Amex is a nickname for American Express, which is one of the largest financial services corporations in the world. Amex was founded on March 18, 1850 and began as a mail delivery business. But it now is a provider of credit cards, charge cards, traveler’s cheques, bank accounts and more.
Amex is similar to Discover in that both networks issue their own credit cards. Visa and Mastercard do not; all of their cards are issued by banks and credit unions. Amex has the lowest merchant acceptance rate of the four issuers both domestically and abroad.
American Express isn't a Visa or a Mastercard. American Express, Visa and Mastercard are three of the four major card networks, the other being Discover. All four act as card networks, dictating where credit cards can be used and sharing responsibility for processing transactions, but American Express along with Discover also extend credit and issue cards directly to consumers. A credit card never has two networks, so you'll never see an American Express Visa card or an American Express Mastercard. Furthermore, lots of the credit cards on the Amex network are actually issued by American Express itself. The rest come from the likes of Bank of America, USAA, Citibank and BBVA Compass. Visa and Mastercard, on the other hand, don't issue any of the cards on their networks or any of the others.… read full answer
For a bit of background, card networks control where cards can be used and help process transactions. They also determine the fees merchants must pay when a consumer uses a card with their logo on it. And they provide cardholders with additional benefits like travel insurance and purchase protection. American Express is quite different from Visa and Mastercard, though.
American Express vs Visa and Mastercard:
In addition to being a card network, American Express issues credit cards (as does Discover) as well. Visa and Mastercard do not. So Amex actually has a lot more control over the cards on its network, at least in terms of interest rates, fees and rewards.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted at more than 11 million U.S. merchant locations. American Express added 1.6 million U.S. merchant locations in 2018, now reaching a total of more than 10 million.
Amex cards work in about 160 countries and territories. Visa and Mastercard are both accepted in over 200.
Some credit card issuers have American Express, Visa and Mastercard offers. Those issuers include U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.
Citi, Chase, Bank of America, Barclays and Capital One issue Visa and Mastercard credit cards but not Amex cards.
PNC and TD Bank only offer Visa cards, and you may find banks that are exclusive to Mastercard, too.
American Express’s fraud liability policy is excellent, while Mastercard and Visa provide good coverage, according to WalletHub’s research.
So American Express doesn’t have the acceptance and reach of Mastercard or Visa. But it’s the go-to network for charge cards. And there are credit card offers on each network that could serve you well.
Best American Express, Visa & Mastercard Credit Cards:
American Express is accepted at 10.6 million merchant locations in the U.S. and in 160+ countries and territories abroad. But you’ll find some stores that have exclusive deals with the more popular networks, Visa and Mastercard. For example, Costco only accepts Visa cards now, after switching from Amex only in 2016. And despite the good number of foreign countries where you can use American Express cards, acceptance is on a merchant-by-merchant basis. So, coverage in a lot of countries is hit or miss.… read full answer
Here’s where American Express is accepted:
Where American Express is Accepted in the U.S.: 10.6 million merchants
Where American Express is Accepted Internationally: 160+ countries and territories
Countries Where American Express is Accepted Most: Canada, Australia, UK, India, Mexico
Places Where American Express is Not Accepted: Cuba, Sudan, South Sudan, Iran, Syria
Major Retailers That Accept American Express: Amazon, IKEA, Sears, Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Apple, Best Buy, Staples, CVS
Major Retailers That Don’t Accept American Express: Costco, small non-chain stores/restaurants
So, an American Express card is enough for your shopping within the U.S. Though you may find some stores that don’t take it, the majority will. But you’ll probably want to have a no foreign transaction feeVisa or Mastercard when you go abroad. Those networks guarantee you worldwide coverage, with acceptance in over 200 countries and territories. And Mastercard and Visa cards are accepted just about universally within those regions. Amex cards still have hit-or-miss acceptance in many.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. This question was posted by WalletHub.
Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.