AmEx Debuts Debit Card in War for Small-Business Customers
(Bloomberg) -- American Express Co. unveiled its first-ever debit card as competition for small-business customers heats up.
The card will be part of a new digital business checking account, New York-based AmEx said in a statement Thursday. While other banks have long used AmEx’s network for debit cards of their own, this marks the first time the payments giant is issuing a debit card itself.
“Our small-business customers have come out of the pandemic strong,” Anna Marrs, AmEx’s group president of global commercial services, said in an interview. “The debit card is also an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with customers and get another product in their wallet.”
The checking account is slated to come with a $300 cash bonus for new users of the account and an annual percentage yield of 1.1%. Starting next year, customers of the product will also be able to earn AmEx’s membership rewards points and redeem them for deposits into their accounts.
Throughout the pandemic, spending by small and medium-size businesses -- or those with less than $300 million in annual revenue -- has been a surprising bright spot for AmEx, which has seen overall volumes on its network suffer amid travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s because such business customers are mostly in industries that have thrived during the pandemic, such as construction, professional services and health care, AmEx has said.
The company is already the largest provider of small-business credit cards in the U.S. AmEx has been looking to capture a greater share of those customers’ business in the hopes of becoming a one-stop shop for all their financial needs.
As part of that push, the company debuted its first-ever checking account in June and said it would begin offering as much as $150,000 in lines of credit to existing small-business customers. The card giant followed it up with another announcement earlier this month that it would add new rewards to its Platinum card for business owners, including extra points for spending on items such as cloud services, construction materials and shipping.
“Given the strength of our brand and our customers’ affinity with AmEx, they’ve told us over the years that we have permission to do more,” Marrs said. “Small businesses were very clear about what they wanted from their existing checking accounts. They wanted more.”
A bevy of startups with names like Ramp, Brex and Divvy have been looking to capture a great share of small enterprises’ banking business in recent years, raising vast sums from venture-capital firms and nabbing high valuations. AmEx itself got in on the financial-technology frenzy when it bought the online small-business lender Kabbage late last year.
“I’m not going to discount any of those -- Ramp or Brex or Divvy. We never discount anybody,” AmEx Chief Executive Officer Steve Squeri said on a conference call with analysts last week. But with AmEx’s balance sheet and some of its new capabilities, he said, the firm believes it’s in a “very good position to continue to compete in this space and continue to grow and continue to win.”
AmEx shares slipped 0.3% to $177.43 at 9:37 a.m. in New York. They’ve gained 47% this year, more than the 36% increase in the S&P 500 Financials Index.
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