As owner of a startup e-commerce business you should start setting up a credit card merchant account for your online store’s checkout as early as possible. Regardless of the criticisms against credit cards and their Annual Percentage Rate (APR), recent surveys reveal that in the U.S. alone, 80% of consumers use credit cards for both offline and online purchases.

If you are of the mindset to just settle for VISA and Mastercard, it means you are unaware of the fact that the American Express (AMEX) plastic card has a formidable share of the credit payments market. Especially now when consumers prefer doing things online, being the safe way to do business with different vendors and merchant providers.

According to a Statista report, of the brand of credit card in circulation from 2013-2019, the American Express Credit Card has 54.7% share locally and 59.7% internationally. The share is out of the total 1.103 million credit card users in the U.S.

On the entrepreneurial side, survey reports also show that on an annual average, AMEX card holders spend 3x more than non-card holders; as well have 3x more in spend capacity than holders of other credit card brands.

However, even as newbie e-commerce entrepreneurs conduct research on how they can include credit card payments for their online store, there’s a bit of confusion on how to go about it. Some suggest hooking up with a payment service provider, others make mention of payment processors. Others even make mention of “merchant acquirer” or “merchant service provider.”

Anyway, through this article, we will help you sort out who are the actors in the credit card payment ecosystem.

Identifying the Actors in the Credit Card Payment Ecosystem

As we have made mention of Credit Card Networks, know that there are four major networks that offer credit facilities through the issuance of credit cards, namely: American Express (AMEX), Discovery, Mastercard and Visa. Of those four, only AMEX and Discovery also act as card issuers and payment service providers.

Distinguishing a Card Issuer from a Payment Service Provider

Card Issuers are oftentimes financial institutions that facilitate credit card applications for consumers; toward the issuance of credit cards to approved applicants. This sector sends the plastic card directly to the approved consumer-applicant. The issuance process also includes requesting the new Card Network member to confirm receipt of the credit card.

As in the case of American Express, which also acts as Card Issuer, the company asks a new member or a renewing existing member, to confirm online, his or her receipt of the AMEX plastic card via the The confirmation is a security protocol observed prior to the activation of an AMEX member’s credit card for use as payment.

Payment Service Providers on the other hand, work on the business side of the credit or even debit card payment system. These are the entities that connect business owners to the Credit Card Network and the Card Issuer in setting up a merchant account. That way an entrepreneur’s offline and online stores can accept credit card payments from customers. The payment processing service extends up to the point where the merchant gets paid by Credit Card Networks for the credit purchases involving their respective Credit Card brand.

However, not all payment service providers offer the same package of services, as some are equipped to offer only the basics.

Unlike American Express, which aside from being a major Card Network and Card Issuer, is also a Payment Service Provider that extends additional services, which merchants can use in growing their business. AMEX also provides comprehensive consultation, security and fraud protection tools, regulatory compliance assistance as well as merchant financing.

This probably explains why the latest Nielsen Report (Feb. 2020) revealed that 99% or an equivalent 10.6 million locations in the U.S. accept AMEX credit cards as payment.