About American Express

THE MARKET

Founded in 1850, American Express® is a leading global payments, network and travel company. This iconic brand has been operated in South Africa under licence by Nedbank since 1972. With more than 85 million cards in circulation in over 200 countries and territories around the world, and over 60 000 employees worldwide, American Express undoubtedly boasts one of the most prestigious brands.

American Express is committed to driving the brand forward to ensure it maintains its position as one of the world’s leading providers of travel and financial services to both consumer and business clients.

ACHIEVEMENTS

In 2000 American Express celebrated its 150th anniversary. It has achieved the status of a global brand – one that continues to define part of the experience of international travel for both the business and leisure traveller.

Adding to the full suite of Cards available in South Africa, Nedbank’s recent achievements include the launch of its range of SAA Voyager credit cards, the Nedbank Greenbacks Credit Card Account and Old Mutual Investment Credit Card Account, the Nedbank Small Business Credit Card and the American Express® Platinum Credit Card.

Through American Express SelectsSM, an online lifestyle portal, American Express valued Cardmembers enjoy access to a wide range of exclusive offers, both locally and from around the world. While over 85 000 merchants throughout South Africa welcome American Express Cards at their establishments.

HISTORY

American Express was established in New York in 1850 and American Express Company was among the first and most successful express-delivery businesses in the rapid westward expansion of the United States, serving as a lifeline to the growing nation. It quickly earned a reputation as the best in the fledgling industry.

The largest and most consistent of the American Express clients were banks and the company soon scaled down its parcel and freight delivery business in favour of creating and selling its own financial products.

In 1882 American Express launched its money order business and in 1891 introduced the world’s first travellers cheque, with more than six million dollars in cheques being sold annually within ten years.

While building the money order and travellers cheque businesses, the company established correspondent banking relationships with a number of European banks, resulting in the name ‘American Express’ becoming increasingly visible across Europe.

In 1895 the company established its first European office in Paris, followed by the 1896 opening of an office in London. By 1910 American Express had expanded to Southampton, Liverpool, Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Naples and Genoa.

Although foreign exchange transactions were conducted as early as 1895 by the Paris office, the official initiation of the company’s overseas banking operations took place in 1904, when the Rotterdam office opened in the Netherlands and began conducting commercial banking services.

As time went by, American Express divested itself of several businesses to strengthen its balance sheet, concentrating on shoring up its core payment, travel and financial planning businesses.

American Express has never been more competitive than it is today. While it is a global leader in providing charge and credit cards to consumers, small businesses and corporations, it is also the world’s largest travel agency, offering travel and related consulting services to individuals and corporations around the world.

THE PRODUCT

Much like American Express internationally, the South African operation offers a suite of products to individuals and businesses that ranges from entry-level to premium Cards and services.

The Platinum Card® speaks of the brand’s iconic status. It is about buying into a wealth of membership benefits, protection and security, as well as exclusive offers and preferred privileges at a number of establishments worldwide.

The Platinum Card Fine Dining Programme was introduced into South Africa 12 years ago and was developed for our Platinum Cardmembers as a list of restaurants committing themselves to satisfying the superior dining expectations of a discerning clientele. Standards are checked thoroughly and restaurants are regularly reevaluated by independent judges, Lannice Snyman and Victor Strugo, to ensure an exquisite dining experience.

American Express is committed to growing and recognising talent in the fine-dining industry by affording young, aspiring chefs accelerated training at two of its award-winning Platinum Fine Dining Restaurants. This programme will assist in fast-tracking a graduate’s career with a year of experience alongside award-winning chefs in the crème de la crème of South African fine-dining restaurants and providing first-hand experience in the real world of fine dining – something that may take years to achieve the conventional way.

Cardmembers benefit from a variety of lifestyle reward programmes - the Membership RewardsTM Programme, Nedbank Greenbacks, Voyager Loyalty Programme and more recently, an investment programme with Old Mutual.

On the corporate front the American Express Expense Management Programme for large organisations offers comprehensive expense management solutions designed for managing travel, entertainment and other company operational expenses.

The American Express® Business Gold Card offers financial flexibility and control to mediumsized businesses. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to make business purchases and reduce administration, while providing the highest levels of personal service and benefits at home or abroad. American Express has negotiated upfront savings with some of South Africa’s largest suppliers and even offers Cardmembers rewards for business spending.

To improve the acceptance of the Card in South Africa a Card Acceptance Unit has been established to encourage Cardmembers to report any retailer not accepting American Express Cards, for which Cardmembers stand a chance of winning Membership Rewards points.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

In September 2002 American Express Cards joined forces with the Stellenbosch Winelands to create the Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes, aimed at promoting Stellenbosch as a leading producer of quality wines and as South Africa’s premier wine tourism destination, and drawing attention to the entire South African wine industry. Linked to this sponsorship are initiatives to improve the lives of the wine farm labourers in the Stellenbosch region. Workers attend courses on subjects such as viticulture, fermentation, additives, occupational safety, cellar hygiene, marketing and life skills. It’s a revolutionary approach to farm work and gives labourers rare insight into the value of what they do, inspiring them to take pride in their role.

In 2006 American Express collaborated with AA Travel Guides, further investing in the bed‑and‑breakfast industry. As a proud sponsor of the AA Travel Guides American Express Accommodation Awards for the fourth consecutive year, American Express is committed to raising the standard of all types of accommodation around the country and recognising standards of excellence. This keeps the brand close to the quality of service and standards that its discerning Cardmembers have come to expect.

To entrench its investment in the travel industry further American Express is a proud sponsor of the ASATA Awards.

In September 2006 SAA launched a cobranded American Express Card with three different tiers – SAA Voyager Classic, SAA Voyager Gold and SAA Voyager Premium. This new programme earned the accolade of the most valuable standalone credit card in the 2006 and 2007 Razor’s Edge Business Intelligence Survey.

In 2007 American Express Cards launched the Nedbank Greenbacks American Express Card, allowing all Nedbank cardholders to benefit from the American Express brand and to receive double Nedbank Greenbacks for every five rand spent. Two cards are issued to Nedbank cardholders – an American Express-branded card and a MasterCard or Visa card, making American Express dual card options unique in South Africa.

In September 2008 Nedbank and American Express also launched the first dual credit card developed exclusively for small businesses. The unique benefits of this offering include earning double rewards on the American Express Card, improved cashflow, reduced paperwork and streamlined administration.

The Old Mutual Investment Credit Card, another revolutionary new concept in South Africa, was launched in June 2009 and invests up to one percent of eligible card spend into a money market unit trust. Over and above this, Cardmembers can at least double their reward investments by using their Old Mutual American Express Investment Credit Card at selected retail partners, making investing as easy as spending.

Following international safety and security trends, American Express Cards are now embedded with a microchip and requires a unique PIN when making purchases.

PROMOTION

Using a wide range of channels, including television, radio, press, print, airport and outdoor sites, direct mail and selected internet sites, American Express Cards actively markets its products and services, with its more recent positioning ‘My life. My card’.

The brand also receives significant exposure through national Nedbank branches and cobrand partners’ above-the-line campaigns. Additional exposure through sponsorships of the Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes, AA Travel Guides American Express Accommodation Awards and ASATA is achieved annually.

In March 2009 American Express launched a multinational campaign, enticing Cardmembers from around the world to choose South Africa as the destination of choice. It was marketed to Cardmembers worldwide through travel partners, website links and direct communications to members, providing them with exclusive value offers through the American Express Selects Programme.

Arrival stands at OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports were launched in July 2009 to welcome Cardmembers arriving in South Africa. The Discover South Africa travel booklet with special offers was made available to ensure they have a premium and hassle-free travel experience.

Joint marketing promotions with strategic partners further enhance the brand visibility and positioning as well as provide value to Cardmembers.

BRAND VALUES

American Express continues to enjoy an international reputation for prestige and excellence. The innovative spirit that pioneered the original charge card in 1958 has seen American Express consistently develop new products to suit consumer spending needs. Despite many imitators, American Express distinguishes itself in a competitive marketplace by combining first-class products with superior client service.

THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT AMERICAN EXPRESS
  • Elvis Presley became a Cardmember in 1958 when the American Express Card was launched
  • The iconic ‘Member Since’ date was first introduced in 1963 - five years after cards were first launched
  • In 1991 the Space Commerce Corporation deposited its Corporate Card into the Voyager III time capsule, which was attached to the Soviet communications satellite, ‘Gorizont’
  • Four survivors from a plane that crashed into shark-infested waters off the US coast were saved from certain death when one of them flashed his American Express Card at the sun to attract a US Coast Guard plane’s attention