Holders of American Express consumer credit cards in the U.S. are getting a new option for sending money to people through Venmo or PayPal without a fee or for dividing up a bill using those same services.
The "Send & Split" feature in the American Express mobile app is already available for some AmEx cards and will continue being rolled out to cardholders well into December 2020. (Airline- and hotel-branded cards issued by American Express qualify, but corporate and business cards are not eligible.) To use the feature, you must enroll using the AmEx app and link your PayPal or Venmo account.
Here’s how it works.
Send & Split: The basics
As the name of the feature indicates, there are two possibilities — sending and splitting.
Sending money with 'AmEx Send'
This option allows you to use your AmEx card to send money to any PayPal or Venmo customer without paying the usual transaction fees that would apply to credit card payments. (Normally, if you were to use a credit card this way through PayPal or Venmo, you'd incur a fee of about 3%.)
When you enroll in Send & Split, an "AmEx Send" account is created automatically. You can add money to that account with your AmEx credit card. The money you add will show up as a charge on your card’s statement and is treated like a purchase. However, you will not earn any rewards for the transaction. Terms apply.
AmEx limits how much you can add to your AmEx Send account. That amount is identified in the app as "Available to Add." AmEx notes that the amount is determined by your card’s "rolling 30-day person-to-person transaction limit found in your Card Member Agreement," and it's subject to AmEx approval. But for most eligible consumer cards, the limit is $2,000. Exceptions are The Platinum Card® from American Express ($4,000) and the Centurion card ($5,000). Terms apply.
There's also a limit on how much you can send someone from your AmEx Send account: up to $10,000 per transaction. These transactions, too, will be subject to a rolling 30-day transaction limit. Terms apply.
Nerd tip: Beyond these restrictions from American Express, be aware that PayPal and Venmo may also limit the amount you can send.
Splitting purchases with 'AmEx Split'
With this option, you can pay for something with your card — and earn all the rewards from the purchase — and then split the cost with other Venmo and PayPal users.
In the AmEx app, you select the purchase you want to split and then choose up to 20 people to split it with. You can divide the cost evenly or set a custom allocation. Those people will get a payment request through Venmo or PayPal, as they usually would.
When they pay you back, you can choose whether you want the money to go directly to your credit card as a statement credit or into a PayPal or Venmo account. Be aware, however, that if they don't pay you back, you're still responsible for the charge on your card.
There is no cost to use this option, but your original transaction may be subject to interest or fees. Terms apply.
Unlike with "AmEx Send," you would be eligible to earn rewards when you use "AmEx Split."
Nerd tip: AmEx Send and AmEx Split are compatible with any Venmo or PayPal user; they do not also have to be American Express cardholders.
How this compares with other options
When you lack the immediate cash for something in the moment, credit cards aren't always a good (or even an accepted) payment choice, thanks to transaction or convenience fees. And tapping into your available credit line in other ways — such as with cash advances — can be extremely costly, thanks to fees and interest.
But in recent years, new options from both traditional issuers and startups are changing how some cardholders can access and use their available credit. AmEx's Send & Split feature is an example. It lets you lean on your credit card, avoiding awkward conversations when dividing up a bill and allowing you to pay off the charge at a more convenient time.
Just be aware of the transaction limits and the fact that you're still responsible for paying off the charge on time — and, ideally, in full if you want to avoid incurring interest.