American Express? That'll do nicely, especially in North America, where the brand remains arguably the card of choice for business users. But increasingly the company is out to capture the hearts, minds and purses of ordinary consumers in order to counter sharp declines in corporate expenditure. This has pushed American Express into fierce competition with credit card operators Visa and MasterCard, who have tried unsuccessfully to block any further inroads by their smaller rival. Those anti-competitive practices were finally blocked by the US Supreme Court in 2004. Unlike its main credit rivals, all of whose business is transacted via a global network of partner banks, American Express actually maintains a direct relationship with the vast majority of its 80m-plus cardholders. It is the world's largest card-issuer by far.
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