American Express cards in the EEA

Rates are “Visa International” rates without further markups.

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Yeah, what I said.

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The whole process that Amex might pull the plug in the EU for licencing it’s card is not new. A search revealed a news story from 2016 with the same conclusion that the interchange cap makes their business model with cash back etc. nonviable.

https://www.choose.co.uk/news/amex-cards-lloyds-mbna.html

There emerged two news stories, that the EU now completed a deal with MasterCard and Visa for the cap of 0.2/0.3 for all merchants within the EEA and all cards of these brands, independent where they are issued. Up till now, the cap was only valid for cards issued within the EEA. This restriction now seems to be gone by 19.10.2019.

News articles from a Swiss newspaper from 29.4.2019:

An acquirer has it on it’s site as well (German again):
https://www.bspayone.com/DE/de/about-us/kundeninformation/interchange-gebuehren-mif-ii

A machine translation to English (Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator):

Amendment of the multilateral interchange fee in the EEA as of 19.10.2019

At the end of April 2019, the European Commission announced that Mastercard and Visa would have to adjust their multilateral interchange fees for payments made in the European Economic Area (EEA) with consumer cards issued outside the EEA within 6 months. Mastercard and Visa have agreed on the date 19.10.2019.

We will adjust the interchange fees in due time as contractually agreed.

New interchange rates for the following transactions:

Transaction type Interchange fee
debit credit
Card-present (in one shop) 0.20% 0.30%
Card-not-present (online payments) 1.15% 1.50% 1.50%

Mastercard and Visa will also be required to publish all inter-regional interchange fees covered by the obligations on the websites of the two companies in a clearly visible manner.

American Express is widely accepted in the United Kingdom. 86% of my GBP purchases are with American Express cards. Last weekend using my German Amex card, I found that acceptance in France and the Netherlands was good, but very bad in Belgium (where many merchants even in tourist areas are cash-only). Acceptance is bad in the Baltic states, because American Express pulled out of all three countries, which seemed to affect not only card issuing but also merchant acceptance; for example Maxima (supermarket) previously accepted it but no longer does so.

Regulation (EU) 2015/751 has limited interchange fees within the EEA to 0.3% for credit cards and to 0.2% for debit cards since 8 June 2015. Article 2(a) of the regulation states:

  1. This Regulation does not apply to services based on specific payment instruments that can be used only in a limited way, that meet one of the following conditions:
    (a) instruments allowing the holder to acquire goods or services only in the premises of the issuer or within a limited network of service providers under direct commercial agreement with a professional issuer;

Because American Express has direct agreements with both card holders and merchants, it is exempt under Article 2(a). However, where American Express acts as a card network (like Visa or MasterCard) for a card issuer, then it is not exempt. This is why American Express is curtailing its licensing to EEA third party card issuers. Bizarrely, a court ruled that the exemption under Article 2(a) similarly does not apply where American Express directly issues its own cards but brands them with a third party for which points are earnt, for example the American Express British Airways cards in the UK (please PM me if you want a referral link with free Avios). As a result, American Express has started giving more generous offers to UK holders of its cards that do not bear third party branding.

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Yes, this is the aspect of legislation I found truly bizarre. Most of my time is spent in Poland now and it isn’t worth keeping the Preferred Rewards Gold card (£140p.a.) as acceptance is so pitiful and I have 3% FX charges (which I can easily bypass with a local card or Revolut). The other day I was in a Warsaw restaurant and they gave me the bill in a wallet saying “American Express”, so I asked them if they took AMEX. The waiter’s response “Nie honorujemy AMEX” (We don’t accept AMEX)! :roll_eyes:

In CEE countries it’s normally only in Hotels and Airports that I can find people who accept AMEX. It’s basically as useless as Diners Card here.

I hate the fact that I now have to do virtually all my spending without any ability to earn points. Those guys in the US/UK don’t know how well they have it!

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Yes, that has happened to me with Indian and Chinese restaurants in London too. I feel like offering to return Amex’s property to them!

There is a way around this. You can load your Revolut GBP account using a points-earning UK Visa/MasterCard credit card and then buy other currencies such as PLN. Although some UK credit cards treat this as a cash transaction and charge fees, many do not. My favourite card for this is currently IHG Rewards Club, issued by Creation (part of BNP Paribas). Although it’s a terrible card issuer (no Apple Pay, no smartphone app, no transaction data export), you can top up Revolut with up to a maximum of £300 per day, £500 per week and 20% of your credit limit.

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Thanks. I’m aware of that option but have only done it for small amounts (Virgin Atlantic CC) because I was worried that my account might be flagged if I overdid it on CC top-ups. From what you’re saying it sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem if I did quite a bit more topping up than I currently do (which is only about £100-200 a month on the VA CC).

I used to have the IHG Card but it was the Premium (black) one and I wasn’t using it enough so I cancelled it. Do you have the Premium version or the normal one?

BTW, I tried top-up with the M&M Diners/Mastercard from Lufthansa but I got hit with a 3% service charge for that. The MBNA Visa Horizon does seem to work but it’s a cashback card not a points card so less interesting for me.

@Pangolin, I have the same card and have already complained to Diners Club about this. Their terms and conditions state “If a cash withdrawal is made using Your Card then a Cash Withdrawal Fee for that cash withdrawal will be applied to the Account. The Cash Withdrawal Fee will be either £3 or 2.99% of the amount of the withdrawal, whichever is the greater”. Topping up Revolut is not a cash withdrawal, so Diners Club’s terms and conditions, as they are currently worded, do not allow them to charge you for topping up Revolut. The minority of other UK credit card issuers that charge for Revolut top-ups as cash withdrawals have broader wording in their T&Cs, often encompassing any money purchase transaction that is not a purchase of goods or services. Diners Club will give you a refund if you point out to them that their terms and conditions do not allow them to charge you.

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