Online marketplace eBay to drop American Express, citing fees, and says customers have other options


NEW YORK (AP) — Online marketplace behemoth eBay said it plans to no longer accept American Express, citing what the company says are “unacceptably high fees” and that customers have other payment options to shop online.

It’s a notable blow to American Express, whose customers are often the most attractive among merchants and spend the most money per month on their cards. But it’s not the first time merchants have voiced opposition to AmEx’s business practices by walking away, most notably the warehouse chain Costco nearly a decade ago.

“After careful consideration, eBay has decided to no longer accept American Express globally effective Aug. 17 due to the unacceptably high fees American Express charges for processing credit card transactions,” said eBay spokesman Scott Overland, in a statement.

Overland said that eBay customers have become aware of new ways to pay for items, making payments more competitive than ever before, and AmEx was no longer a necessary partner for eBay. eBay has increasingly been offering customers buy now, pay later options on purchases through Apple Pay, PayPal and other companies like Klarna and Affirm as well.

“We know that the vast majority of eBay customers are willing to use alternative payment options to continue enjoying buying and selling on our marketplace,” Overland said.

Online merchants have become increasingly combative with payment processors in recent years over the fees they charge to accept payments. Amazon had a similar fight with Visa in the U.K. roughly two years ago, where Amazon threatened to drop Visa as a payment acceptance type over what it also called high fees.

Visa and Amazon eventually resolved their differences, and there was no disruption of service.

Like other payment processors, AmEx takes a percentage of each transaction a merchant processes on their network. The fee varies by industry, and the fees that the largest merchants pay are typically a closely guarded trade secret. The National Retail Federation says the average fee to accept a credit card is roughly 2% but can be as high as 4% on premium rewards credit cards like AmEx.

In a statement, American Express says that eBay’s cost to accept AmEx cards is “comparable to what eBay pays for similar cards on other networks” and that AmEx cardmembers typically spend double at eBay what is spent on other networks.

“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,” said Adam Isserlis, a spokesman for AmEx.

AmEx has been on an aggressive campaign, under its current CEO Steve Squeri, to be a more universally accepted payment option across all merchants in an effort to combat the negative image that AmEx is less accepted and only available for its cardmembers for travel, dining, high-end shops or in dense urban areas. AmEx says its cards are now accepted at 99% of the places that Visa and Mastercard are accepted in the U.S., a metric it achieved in 2019.

But there have been setbacks along the way.

When Costco announced it would drop American Express in 2015, it was a major blow to AmEx since Costco represented roughly 10% of cardmember loans and roughly $80 billion in network volumes. It was also one of AmEx’s most prominent partnerships.

Analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods estimate that eBay may represent roughly 0.5% of AmEx’s worldwide network volume and it’s unlikely that AmEx will budge much on pricing with eBay.

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