American Express pursues ‘aggressive’ Australian expansion
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American Express is looking to supercharge its presence in the Australian market, partnering with two payments businesses to put acceptance of its cards in stores on par with other card providers across the country.
Stacey Rylands, vice-president of Australian and New Zealand merchant services acquisition at American Express, knows perception takes time to change, but says the company is “aggressively working” on it.
An American Express official said the partnership would have a major impact on locations accepting American Express.Credit: istock
On Monday, American Express will announce a partnership with software firm Fiserv and Tyro Payments: a move the company hopes will end the question “do you accept American Express?” and bring thousands of small businesses onto its network.
Rylands says the program, called OptBlue, will enable small merchants to accept American Express at a cost competitive with Visa and Mastercard.
“Small businesses will also benefit from receiving a single statement, one settlement process and a single, seamless onboarding experience,” she says. “Ultimately, any friction points that did exist for a small merchant to be able to accept American Express has now been removed through this partnership. It’s really a game-changer for us here in the market.”
OptBlue has been launched in the US, Mexico and Canada; Australia is the first market outside the Americas for the brand trial.
Tyro chief product officer Dominic White says traditional barriers for small businesses adopting American Express included the higher cost and separate agreements and settlement processes.
“That was always a hassle,” he says. “This program brings it all together. What we’re doing from now on is treating American Express in exactly the same way so the price that customers pay will be the same or comparable with other card schemes.”
Merchants will have access to funding, reporting and billing with Fiserv, which Gavin Jones, the company’s general manager of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, says will result in businesses getting paid faster for American Express transactions, simplify reconciliation processes and allow improved cashflow and simpler reporting.
Rylands says the program is part of American Express’ recent push to expand its presence in Australia.
“In the last 12 months alone, we’ve added 136,000 new places to the American Express network, with retail and dining seeing the highest gains, and another 90,000 new places in the healthcare vertical.”
American Express’ partnership with healthcare claiming business HICAPS, announced this month, allowed healthcare providers across Australia to accept American Express and for its card members to earn membership reward points when visiting a HICAPS provider.
Rylands says American Express is attracting record levels of millennials and Gen Z customers to its card base and that its cardholders more generally are avid spenders.
“It’s important in that our value proposition is actually resonating with an affluent, younger demographic,” she says. “American Express cardholders spend 3.4 times more annually than non-card members, and for any given purchase, that’s 2.4 times more than non-American Express cards holders.”
Rylands says the partnership with Tyro and Fiserv will have a major impact on the number of locations accepting American Express and drive high-spending customers towards small businesses. “There’s a lot of economic pressures, so there’s never been a more important time to get behind small business,” she says.
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