Many Costco customers are aware of the change going on with Costco credit cards. Previously, Costco customers’ cards were American Express, but now the company will be providing its credit cards through Visa. How is American Express preparing for “life after Costco?”
Of course, losing Costco was quite the blow to the credit card company. Members of the wholesale club made up 8 percent of American Express’ business in 2014. Seventy percent of the money spent on these AmEx cards was spent out-of-store where AmEx collected the full fee. In addition, 20 percent of American Express’ loan book came from the Costco cards.
Losing Costco will affect American Express on the revenue side of things, however, there is plenty of room for the credit card company to improve. It will focus on its banking units to lower its cost of funds. AmEx has FDIC-insured banking accounts which hold $49.3 billion in customer deposits. Over half (57 percent) of these accounts are traditional savings accounts.
However, when it comes to these deposit accounts, American Express is paying nicely because of its lack of branches. The average deposit among these accounts costs AmEx about 1 percent each year. A full percentage point of interest seems a bit expensive. However, the 1 percent pales in comparison with the company’s long-term borrowings. When it comes to the debt markets, American Express pays 2.25 percent.
It is imagined that the growth in AmEx’s bank is not an accident. Since 2014, the company has been trying to grow its bank services. The efforts to grow the banking section of the company was kicked into overdrive once Costco officially announced that it would be switching its credit card services from AmEx to Visa during the first quarter of 2015.
Now, deposits make up 37.1 percent of the company’s liabilities. This is up from 31.9 percent in 2014. Long-term debt now makes up 36.6 percent of American Express’ liabilities, down from 41.9 percent in 2014. American Express won’t likely be able to solve all of its problems with creative financial engineering. However, the company, if it chooses to depend on bank accounts, will save $600 million each year.
No one should expect to see AmEx transfer all of its revenue over to bank accounts though. In fact, the company brought in three times the amount it would save from transferring all of its revenue to banking accounts.
While there will be no huge changes in the company, seeing the minor changes in the amount of bank accounts they are opening is interesting to see. It truly speaks to the way the company is willing to change to maintain its revenue after losing Costco, one of its largest accounts on the debt-side of things.
With the change for both companies coming in April 2016, look out for notifications and announcements from Costco and AmEx. There will likely be quite a few things happening within both companies within the first quarter.