Credit Card Processing

American Express International Assessment


March 16, 2018

The International Assessment is a credit card processing charge that a business on an OptBlue pricing model incurs when accepting an American Express card that was issued outside of the United States.

As of 2018, the International Assessment carries a rate of 0.40% of the total transaction volume.

Let’s break that down further and take a look at when this fee is charged.

OptBlue Pricing Model

Firstly, the International Assessment applies on the Amex OptBlue pricing model for businesses. OptBlue is a pricing program that more closely follows Visa and Mastercard than American Express’ previous OnePoint pricing model. OptBlue dictates rates and fees that Amex collects and allows processors to add a markup to American Express transactions.

Businesses that process $1 million/year or less in American Express cards are eligible for OptBlue and that’s the model that most small businesses are on. Businesses that process more than $1 million/year or more in Amex cards are required to set up an account directly with Amex instead.

Under OptBlue, assessments are fees that go to Amex and over which a processor has no control. The International Assessment is one such fee.

American Express Assessments

Amex has fewer assessments than the other card brands, but the concept is the same: Amex sets the costs and they’re non-negotiable.

As of 2018, Amex sets the International Assessment at 0.40% of international card volume. That means that Amex charges 0.40% of the total amount of your applicable Amex transactions.

When does Amex Charge the International Assessment?

Amex charges the international assessment when your business accepts an American Express card issued outside of the United States. You won’t necessarily know in advance if a card was issued in another country, but if you’ve accepted one, the international assessment will apply.

Note that on interchange plus and bundled pricing models, you’ll usually see the assessment listed by name. However, if you’re on a flat rate pricing model where all of your transactions receive one “rate,” you won’t. Flat rate models utilize pricing such as 2.75% or 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.

Lowering Your Amex Acceptance Costs

While OptBlue offers the potential for lower American Express acceptance costs, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some processors have continued to charge higher Amex rates and pocket the difference as additional profit. That’s not to say that OptBlue can’t help you lower your costs. You’ll simply need to work with a processor that fairly passes along the lower rates Amex allowed.

If your American Express costs are significantly higher than you Visa or Mastercard acceptance costs, it’s worth digging deeper. Businesses on tiered or flat rate pricing are the most likely to be able to reduce their costs, but any business that thinks their Amex pricing is too high should look into it just in case.

Need help? Use CardFellow’s free pricing tool to get a baseline for what your processing costs should be, and then contact us for assistance determining your best course of action.

Ben Dwyer

BY Ben Dwyer

Ben Dwyer began his career in the processing industry in 2003 on the sales floor for a Connecticut‐based processor. As he learned more about the inner‐workings of the industry, rampant unethical practices, and lack of assistance available to businesses, he cut ties with his employer and started a blog where he could post accurate information about credit card processing. As the blog gained in popularity, Ben began directly assisting merchants in their search for a processor. Ben believes in empowering businesses by providing access to fair, competitive pricing, accurate information, and continued support. His dedication to transparency and education has made CardFellow a staunch small business advocate in the credit card processing industry.

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