Two gold American Express credit cards

eBay Drops Amex, Citing “Unreasonably” High Transaction Fees


eBay announced that it will stop accepting American Express credit cards globally starting August 17, 2024. This decision impacts countless eBay customers who depend on American Express for their online purchases. The move comes as a response to what eBay describes as the “unreasonably high fees” American Express charges merchants for processing credit card transactions.

As a leading online marketplace, eBay’s choice to part ways with American Express deals a heavy blow to the card network. eBay explained that this decision was inevitable to maintain its competitiveness in a rapidly evolving and innovative payments environment. With payment technology advancing rapidly, merchants are finding it increasingly challenging to rationalize paying steep fees for transaction.

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eBay’s Rationale

The credit card giant’s fees are simply too high in today’s fiercely competitive payments landscape. Scott Overland, an eBay spokesperson, explained that American Express’ processing fees have become “unacceptably high.” He went on to say that it makes it difficult for eBay to justify continuing the partnership.

In recent years, eBay has been actively expanding its array of alternative payment options. The marketplace embraces innovative payment solutions like Apple Pay, PayPal, Klarna, and Affirm. These payment methods have proven to be more efficient and cost-effective, aligning with eBay’s goal of providing its customers with a seamless and affordable shopping experience. By offering these options, eBay demonstrates its commitment to staying at the forefront of the evolving payments industry.

As payment tech advances and become more streamlined, it’s surprising that American Express has not adapted its fee structure. While other payment processors recognize the need to remain competitive, Amex clings to its high-fee model. This reluctance to evolve has left platforms like eBay questioning the value of maintaining a partnership, especially when more efficient alternatives are readily available.

Setback for American Express

This marks a heavy hit for the credit card company, one renowned for its high-spending clientele that merchants eagerly seek out. Compared to Visa and Mastercard, American Express cardholders spend significantly more per month. That’s an attractive outline in terms of customer base for businesses.

However, this is not the first time a major merchant has dropped American Express due to disagreements over business practices. Nearly a decade ago, Costco ended its partnership with Amex, dealing a substantial blow to the credit card giant. At the time, Costco accounted for approximately 10% of American Express’ cardmember loans and around $80 billion in network volumes. At the time, it was one of Amex’s most prominent partnerships.

American Express argues that the fees it charges eBay are comparable to what the online marketplace pays other networks. Adam Isserlis, a spokesperson for American Express, stated, “We find eBay’s decision to drop American Express as a payment choice for consumers to be inconsistent with their stated desire to increase competition at the point of sale.”

Despite American Express’ efforts to expand its acceptance as a universal payment option under CEO Steve Squeri, setbacks like losing eBay as a partner demonstrate the challenges the company faces in overcoming its perception as a less widely accepted card with higher fees.

The company claims its cards are accepted at 99% of the places where Visa and Mastercard are accepted in the U.S. However, the loss of eBay highlights the struggle to balance a premium brand image with a need to remain competitive.

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The Bigger Picture

eBay’s decision to drop American Express underscores the rapid evolution of the payment processing industry, driven by the emergence of more efficient technological solutions. Innovative payment methods like digital wallets, buy now pay later services, and contactless payments are gaining traction. That leaves traditional players in a position to face increased pressure to adapt and remain competitive.

The move by eBay highlights the growing leverage that merchants are gaining in the payments ecosystem. As better options become available, businesses are no longer bound to the high fees imposed by legacy players like American Express. This shift in power forces credit card companies to reevaluate their business models.

Merchants are becoming more discerning in their choice of payment partners. Credit card networks need to demonstrate the value they provide beyond simply processing transactions. This could involve offering enhanced security features, loyalty programs, or data analytics to help businesses better understand their customers’ spending habits.

The rise of alternative payment methods is not only putting pressure on credit card companies but also on traditional banking institutions. Consumers are increasingly embracing digital payment solutions. This means banks need to innovate and collaborate with fintech companies to remain relevant and desirable.

eBay’s decision to drop American Express is a testament to the transformative power of technology in the payments industry. As new solutions emerge, legacy players need to adapt their business models and fee structures to remain relevant. This ultimately leads to a more level playing field for merchants and better value for consumers.

What This Means for Merchants

As tech drives efficiency and lowers costs, merchants are increasingly empowered to challenge the status quo. They are more willing to demand better fees from their payment partners.

The decision by eBay sends a clear message that even the most established players in the payments space are not immune to the pressures of innovation. American Express must now confront the reality that its high fees are unjustifiable.

Failure to adapt could result in a loss of market share and relevance as merchants gravitate towards better solutions.

eBay’s move is likely just the beginning of a broader shift in the payments industry. One towards more competitive pricing and a greater emphasis on technological innovation. As the lines between traditional banking, credit card networks, and fintech continue to blur, collaboration and adaptation will be key to survival.

Ultimately, the biggest winners in this transformation will be merchants and consumers. As payment processing improves, businesses can pass on savings to their customers and invest in growth initiatives. Meanwhile, consumers benefit from a wider range of options and potentially lower prices.

In the end, eBay’s decision to part ways with American Express is a powerful reminder that no company, no matter how established or influential, is immune to the disruptive forces of technological change. The internet is lively and always subject to change. Legacy companies shouldn’t sit too comfortably on their thrones. Those who embrace innovation and adapt to the needs of merchants and consumers will be best positioned for success in the years to come.


About the author

As President of DirectPayNet, I make it my mission to help merchants find the best payment solutions for their online business, especially if they are categorized as high-risk merchants. I help setup localized payments modes and have tons of other tricks to increase sales! Prior to starting DirectPayNet, I was a Director at MANSEF Inc. (now known as MindGeek), where I led a team dedicated to managing merchant accounts for hundreds of product lines as well as customer service and secondary revenue sources. I am an avid traveler, conference speaker and love to attend any event that allows me to learn about technology. I am fascinated by anything related to digital currency especially Bitcoin and the Blockchain.