In a 5-4 decision in Ohio v. American Express, the Supreme Court affirmed that the anti-steering provisions of American Express’s merchant agreement do not violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
Credit card companies’ core business involves two transactions. First, the credit card company provides credit services to its cardholders, as well as additional benefits such as frequent flier miles, cash back, etc. Second, in exchange for a per-transaction fee, the credit card company assumes the risk and costs the merchant would otherwise incur in extending credit to its customers. The credit card company also provides the merchant a customer base that will be more likely to patronize those merchants that accept the credit card.