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American Express and Discover function uniquely from the other major cards.

Amex & Discover

Networks and Issuers

American Express and Discover work differently than other credit card networks. That’s because these two big companies act as both Networks and Issuers. This is in stark contrast to all other credit card companies, who only operate as networks.

American Express

One of the four major credit card networks with a legacy reputation as a status symbol, a sign of elite standing. The least accepted of the major cards.

Discover Credit Card

This card’s popularity has increased due to its cash back on purchases offer. The third most accepted card which also boasts high customer satisfaction.

Differences & Acceptance Rates

American Express and Discover deal with card offers, accounts, and applications. However, due to their different format, these types of cards generally have a lower acceptance rate. Since these cards are both the issuer and the network, they incur more risk, and that’s passed on in fees to the merchant. Still, these cards reach a wide number of merchants and customers. Also, holders of these cards are typically more loyal than those of Visa and Mastercard.

Discover is accepted at:

  • over 10 million US merchant locations
  • 185 countries

American Express is accepted at:

  • 5 million US merchant locations
  • over 160 countries

AmEx vs. Discover

While Discover has a higher acceptance rate, AmEx has more in terms of network benefits. The two companies also differ in the types of rewards, rates, and fees that they offer their clients. AmEx also charges a percentage fee for foreign transactions, whereas Discover does not. In fact, some merchants find American Express merchant fees to be too costly across the board.

Once considered a prestige card or status symbol, consumers are lately gravitating to the customer service-driven model of Discover with its low introductory rates, cash back rewards, and airline miles.

Network Benefits:


  • Price protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Purchase protection
  • Travel insurance
  • Rental car insurance


  • Price protection

How the cards are processed:

While American Express and Discover differ dramatically in the range of acceptance rates and offers they provide, the cards are also processed quite differently. With American Express, they offer the Amex OptBlue program so that small businesses can affordably accept their cards.

In order to be eligible for this program, your business must process less than $1 million annually in Amex transactions. Without this program, small businesses were charged much higher Interchange Fees to process American Express Cards. Additionally, the OptBlue program allows for one single point of contact for all the credit cards. This simplified process is also a great draw for the program.

Discover does not offer a similar program to OptBlue but is accepted at more places and doesn’t have the prohibitive higher Interchange Fee associated with the prestige card in American Express. Consequently, it’s less necessary to offer such a program.

Bank of Merchant

Whether your business chooses to accept AmEx, Discover, or both, Bank of Merchant is there by your side to help you make smart decisions. After all, payment processing is critical to the life of your business. That’s why it’s our mission to provide the knowledge and tools needed so that your business is always trending upward.

How do we do this? We comprehensively manage your merchant account and, with our detailed reporting services, offer a clear breakdown of how many customers are paying with what specific cards. Moreover, we guarantee you have an in-depth understanding of any of the fees associated with your account. At Bank of Merchant, we offer helpful and transparent payment processing that arms you with the tools of success.

Contact us today to start building your payment processing plan with our agents at Bank of Merchant!

Bank of Merchant takes the mystery out of Amex & Discover.