American Express International is trying to change the widely held perception in Japan that only affluent customers use American Express, and only for overseas travel.

"Traditionally we have focused on the upper-end segment, very much travel, and entertainment," American Express International Inc., Japan President Ian Marsh said in a recent interview. "That in a way excluded us from a large part of the market. (There was) no real reason to use an American Express card to make purchases in the domestic market . . . Something had to change."

That something came earlier this month, when Amex and JCB Co. -- the leading Japanese credit card issuer -- announced June 14 that they will share merchant networks both in Japan and abroad.