Spending on American Express corporate cards continued to slowly recover during the fourth quarter of 2020, the commercial payments giant revealed on Tuesday. Amex’s Global Commercial Services division reported $109.1 billion in Q4 billed business, up from $98.5 billion in the previous quarter and continuing a bounce-back from the Covid-19-ravaged Q2, which saw just $82.8 billion in GCS billed business.
Overall, Amex corporate card spending remained hobbled by the ongoing pandemic in Q4, coming in 18 percent lower than the final quarter of 2019—but that figure too was an improvement over Q3’s 23 percent year-over-year drop-off. Average cardholder spending also showed sustained recovery from Q2 lows, increasing to $7,515 from $6,776 in the prior quarter. Yearly comparisons also showed positive signs; average spend in Q4 2020 was down just 16 percent from a year earlier, compared to Q3’s 21 percent year-over-year decline.
T&E spending on all Amex cards—while still down significantly from pre-pandemic levels—also showed steady improvement. Global T&E spend was down 65 percent year-over-year during the most recent quarter, compared to 69 percent in Q3 2020 and 87 percent drop in Q2. Airline-related spending in Q4 continued to comprise 1 percent of total spending volume on Amex cards—holding steady the previous quarter’s uptick from Q2, during which airline spending bottomed out at statistically 0 percent of Amex’s overall volume.
Amex’s GCS division reported fourth-quarter net income of $538 million, down only slightly from $550 million a year ago. Q4’s lower cardholder spending was partially offset by a 13 percent year-over-year decline in expenses largely due to lower incentive and customer engagement costs amid the decreased spending activity, the company said.