Our History

We began as a freight forwarding company in 1850, earning a reputation as a company people could trust while transporting some of their most valuable possessions.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, we introduced new financial products and travel services that helped support our customers’ everyday lives. In the 1950s, we introduced a charge card, offering customers a new and convenient way to pay. Ever since, we’ve innovated our card products, our services and our other offerings. Today, American Express is the largest global payments network and we continue to pride ourselves on being forward-looking and customer-focused.

With each new development, one thing has remained constant: our commitment to our customers and our special brand of service. 


Forging new connections

Already at the center of an emerging national delivery network, we built a tailored business-to-business service, with our agents purchasing merchandise at competitive prices from suppliers on behalf of our customers. 


Fostering peace of mind

To help adventurous and entrepreneurial customers traveling abroad feel more secure with their money, we introduced the Travelers Cheque in 1891. 


Providing an oasis for travelers 

To serve customers as they traveled overseas, we opened our first office outside of North America, in Paris. For many, our offices eventually became ‘homes away from home’ to share stories and connect.


Arranging safe passage

The outbreak of World War I left 150,000 Americans stranded abroad, and many turned to American Express for help. We continued to operate, cashing customers’ Travelers Cheques, forwarding their luggage and helping them arrive home safely. 


Launching our first card 

Our customers were increasingly on the move and needed the security of Travelers Cheques with the added flexibility of credit. To support them, we introduced our first Charge Card in the U.S. and Canada.


Serving companies in new ways

After several years of marketing one Card to both consumers and businesses, we launched our Corporate Card program in the U.S. to meet commercial customer needs and give them a better understanding and control over their employees’ spending. 


Expanding our global reach 

We began international card-issuing partnerships in South America and Europe. This accelerated in the 1990s, with partnerships that grew our business and brand visibility by connecting more people around the world.


Fueling small business 

Recognizing that small businesses have unique demands, we created the Small Business Partnership, an advisory council of leading small business representatives. We offered business owners tools to manage their operations and plan for growth. In 2002, we renamed the initiative OPEN: The Small Business Network.


Transforming loyalty

Originally named Membership Miles®, we launched Membership Rewards® and redefined loyalty in the payments industry. We gave customers more innovative benefits and relevant partnerships than any other program. By 2001, Membership Rewards was the world’s largest card-based rewards program, and remains so today.


Invigorating local economies

To support local communities and encourage Americans to shop at small, independently owned businesses, we introduced Small Business Saturday®. By 2013, the Shop Small® movement had spread to a number of other countries including Canada, Australia and the UK.


Pioneering Digital Commerce

We created our American Express app in 2010 to give customers more ways to experience our service.

Since then, we have developed many new digital tools including offers integrated into social platforms and new ways to apply Membership Rewards points to purchases through Pay with Points. Today, we continue to enhance our digital offerings to keep up with changing customer expectations.

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