money is tight around the holidays."

Under the law, which was signed in March, businesses with 10 employees or less can sell goods without charging patrons gross receipt tax. A wide range of products will be tax-free as long as the cost does not exceed $500.

In 2011, then-President Barack Obama called small businesses the backbone of America's economy and the "cornerstones of our nation's promise." He explained that small businesses create two out of every three new jobs and spur economic development.

"Through events such as Small Business Saturday, we keep our local economies strong and help maintain an American economy that can compete and win in the 21st century," Obama said.

Similarly, to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some stores offer incentives of their own to shop small. Although, many deals aren't advertised in the same way Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are, simply because the stores aren't national retailers.

To help stores promote Small Business Saturday, American Express creates a variety of marketing materials, including flyers and images for social media, that stores can use.

Small Business Saturday isn't a novelty anymore – independent retailers depend on it - CNBC

Posted: 23 Nov 2018 12:00 AM PST

For Mackenzi Farquer, Small Business Saturday is a big deal.

The owner of Queens, New York-based Lockwood gift shop, which sells kitchenware, clothing and paper goods, says there's often barely room to stand in her locations on the retail holiday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

"It's our busiest day of the year," Farquer says. "I think people in this neighborhood especially are trained to know that this the day to come out and shop at small businesses. They are not only coming for holiday shopping, they also want to be here to support us."

And those shoppers show their support in a big way — that day alone accounts for some 8 percent of Lockwood's overall holiday sales. "It's at a fever pitch and growing every year," she says.

Small Business Saturday, now in its ninth year, is sponsored by American Express and encourages consumers to get out and shop "small" supporting local retailers and restaurants in person and online. Last year, nearly $13 billion was spent on that day alone, a slight dip from 2016.

This year, data from Amex and the National Federation of Independent Business finds some 83 percent of consumers say they plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping at a small independently owned retailer or restaurant either in person, or online. Nearly 6 in 10 consumers nationwide say they are aware of the shopping holiday, and among them, 80 percent plan to shop at independent retailers that day.

John Lund/Marc Romanelli | Getty Images

Meanwhile, data from CNBC and SurveyMonkey's Small Business Saturday poll finds some 44 percent of consumers say they will patronize a small business on the day this year, up slightly from 2017, and 58 percent say they will shop in person. Overall this season, 28 percent said they will spend less while 14 percent said they will spend more.

This year, American Express has also expanded the holiday to Puerto Rico for the first time and is sponsoring events including popup shops with Etsy, campaigns to support female-owned businesses and more.

"Small Business Saturday is a great chance to drive awareness and keep small businesses top of mind," said Raina Moskowitz, Etsy's SVP of people, strategy and services. "Mass retailers play a great role in convenience and price, but when you shop from a small business, there is a story behind what you are buying. so it's more personal and thoughtful, especially for the holiday season."

Small business owners like Mackenzie Farquer are gearing up for Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to patronize small, local retailers.

Kate Rogers | CNBC

Heather Parker sells dog bow ties, leashes and other gifts online and at her shop Crew LaLa in Charleston, South Carolina. It's her fifth year participating in Small Business Saturday, and each year sales have doubled, Parker said. Last year, the day accounted for 12 percent of the company's overall holiday season sales, and even brought in new, repeat customers.

"Last year 40 percent of our customers from Small Business Saturday were first-time customers," Parker said. "Of that 40 percent, 65 percent actually turned into returning customers."

The store even has to bring in extra employees for the weekend and the rest of the holiday season.

"We have to beef up for it because we get such a response from Small Business Saturday," Parker said. "Having a day that really shows support … is really inspiring. It helps us and kind of fuels us for the rest of the year."


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