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American Express

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American Express Company also called AMEX, founded in 1850-a diversified global financial services company with its H.Q in New York City. Initially started off as an express mail business in Albany, New York, later gained popularity for credit cards, charge cards and travelers cheques. In 1850 Express companies like Henry Wells (Wells & Company), William Fargo (Livingston, Fargo & Company), and John Warren Butterfield (Wells, Butterfield & Company merged into forming a joint stock corporation. The same group started the Wells Fargo & Co. The Company moved it HQ to 65 Broadway and evolving financial district of Manhattan.

In 1882, the American Express started its expansion in the area of financial services, launched a money order business in competition to the United States Post Office’s Money Order. The president of American Express traveled to Europe (1888/1890) desperately sought cash on traditional letters of credit, but all in vain, only the major cities had that privilege. Berry then launched the American Express Travellers Cheque in 1891 in $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. In the 1914, the stranded travellers in Europe found relief as American Express offices sprang up in Europe, where the letters of credit were honoured contradictory to other financial institutes.

As the American Express were still toying with the idea of launching a travel card the Diners Club surprised all by launching their own in 1950. The American Express seriously pursued the idea until the CEO Ralph Reed chose to get into card business. The card began a hit upon its launch and oversold by issuing 250,000 cards before the formal launch. It all started with an annual fee of $6, one dollar higher than the Diner’s Club, The first cards were paper ones with the card holders name and account number typewritten on the card. Until 1959 the first embossed plastic cards were introduced, followed by Gold Card, and Platinum Card catering to cross section of markets. The Platinum card was slotted at the executive segment with an annual fee of $250 (currently $450), first offered by invitation exclusively to American Express customers with a 2 yrs of tenure, significant spending and excellent credit history. (Now on request).

The Optima was launched in 1987 the first credit card came into existence. The bills had to be paid in full at the end of the month, allowed to carry a balance too. (The optima is not readily available.) The Optima was soon replaced with the Blue similar yet with more benefits and freebies and reward program to add. The American Express had cards cut for mid-size and large business, to carry out the travel and other operational expenses. The card is offered in over 40 countries, along with the conventional card it offers Corporate Meeting Card, Corporate Purchasing Card, and the Business Travel Account. The commercial cards were a mere extension of credit to the company owner. It is such designed for reporting solutions to keep a periodic check- on the spending, data etc. Amex is the largest provider of traveler’s cheques in the world.

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