Amex posts impressive Q3 volume growth, moves further into business solutions

By the numbers: In Q3, American Express’s total network volume surged 29% year over year (YoY) and 4% compared with Q3 2019 (Yo2Y)—reflecting positive growth from pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

  • Making up 85% of Amex’s total network volume was billed business volume, which increased 31% YoY and 4% Yo2Y, likely thanks to elevated consumer spending in the late summer months. Processed volume, which accounted for 15% of total network volume in Q3, grew 18% YoY and 3% Yo2Y.
  • Within billed business, travel and entertainment (T&E) volume skyrocketed 124% YoY but declined 29% Yo2Y.
  • Making up the remainder of billed business was goods and services (G&S, previously non-T&E), which jumped 18% YoY and 19% Yo2Y.

How we got here: In the US, COVID-19 vaccination rates underpinned higher consumer spending on Amex cards.

  • Widespread vaccine efforts may have been closely correlated with economic improvements like the drop in unemployment, which likely affected consumer spending. A stronger sense of financial security may have given cardholders a bigger risk appetite and increased their willingness to spend on Amex cards: US retail spending in July, August, and September notched annual growth above 11%, per the US Census Bureau.
  • And many consumers were able to scratch their travel itch in Q3: Despite uneven growth, global travel spending hit $192 billion in July and August, per data from the US Travel Association—and airline companies like Delta Airlines experienced notable growth in Q3 profits. This likely contributed to the bump in Amex’s T&E billed business volume.

Amex also updated rewards on many of its consumer and business cards, which may have encouraged cardholders to spend more: It added new perks to its ultra-premium consumer Platinum cards and its Blue Business cards.

What’s next? Amex has teed up a number of opportunities to attract more business cardholders and drive growth:

  • It launched a new expense management app for its UK Business Gold and Platinum cardmembers that helps streamline employee expenses, which is something that it can bring to the US market.
  • Amex also partnered with virtual card fintech Extend so Amex Business cardholders can enroll and create their own virtual cards. Virtual cards are gaining popularity among businesses searching for safer and more streamlined payment solutions.

And it recently teamed up with Goldman Sachs to integrate its virtual card technology into the investment banker’s digital cash management offering. Goldman can use Amex’s corporate cards to help build its business, and Amex gains a partner that can help it compete in the corporate space.

Related Content: Check out our recent benchmark report “US Cash-Back Credit Card Emerging Features Benchmark 2021” for a deep dive into some of Amex’s cash-back credit cards.