Get ready to get rid of your American Express card.
News broke Thursday that the credit-card company lost an antitrust lawsuit over whether it could stop merchants from asking customers to use other credit cards. Other credit-card companies, particularly Visa and Mastercard, typically charge merchants that accept their credit cards lower fees than AmEx does.
The higher fees that AmEx charges merchants allow AmEx to offer better rewards to the customers who use its cards, so Thursday’s ruling means cardholders’ rewards are likely to worsen over time.
None of these things would necessarily force the company to cut its high merchant fees. However, this lawsuit means restaurants and shops are free to ask customers to use other credit cards (this is in addition to the many that already refuse to accept AmEx).
That will put pressure on AmEx to lower its fees to be more competitive with Visa and Mastercard. Lower fees most likely mean fewer rewards for consumers, and, for American Express card members, potentially higher annual fees.
So if rewards got you to sign up for an AmEx, you might as well apply for that Visa card today.