Yesterday, American Express confirmed rumors that it would be ending its exclusive partnership with Costco at the end of March 2016. While that is more than a year away, Costco members and AmEx cardholders already have some important questions.
1. Is this just an end to exclusivity or will Costco completely stop accepting AmEx cards in stores?
AmEx has stated that both the exclusivity arrangement and its merchant acceptance agreement with Costco are coming to and end. So, barring some change between now and March 31, 2016, American Express cards will no longer be accepted at Costco after the partnership ends.
2. I have a co-branded Costco/AmEx TrueEarnings card. What will happen to that?
According to the Wall Street Journal, those particular cards will be useless come April 1, 2016, as holders won’t be able to use them in Costco stores or at any other retailers.
However, AmEx says that it will offer a new type of card to holders of these co-branded accounts, though it isn’t yet providing specific details on when that will happen or what, if any, benefits those new cards will provide or what fees will be charged.
3. So does that mean that Costco will start accepting all credit cards?
That’s a possibility, but seems unlikely, as the purpose of an exclusivity deal is intended to save the merchant money on payment processing. Rather than suddenly open the floodgates to accepting multiple types of cards, the odds are in favor of Costco going with another exclusivity deal with either MasterCard or Visa. While that would once again limit Costco shoppers to just one type of card, it will be a larger pool of consumers than AmEx provided.
In 2014, Costco Canada ended its exclusive partnership with AmEx and replaced the payment network with MasterCard. The co-branded credit card in Canada is now a Capital One MasterCard. The company has reportedly been talking to both CapOne and MasterCard about doing the same thing in the U.S., but nothing has been announced.