Analysts Jump on American Express Growth Bandwagon

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- American Express (AXP) is making a major push for retailers to consider it a true alternative to Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA), and Wall Street analysts are buying.

During the company's semi-annual investor conference last Wednesday, American Express president for global merchant services Anre Williams announced a new initiative called OptBlue, through which "third-party acquirers will contract directly with US small merchants for American Express card acceptance. They will sign the merchant, own the contract, determine the pricing with the merchant and provide servicing," according to a transcript provided by Thomson Reuters.

This is the latest effort by American Express to compete for small merchants' business. "Many small merchants believe we are too expensive and many think we are more cumbersome to work with because we are different than Visa and MasterCard," Williams said. But through the new program, merchants "now have the convenience of working with a single source, the third-party acquirer who has the flexibility to give them one pricing construct, a single statement, one settlement process and one contact for servicing for all of the major card brands the merchant chooses to accept."

The company in its presentation last week also said that out of an estimated $4.4 trillion in spending by small U.S. merchants during 2013, the "plastic spend" was only 9%, underlining a major growth opportunity. Through its OPEN program, the company said it had seen a compound annual growth rate of 12% from 2010 through 2013.

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