Shares of the New York financial-services group at last check were off 2.6% at $117.96.
The coronavirus outbreak forced restaurants, hotels and airlines to halt or severely limit their operations. Corporations slashed travel to business meetings and conventions in favor of virtual events.
At the same time, "While we are still seeing impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on our business, trends continued to steadily improve in the fourth quarter," Chairman and Chief Executive Stephen Squeri said in a statement.
"Card member spending has continued to recover, and non-travel and entertainment spend exceeded pre-covid levels for the second consecutive quarter."
American Express reported fourth-quarter net of $1.4 billion, or $1.76 a share, down from $1.7 billion, or $2.03, in the year-earlier period. The FactSet consensus called for earnings of $1.31 a share.
Revenue totaled $9.4 billion, down 18% from $11.4 billion a year earlier. The FactSet consensus called for revenue of $9.3 billion.
The company reported a negative provision for credit losses of $111 million for the quarter.
Discount revenue in the quarter dropped 19% from a year earlier. Discount revenue is the amount of money AmEx makes every time its credit or charge cards are used. These are fees merchants pay for each transaction.
The average American Express cardholder spent $4,549 on their cards in the fourth quarter, down from $5,237 a year earlier.
Squeri said the company remains cautious on the pace of recovery, but American Express is focused on getting back to its original earnings-per-share expectations for 2020 in 2022.