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12 Feb 2018

Surprising places that do and don't take American Express

Are American Express credit cards becoming more mainstream?

American Express credit cards have a reputation for being targeted at more affluent shoppers and not being accepted by many shops in the UK.

But now Lidl - a supermarket popular with shoppers on the hunt for a bargain - has just started accepting American Express at its checkouts.

It's the latest supermarket to change its policy on Amex, joining rivals Tesco, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Co-op Food.

Which? takes a look at the surprising retailers that do and don't take American Express and why you might want to consider getting a card that still isn't accepted everywhere.

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Why is American Express hard to use?

American Express-issued cards are not as widely accepted as cards operating under the MasterCard or Visa schemes.

While millions of retailers will take American Express across the world, you'll come across quite a few which don't in the UK.

Some retailers refuse to take Amex cards as payment because of the higher fees they have to pay to process the transactions compared to Visa and MasterCard - so it can mean you could be caught short.

The firm justifies these costs with a premium services for merchants and access to a premium type of customer.

Reports show that people who use Amex as their primary card spend more per month on average than other cardholders.

Surprising places that do and don't accept Amex

You can save the frustration of your American Express card being rejected by taking a look at the unofficial websitewhoacceptsamex.co.uk.

It lists UK retailers which do accept American Express and helpfully lets you know if a retailer currently doesn't.

We used it to check out a few retailers that you might not realise will happily take your Amex as payment and uncover a few that you might be caught short with.

Sky - doesn't

Sky is one of the biggest telecoms companies in the UK, so you might think it would accept all forms of payment. But unlike rivals BT and Talk Talk, Sky still won't accept American Express.

Post Office - does

The Post Office started accepting American Express in April 2015 across its 11,500 branch network, making it one of the largest UK retailers to accept Amex.

Poundland - does

Poundland started accepting American Express in March 2012 as more and more squeezed middle class shoppers turned to the discount retailer in search of better value for money.

Five Guys - doesn't

Five Guys, an American fast food chain that serves up premium burgers and hot dogs which has 79 outlets in the UK, still doesn't accept American Express at the checkout. McDonalds, however, will happily take your Amex for a burger and fries.

Just Eat - does

Just Eat, the popular takeaway app helping the nation avoid the washing up on a Friday and Saturday night, take American Express, as do rivals Deliveroo and Hungry House.

But keep in mind that the information from the Who Accepts Amex tool is only indicative, and may not always be up-to-date - so it's best to check with retailers directly when making a purchase.

Why American Express is still worth considering

Using an American Express credit card can be hit and miss, but if you're looking for a decent cashback or reward credit card they shouldn't be overlooked.

The American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card, for example, pays 5% cashback in your first three months and 1% cashback when you spend over £5,000. The card is fee free and comes with a representative APR of 22.9%.

When it comes to rewards the British Airways American Express Credit Card pays 5,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in your first month and allows you to collect one Avios for every £3 you spend. The card is also fee free and comes with a representative APR of 22.9%.

While the American Express Nectar Credit Card offers a whopping 20,000 Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in the first three months and allows you to collect four points for every £1 spent with Nectar partners or 2 points for every £2 spent elsewhere. This card comes with a £25 annual fee and the representative APR is 28.2%.

How to never be caught short with American Express

Though more and more retailers like the Aldi are coming on board in the UK, being snubbed at shops and restaurants can be frustrating.

If you're worried about this happening you could try and get the best of both worlds with a duo card account, which provides both a MasterCard or Visa and an American Express to spend with that are linked to the same account.

With these deals you'll still be able to pay even if a merchant doesn't accept American Express as you can use the linked Mastercard or Visa instead.

TheLloyds Bank Avios Rewards Credit Cardfor example comes with a MasterCard and an American Expresscard to build up Avios with.

You can earn 1.25 Avios for every £1 spent on the American Expressor for every £5 spent on the MasterCard. The card attracts a £24 annual fee and has a 23.7% representative APR.

Granted the rewards are a bit watered down with the MasterCard, but with this account you'll never miss out on racking up points as you spend as long as you've got both with you.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Lidl didn't accept Amex in Feb 2018

Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.