American Express OptBlue: Negotiating Processing Rates

In “American Express OptBlue Program May Reduce Processing Cost,” my article in July, I explained how the new OptBlue program could decrease processing rates for ecommerce merchants, as it permits merchant account providers to set the fees and rates merchants cover American Express in a similar way in which the providers set the prices and fees for Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. My post in August, “American Express OptBlue: Recognizing Processing Rates,” addressed how American Express charges merchant account providers.

This is the last installment in my OptBlue series. This report contains a checklist which merchants can use when talking OptBlue with the supplier, to ensure rates and fees are clear, and honest.

OptBlue Example

I have addressed the OptBlue program because I think that a high proportion of small merchants can benefit from it if their prices are priced properly. By way of instance, below is real data from a merchant’s current announcement.

OptBlue can decrease AmEx processing costs for many merchants. These are real OpBlue fees and charges from a merchant’s statement.

This merchant was set up properly. It’s being charged the exact same Discount Fee (0.20% + 0 cents) on AmEx since it is on the other card manufacturers. It’s not being billed an”Amex Access Fee” since it doesn’t apply to this merchant (be careful as some suppliers may charge an access fee even if it’s not warranted). The”Amex Network Fee” and”Amex Tier 1 Rate” — as listed above — are priced right at the supplier’s actual cost.

It currently costs this merchant less when clients pay with an American Express card compared to Reward and Corporate/Business cards from Visa and MasterCard. When comparing the AmeEx processing cost to Visa and MasterCard, it is ideal to compare AmEx versus Reward and Corporate/Business cards. This is because a client who wishes to pay with an AmEx card will likely otherwise cover using a lien or Corporate/Business card from Visa or MasterCard (versus a simple credit card or debit card) if AmEx wasn’t accepted.

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Surely, not all merchant types will pay less for American Express, even if they’re correctly priced.

American Express has done a fantastic job of implementing a simple pricing structure that’s much less complex than those employed by Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. However, I have already seen suppliers take advantage of the ease by devising fees which aren’t part of the AmEx OptBlue app or by inflating the prices for their sales agents.

Download AmEx Pricing Checklist

And so, I’ve supplied the attached PDF checklist for merchants so that they can make an educated decision on participating in the OptBlue program. A provider that may not complete this form correctly or includes extraneous fees is probably not the right one for any of your processing requirements. Always ask the salesperson to demonstrate an example of a statement with the OptBlue pricing so you can compare it to the information on the checklist. Last, check the information on the completed checklist with the true statement you get from the supplier — should you select its services.

Below is information from another statement. In cases like this, the supplier is charging more than what it appears for AmEx processing. The supplier charges a discount rate of 0.40% + 20 cents — too large, incidentally, in my opinion — for all card brands. In actuality, the provider isn’t charging the exact same discount rate for AmEx as for another card manufacturers. The AmEx”Network Fee,””Access Fee,””Key Enter Fee,” and”T2 [Grade 2] Rate” are correctly priced. However, the supplier is charging an”Amex Sys Processing Fee,” that isn’t an AmEx fee whatsoever; it is in fact another provider fee. This fee nearly doubles the supplier’s real discount rate for AmEx transactions. This is the kind of fee which ought to be recorded in the”Additional Fees” section on the checklist.

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These true AmEx prices and fees are from a merchant’s processing announcement. “Amex Sys Processing Fee” isn’t from American Express, but only an extra fee from the merchant account supplier.


  • The American Express OptBlue program is simple and well designed for merchants.
  • The program must diminish the processing cost for a high proportion of current AmEx retail and ecommerce merchants.
  • The program should allow merchants which don’t currently accept AmEx to take it at a competitive cost to the other card manufacturers.
  • Regardless of the above, there’ll be suppliers and salespeople that will overcharge or mislead merchants, like they do with another card brands.
  • A supplier that misleads or overcharges for OptBlue is probably not the appropriate selection for any of your processing requirements.

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