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American Express: More than Credit Cards?
American Express is a fascinating story of American success. Most people hear “American Express” and think credit cards and even think of a new, edgy company. The truth might be otherwise, but does American Express like their brand’s position? The answer appears to be “yes,” and it appears to be working.
American Express is a company that is over 150 years old, and got its name from its first service: an express company that shipped valuables. The old days of the delivery business was tightly related to money. People had to ship money and money orders, there was not a strong Post Office like there is today, and you could not confidently ship larger items, or valuables. As the United States grew west, banks established themselves, and were a large client of American Express. They hired American Express to help move money, gold, stock certificates and customers’ valuables.
As this became more profitable, American Express cut back on their large parcel deliveries and began to “cut out the middleman” by offering their own financial services, although the banks could have done the same to them, the American Express brand was already well trusted. They started with money orders, and were selling traveler’s checks already in 1891! They next expanded into Europe and in 1905, were commissioned by the US government to be the official money exchanger to the new emigrants to cut back on the swindling. The first brand that most emigrants saw was American Express!
World War 1 brought American Express into the travel industry by helping stranded American civilians get home at a time when no other bank would take their checks. During this time, American Express continued to expand into the travel business. Soon following, the Great Depression struck and it was a bittersweet time for American Express.
American Express is much more than a credit card company, they have earned their edgy reputation from the beginning, for a later history, 1930-today, check back for:
American Express: More than Credit Cards: Part II.
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