AmEx picks JetPay for cut-rate small-merchants program

JetPay Corp., the Berwyn-based electronic payments processor headed by former MAC Card head Bipin Shah of Rosemont, is the first transaction-processing company to start handling American Express Corp. transactions under a new AmEx program for merchants that bill less than $1 million in AmEx transactions a year.

Check out JetPay's AmEx service here. Rival Transfirst is doing this, too. Others are expected to sign up, extending American Express cards to small restaurants and other businesses at reduced rates.

Under a program AmEx calls "Opt Blue," AmEx is using the processors to offer small merchants a fee below its usual interchange rate (typically 3.5% or more). It's a way of competing with Visa and MasterCard (which typically charge around 2%-2.5%) for retailers who have up til now seen AmEx cards as too expensive and out of their reach.

AmEx has clearly given its blessing, but doesn't want to talk about details of the program, since "it is still early days," AmEx spokeswoman Sanette Chao told me.