Editors Note:

It is nice to have the clout in your sector but when that prestige fades it can be ugly. American Express, Don't leave home without it! The Gold, car, Silver card or a Platinum card with a $450 annual fee, etc, was once seen as a status symbol and in business environments, the person paying for the meal, drinks or entertainment was quick to whip out his card to show his status. That is no longer the case.


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AMX - American Express - Company Description

American Express provides charge and credit payment card products and travel related services to consumers and businesses worldwide.

I seriously doubt that anyone reading this play description is unfamiliar with American Express. Unfortunately, their prestige has take a number of hits over the last two years.

Costco dumped American Express and is moving to Visa as its accepted card. AXP said that loss represented 10% of AXP card holders.

Fidelity Investments also dropped AXP for Visa because Visa is accepted many more places than American Express. Fidelity has 68.9 million accounts. That has got to hurt AXP.

Jet Blue announced it was replacing AXP cards with a new MasterCard.

There are numerous other companies that have dropped AmExp as their preferred card. The reason is simple. Not all merchants accept the AMX card and the fees associated with that card are higher for merchants. The card also has higher credit requirements for being approved. It does not do these businesses any good to offer a partner card if only a small number of applicants can qualify.

American Express is different from MC/V because it actually owns the debt. When you charge on an AMX card it is AMX that is making you the loan. With wages in the U.S. declining for the last 7 years that means higher risk of default for AMX accounts.

V/MC accounts are backed by an issuing bank or credit union. V/MC have no risk in the transactions, they just take a processing fee.

A federal judge ruled against AMX in a lawsuit filed by the DOJ because AMX was penalizing retailers for suggesting customers use a different card because the AMX transaction fees were higher. The judge said retailers had the right to discourage AMX usage.

In the testimony for the suit CEO Chenault whined, "They have a billion cards, AMX has 55 million. They have 9 million merchants and AMX only has 6 million. I am dwarfed. We are swimming in a sea of bank cards." And that is exactly the problem.

The bank cards have lower credit standards, lower merchant fees and more generous customer bonus awards programs. The prestige of the AMX is fading and even the invitation only Black card, made out of titanium, is losing its luster.

Shares faded from $96 to $50 and then rebounded in April to $67. Now they are fading again. They guided to earnings declines for the second half of 2016 because of the switch from AMX to other cards at various corporate customers like Costco. Earnings will rise in Q2 because of the sale of their Costco card portfolio but then decline the rest of the year. The CEO warned at the shareholder meeting, "We continue to face substantial competitive and environmental challenges."

Earnings July 28th.

Shares have flat lined recently with support at $63.75. If that level breaks we could see a decline to $59 fairly quickly. With the summer doldrums ahead, investors are not going to be patient with a stock that is basically dormant and forecasting lower earnings in the second half. Why would an equity fund want to own that stock in this environment?

With an AXP trade at $63.50

Buy July $62.50 put, currently $1.55, initial stop loss $65.50.