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Is American Express Ditching Travel to Become a Bank?

Stocks in this article: AXP COF COST DFS EXPE GPN MA PCLN V WMT

You can see the company's change in strategy by comparing it to an earlier AmEx commercial, in which comedian Jerry Seinfeld ran around England learning the language for his act.

The message is clear. This card is for ordinary people. That card was for traveling businessmen.

The Everyday Card is arriving two years after the launch of Bluebird, a cash card offered by Wal-Mart  (WMT) that acts as a low-cost substitute for an actual bank.

AmEx also continues to offer a combined credit card/membership card through Costco (COST) called True Earnings, offering rebates at Costco stores. It can also be used wherever other AmEx cards are accepted. American Express is the only credit card the warehouse chain accepts in its U.S. stores. (My family has one.)

Amex figures it can make up ground in the credit card business because Discover Financial Services (DFS), which also runs its own issuing bank and merchant services, has been on quite a streak.

Over the last five years, Discover stock is up 823%; over the past year, it's up 30%. That's admirable growth.

But AmEx's real problem is market share. Satmetrix's latest NetPromoter Customer Loyalty Index shows Discover overtaking AmEx in the banking category for the first time

Meanwhile, the travel business has changed. Companies like Priceline (PCLN) and Expedia (EXPE) now dominate, even in many parts of the business travel market, and getting back market share will take new investment that AmEx doesn't want to make.

Not when there are so many opportunities for a credit card bank.

At the time of publication the author owned shares in COST and GPN, but held no positions in any of the other stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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