Once upon a time American Express actually delivered express packages. That was in the 1850s when John Warren Butterfield, who began his business career as a stage coach driver, Henry Wells and William Fargo joined forces to transport mail across upstate New York. When Wells and Fargo wanted to pioneer operations in California and American Express wanted to go no further than St. Louis the two one-time freight agents started Wells Fargo & Company. It has been many years since two of America’s financial giants have operated express mail service.
American Express made its first foray into the financial services arena in 1882 by offering money orders, a product available only from the United States Post Office at the time. Several years later James Congdell Fargo, the president of the company and a son of William Fargo, took an unsatisfactory trip to Europe where he was unable to cash checks, despite carrying letters of credit from the biggest banks in New York City. Frustrated, Fargo spearheaded the development of the American Express Travelers Cheque that became available in denominations of $10, $20, $50 and $100 in 1891. American Express was the first international financial company.
The Travelers Cheques begat charge cards in 1958 – they literally were “cards,” pieces of paper with the name and account number of the American Express member neatly typed on lines. The following year the company issued the first embossed plastic cards in the industry.
How Are American Express Cards Different from Visa and MasterCard?
From the beginning, American Express cards were “charge cards” and not credit cards. To receive one a membership had to be paid and the purpose of the card was for convenience. The balance had to be paid in full every month. American Express did not issue a true credit card until 1987 with its Optima Card, which is no longer on offer. So, for the most part, American Express customers do not carry balances on their cards.
Why Are American Express Cards Not as Universally Accepted as Visa and MasterCard?
Merchant fees paid to American Express are far greater (in the ballpark of 4% per transaction) than those of bank-issued credit cards like Visa and MasterCard (around 1.5%). The company’s justification for this is that an American Express Card member on average will be a far better credit risk. After all, they usually pay an annual membership fee to join and have higher credit scores than bank card holders. Therefore a business that accepts American Express has a certain cachet in the marketplace. That is the sales pitch anyway.
How Does All This Affect Players at Online Amex Casinos?
Most obviously, the online casino world mimics the real world for Amex card users. There are far fewer casinos that accept American Express than those that do not. Far fewer. This is particularly impactful for United States players who come to online gaming with limited deposit options to begin with, thanks to anti-online gaming legislation (see the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 for the grisly details). For those American Express card holders who are wired into the metronome of putting all purchases on their Amex cards in the never-ending pursuit of member reward points gambling online will be restricted to a select number of casinos.
Also just like the real world there are online casinos that want to project a luxury image that attracts high rollers; expect these casinos to welcome American Express card holders. And any time a player finds a casino that takes Amex deposits there is no worry that the money is at risk because one of the world’s biggest financial players backs up its member transactions with an exceptional dispute resolution team.
United States players may find the Amex card declined even at casinos that accept American Express. That again is due to the legal prohibition in America of banks knowingly accepting casino transactions. When all is go to make an Amex deposit, however, the funds are available instantly. Big-name casinos will usually pick up the transaction fees, even the steep American Express ding so it will be free to play. Some casinos will even permit withdrawals onto the Amex card. But like everything else with American Express in the online casino game, it is hit and miss.