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American Express Stops Allowing Delta 8 Processing for Merchants

Date Updated: January 6, 2024

In a significant policy shift, AllayPay became aware on January 5, 2024, that American Express will no longer be accepting merchants who sell Delta 8 THC products on the American Express OptBlue program. 

This decision marks a pivotal change in the financial services industry’s approach to these increasingly popular products. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether this policy change will affect the thousands of eCommerce and retail CBD merchants on OptBlue, or whether they will allow merchants to be accepted directly on American Express’s own ESA Program, which is a direct merchant account.

What Are Delta 8 and CBD Products?

Before discussing the policy change, it’s essential to understand what Delta 8 and CBD products are. Delta 8 THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, similar to but less potent than Delta 9 THC, the most well-known form of THC. CBD, on the other hand, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid known for its potential therapeutic benefits. Both have gained significant popularity in various health and wellness circles.

What is American Express OptBlue?

American Express OptBlue is a program designed to increase the acceptance of American Express cards, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses. Launched in 2014, the program allows merchant acquirers and third-party processors to sign up businesses to accept American Express cards, offering more competitive and flexible pricing structures compared to traditional American Express merchant accounts. The key feature of OptBlue is that it allows these acquirers and processors to set their own merchant fees for American Express transactions, which can be more aligned with the fees for other card networks like Visa and Mastercard. This approach not only makes it more financially feasible for smaller businesses to accept American Express but also expands the card’s acceptance network, benefiting both merchants and American Express cardholders.

American Express’s New Anti-CBD Policy

American Express has not publicly disclosed the specific reasons behind its decision to stop servicing merchants that sell Delta 8 products. However, this move could be related to the complex and evolving legal status of these substances in the United States. The policy change will affect a broad range of merchants, from online stores to physical retail outlets, that rely on American Express for transaction processing. This policy change appears to have started with Fresno First Bank. We will update this post when we can confirm this policy affects other acquiring banks for merchant processing.

Impact on CBD Merchants and Consumers

This policy change by American Express could have significant implications for merchants selling these products. They will need to find alternative payment processing options, which might not be as convenient or widely accepted as American Express. For consumers, this could mean fewer purchasing options or the need to use alternative payment methods when buying Delta 8 products.

The Legal Landscape of Delta 8 and CBD

The legal status of Delta 8 and CBD is complex and varies by state. While hemp-derived CBD has been federally legal since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, Delta 8 occupies a more legally uncertain space. This complexity could be a contributing factor to American Express’s decision, as financial institutions often avoid engaging with industries that operate in legal gray areas.

Looking Forward

The decision by American Express could signal a trend among financial service providers regarding the handling of businesses involved in the Delta 8 and CBD markets. It highlights the need for clear legal guidelines on the sale and use of these substances. As the market and legal landscapes continue to evolve, businesses and consumers should stay informed about changes that could impact them.

Any Possibility of Visa or Mastercard following suit?

While Visa and Mastercard continuously assess their policies based on regulatory changes, market trends, and risk management, it is unlikely that they will follow American Express’s decision to stop accepting merchants selling Delta 8 products on their OptBlue program. This assessment is based on the growing market demand for these products, the potential profitability in this sector, and the current legal status, which, while complex, does not universally prohibit these products.

Additionally, the consumer response and the trend towards diverse payment solutions in the fintech space suggest that Visa and Mastercard might opt for a different approach to maintain market competitiveness and consumer satisfaction. Therefore, considering these factors, it seems highly improbable that Visa and Mastercard will mirror American Express’s recent policy shift in the near future.


American Express’s decision to stop processing on OptBlue for merchants selling Delta 8 products is a significant development in the financial and cannabis industries. It underscores the challenges businesses face in a rapidly changing legal environment and the importance of staying agile and informed. As the situation evolves, AllayPay will be sure to update our merchants and agents to make the best decisions possible.

Contact us today if you have any questions.