American Express Card-not-Present Acceptance Guidelines

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American Express Card-not-Present Acceptance Guidelines

American Express Card-not-Present Acceptance Guidelines


American Express, like smaller rival Discover, differs from Visa and MasterCard in that it is a bank, not an association of member banks. In practice, this means that it both issues the cards bearing its logo and processes the payments made with them. Another consequence is that American Express’ payment acceptance process is simpler than Visa’s or MasterCard’s.


Following is a general description of American Express’ payment acceptance process for card-not-present transactions.


Merchants are required to create a record of each transaction (charge record). The charge record should contain the following information:

  • Cardholder name, card account number and expiration date.
  • The cardholder’s billing address and the shipping address.
  • The date the charge was incurred.
  • The total amount of the charge, including all applicable taxes and gratuities purchased on the card.
  • The six-digit authorization approval code number.
  • A mutually acceptable description of the products or services purchased by the cardholder.
  • Indicate “Mail Order,” “Telephone Order,” “Internet Order,” or “Signature on File,” as applicable, on the signature line or the appropriate electronic descriptor on the charge record.


American Express can immediately process chargebacks if a cardholder claims that he or she did not authorize the payment. However, AmEx will not charge back a transaction based solely on a cardholder’s claim that he or she did not receive the disputed goods, if the merchant has verified with American Express that the address to which the goods were shipped is the cardholder’s billing address and has obtained a receipt signed by the authorized signer verifying the delivery of the goods to this address.


E-commerce merchants are subject to all of the above requirements, as well as all of the following additional requirements:

  • Card data or transaction information must not be sent to anyone other than the cardholder, the merchant’s processing bank or American Express.
  • All charges for internet orders must be sent electronically.
  • Any separate Service Establishment Numbers* issued by American Express for internet orders must be included in all authorization requests and submissions of charges for internet orders.
  • Provide American Express with at least one month’s written notice of any change in your internet address.


    *Service Establishment Number (a.k.a. SE Number) is a unique ten-digit number assigned by American Express to a merchant that accepts American Express cards.


It is important for merchants to understand that American Express does not hold itself liable for fraudulent internet transactions, charging them back to the merchant instead. Moreover, if a cardholder disputes an internet transaction, American Express will issue an immediate chargeback (a chargeback for which the merchant is not contacted for supporting documentation) for the full amount of the charge.


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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