Ever since its founding in 1950, American Express has branded itself as the card of choice for people with a track record of success in life. The company’s marketing language — for example, “card member” instead of “card holder” — was specially conceived to connote an air of exclusivity. Even in the present era, when anyone with a decent credit rating is constantly bombarded with pre-approved card offers, an Amex card in your wallet exudes a certain undefinable air of prestige. But when you are scrambling to finish your holiday shopping at the 11th hour, only to discover at the register that the store doesn’t accept American Express, prestige won’t help you. So where is American Express accepted and where is american express not accepted? We include Amex department stores and more.

This article will provide you with an extensive list of stores that happily accept Amex, as well as a few notable places that do not. But first, let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why “CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED” is sometimes followed by “except American Express.”

The Back Story: Why Some Stores Give Amex the Cold Shoulder

Your local shopkeepers don’t have a personal vendetta against American Express, nor do they distrust Amex’s ability to make good on promised payments. In fact, American Express has a long history of clean, accurate handling of transactions. Furthermore, the average income of Amex card carriers is significantly higher than carriers of only Mastercard, Visa, or Discover, meaning that customers who wish to pay with American Express are more likely to buy bigger-ticket items and less likely to return them. Amex Corporation does, however, place a little more of a financial burden on retailers than other credit card issuers.

Every time you make a purchase using a card, the card issuer takes a small cut of the purchase price as a transaction fee (also known as a “swipe fee”). Transaction fees charged to the merchant average around 2% for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover, but around 3% for Amex. That means the store owner gives up an extra $10 for every $1,000 in sales transacted with American Express. That may not seem like a lot, but for the owner of a small, local shop operating on razor-thin margins, it’s enough to get their attention, and in some cases convince them that it’s better to refuse Amex cards, even at the risk of the occasional customer storming off in a huff. This is why what stores accept American Express is limited.

The Other Side: Why Amex Does It

Unlike other credit card issuers, the founders of American Express didn’t base their business model on generating revenue by charging interest. The classic American Express card was a charge card, not a credit card: the cardholder was required to pay the full balance each month, so no interest ever accrued. The primary appeal of the card lay in the fact that cardholders could pay all their major expenses for the month with a single check.

Even though the Amex card line now includes true credit cards, such as the Amex EveryDay card, the brand’s signature products, including the Premier Rewards Gold Card and the Platinum Card by American Express, still follow the charge card model. Since holders of these cards pay no interest, Amex Corp derives revenue only from the rather lofty annual fees cardholders pay (from $195 to $450) and swipe fees collected from merchants.

In other words, whereas swipe fees collected by other card issuers are a small correction factor for the fact that some transactions are incorrectly processed so the card issuer can’t collect from the cardholder, Amex’s swipe fees are how the company makes its money.

Places That Accept American Express

Now that you know the background, what are the stores that accept American Express? Let’s get to our big list of sites that take American Express and of course physical stores that take American Express. You will be happy to know that the number of such stores has grown dramatically over the last five years and continues to grow almost daily as major retailers of all kinds let go of old animosity toward the American Express brand. Therefore, this list is representative, not exhaustive. For every brand listed, there are several similar, slightly smaller brands that we simply didn’t include.

The best news of all is this: our research revealed that only one of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. refuses to accept Amex nowadays. We’ll tell that sad story in a moment, but first, here are over 100 of your favorite brands that will happily “swipe the soldier,” to quote the old retail slang for accepting Amex.

Department Stores, Apparel Shops, Discount Stores, and Wholesale Clubs That Accept American Express

Amazon

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Amazon website

Bed, Bath & Beyond

BJ’s Wholesale Club

Burlington Coat Factory

Crate and Barrel

Dollar General

Dollar Tree

H & M

IKEA

JCPenney

Kmart

Kohl’s

Macy’s

Neiman Marcus

Nordstrom

Old Navy and GAP

Ross Stores

Saks Fifth Avenue

Sam’s Club

Sears

Target

T.J. Maxx

Victoria’s Secret

Walmart

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Walmart website
  • Comment: In addition to accepting Amex cards, Walmart sells American Express gift cards.
  • Find the nearest location here

Williams-Sonoma / Pottery Barn

Supermarkets and Pharmacies That Accept American Express

Aldi

Albertsons

CVS

HealthMart

HyVee

Kroger

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more on the Kroger website
  • Comments: In addition to accepting Amex cards, Kroger sells American Express gift cards. Confirmed by phone.
  • Find the nearest location here

Meijer

Publix

Rite Aid

Roundy’s

ShopRite

Stop & Shop

Supervalu

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more on the Supervalu website
  • Comments: Like ShopRite, Supervalu is a collective of independently owned stores, so it would be wise to check with your local store about accepted forms of payment. The store managers with whom we spoke indicated that some stores require a $50 minimum purchase to use Amex. Confirmed by phone.
  • Find the nearest location here

Walgreens

Whole Foods Market

Hardware, Auto Parts, Home Improvement, and Home and Garden Stores That Accept American Express

ACE Hardware

Advance Auto Parts

AutoZone

Hardware Hank

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Hardware Hank website
  • Comment: Hardware Hank stores are independently owned and operated, so payment policies may vary from store to store. Confirmed by phone calls to multiple store locations in several states.
  • Find the nearest location here

Home Depot

Lowe’s

Menards

O’Reilly Auto Parts

True Value

Restaurants, Pizza Delivery, and Cafés That Accept American Express

Applebee’s

Arby’s

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more on the Arby’s website
  • Comment: As confirmed in a phone call to management, Arby’s is a national partner of American Express.
  • Find the nearest location here

Buffalo Wild Wings

Burger King

Chick-fil-A

Chili’s

Chipotle

Cracker Barrel

Domino’s

Dunkin’ Donuts

Jack in the Box

McDonald’s

Olive Garden

Panera Bread

Papa John’s

Sonic

Starbucks

Subway

Taco Bell

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more on the Taco Bell website
  • Comment: Confirmed by phone.

Wendy’s

Office Supply, Shipping, Digital Services, Printing, and Electronics Stores That Accept American Express

The Apple Store and iTunes

AT&T Wireless Stores

Best Buy

Comcast / Xfinity

FedEx

Office Depot / Office Max

Staples

UPS

Verizon Wireless Stores

Specialty Stores That Accept Amex

Barnes and Noble (bookstore)

Dick’s Sporting Goods

EB Games / GameStop

The North Face (outdoor gear and apparel)

Petco

PetSmart

REI (outdoor gear and apparel, travel supplies)

Toys R Us

Convenience Stores and Gas Stations That Accept Amex

7-Eleven

Exxon Mobil

Gulf

Shell

Speedway Superamerica

Airlines That Accept Amex

Because American Express was founded with travelers in mind, Amex cards have always been very widely accepted in the travel services industry. Every major car rental company and every national and regional hotel/motel chain in the U.S. accepts Amex cards, as do most independent hotels, motels, B & Bs, and inns. Only a small number of locally owned, small, independent motel properties refuse payment by Amex cards. In addition, all major carriers accept American Express, including:

Alaska Airlines

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Alaska Airlines website

American Airlines

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the American Airlines website

Amtrak

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Amtrak website

Delta

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Delta website

Frontier Airlines

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more on the Frontier Airlines website
  • Comment: Confirmed by phone.

Greyhound

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Greyhound website

jetBlue

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the jetBlue website

Southwest

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Southwest website

Spirit

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Spirit website

Sun Country

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Sun Country website

United Airlines

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the United Airlines website

Virgin America

  • Accepts American Express? Yes
  • Read more about accepted payment methods on the Virgin America website

Where Is American Express Not Accepted?

1. The One That Got Away: Costco

This giant wholesale club brand was formerly a very cozy partner with American Express, so much so that Amex cards were the only non-Costco charge or credit cards accepted at Costco stores. However, the partnership has come to a bitter end, with the brand making a complete about-face regarding payment options. As reported on the American Express website, American Express Cards are no longer accepted at Costco.

2. British Telecoms

Telecommunications companies based in the UK are notorious for not accepting American Express. We were able to confirm directly from company websites that neither BT Communications nor Virgin Media lists Amex cards as accepted forms of payment.

3. Small Businesses and Mom-and-Pop Shops

As noted above, the swipe fees assessed by American Express hit small, privately owned businesses hardest. Thus, it is not surprising that you are most likely to be politely asked to pay another way while in locally owned, independent shops. Remember, however, that small businesses are great drivers of local economies, so you shouldn’t let this minor inconvenience deter you from supporting them. Remember also that even the smaller swipe fees assessed by other card issuers represent a hardship for these merchants, so do them a neighborly favor and pay cash when you can.

Stores That Accept American Express: Conclusion

So now you have a sense of just how many popular brands accept Amex cards. It is clear that the days of continual frustration for American Express cardholders are in the past. You may still be wondering, however, whether there is any real advantage to carrying Amex charge cards, with their high annual fees. After all, if you pay your balance in full each month, you will never have to pay interest on any card you may carry, including Visa, Mastercard, and Discover cards.

Apart from the American Express brand’s association with success and elevated status, Amex Corp offers some very attractive benefits to card carriers, including outstanding purchase protection, personalized travel assistance, free roadside assistance, exemption from foreign transaction fees, and some exceptional rewards programs through its brand partnerships. None of that means you should choose an American Express card over other options, but with more and more retailers willingly swiping the soldier, there’s no reason to fear trying out Amex to see if it’s right for you.