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Sun 28 Sep 2008 04:00 AM

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Plastic boom

Peter Fawn, American Express' director of establishment services MENA, discusses its payment cards' rewards and successes.

Peter Fawn, American Express' director of establishment services MENA, discusses its payment cards' rewards and successes.

Has there been a growth in card payment in the FMCG industry?

The increased usage of payment cards for large and small ticket items is driving card acceptance in the retail sector. Traditionally, American Express offered Charge Cards, which were primarily used for travel and entertainment expenses.

However, over the years, as we also expanded in to offering Credit Cards and consumers experienced the benefits of card usage for day-to-day expenses, we have seen increased spending in areas of everyday shopping. This includes hypermarkets, supermarkets, groceries and petrol stations, which are among the top areas of growth in the Cardmember's spend, where we have experienced year on year growth of over 80%.

How do payment cards drive merchants' business growth?

On average, American Express Cardmembers spend four to five times more on our cards compared to cash or competition. This translates into higher revenues for the merchants. We have also recently expanded our merchant relations division with specialised teams catering to specific industries e.g. retail, car hire, hotel, restaurants travel, and other allied industries.

Our award-winning loyalty programme, Membership Rewards, is a major boost for retailers. Cardmembers engaged in the Membership Rewards programme spend up to seven times more, leading to higher sales and profitability for merchants.

What about the company's presence in the Middle East and plans for expansion?

American Express Middle East has been operating in the region for over 30 years. We operate in 18 markets across the Middle East and North Africa region, where we issue a range of dollar and local currency Credit, Charge and Corporate Cards. The Saudi Arabia operations are overseen by our sister firm, Amex (Saudi Arabia) Limited.

We are set to see more partnerships with retailers for our Membership Rewards and Selects programme, a prestigious privilege programme that provides American Express Cardmembers access to exclusive offers for Travel & Leisure, Shopping and Dining, in more than 50 countries, through an easily navigable website. Since its 2005 launch, we now have over 21,000 offers available from our partners in the Selects programme.

How important is the Middle East market to American Express' international business?

The Middle East is a significant market for American Express. The retail sector in the region is witnessing phenomenal growth owing to increasing wealth, liquidity and purchasing power of consumers.

Globally, Middle East Charge Cardmembers are one of the highest spenders and we are seeing growth across our product portfolio. American Express will continue to capitalise on shift from cash to the card culture as it is currently being witnessed in the region.

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