American Express Co. added another foreign bank to the growing list of financial institutions that are teaming up with it to sell its products.
On the heels of two banks in the Caribbean region, Komercni Banka of the Czech Republic last week said it will begin issuing American Express green and gold charge cards early next year.
"We are building our momentum, and we think we have the right strategy to grow our franchise in these markets," said Jim Cracchiolo, president of American Express global network services. He said other international partnerships are in the pipeline.
In another international move, American Express Bank, a subsidiary of the card giant, last week announced it has formed a joint venture with Banco SRL, a privately owned bank headquartered in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Banco Inter American Express, which awaits the approval of the Central Bank of Brazil, would be jointly managed by SRL and American Express.
American Express plans to use the new relationship to expand its presence in Brazil, which has the largest economy in Latin America.
Mr. Cracchiolo said the Czech bank will market American Express cards as upscale products.
Similarly to other banks abroad that have arrangements with American Express, Komercni will also be a merchant acquirer. In doing so, it will ask merchants that accept Visa and MasterCard to take American Express as well.
The plan is to increase American Express' merchant network, which is particularly limited in markets where only dollar-denominated American Express cards are offered, like the Czech Republic. These cards are generally used for travel abroad.
Komercni will offer American Express cards that are billed in the local currency-korunas.
Komercni is the 15th overseas bank to align itself with American Express since May 1996 when the company's chairman, Harvey Golub, asked Visa and MasterCard member banks to consider entering alliances with American Express.
The only other such alliance American Express has in Eastern Europe is with Atlas Travel, a travel agency in the former Yugoslavia. The agency has been offering American Express cards in Croatia for a number of years.
Komercni, which was founded in 1990 and has 349 branches, also is a merchant acquirer for Visa and MasterCard.