American Express Serve Card: Prepaid with a Twist

Serve is a new digital prepaid card from American Express.Money is changing.

I have no doubt that in five or  ten years, apps on our phones will surpass the credit cards in our wallets as the primary way we pay.

The American Express Serve Prepaid Card takes us a step in that direction.

Here, let’s take a look what makes Serve different.

What is the American Express Serve Prepaid Card?

American Express describes the Serve Prepaid Card as “…a safe and highly flexible alternative to debit and other prepaid products.”

At first, I thought Serve was another prepaid debit card, albeit one that doesn’t carry all the fees typically associated with this kind of card. But once I created an account and started poking around, I discovered what Amex means by saying “Serve is designed to be a digital product”. In a nutshell, there are features that transcend, say, just another debit card linked to your checking account.

Here are some of the things you can do with Serve:

Sending and requesting money

With Serve, you can easily request money from friends by text, email, or Facebook.

Serve allows you to instantly request or money by email, text, and even Facebook, making it an easy way to settle up with friends. To send someone else money, they must also have a serve account, but you can request funds from anyone with a debit or credit card. This can be useful for collecting funds from that one friend who’s always asking you to “spot him” for dinner.

Collect money for events or charity

With Serve, you can raise money for events or charity through your social media accounts.

If anything makes Serve truly different, it might be this: With Serve, you can publicly raise money…for just about anything. Whether you’re planning a party, collecting funds for a group trip, or raising money for charity, you can create an event on Serve, set your deadline, goal, and minimum contribution amount, and share the fundraiser with friends through email, text, or social media.

Selling your stuff

As a personal finance blogger, I’m a big fan of selling stuff you don’t use anymore. It can be money in your savings account, baby! Although Craigslist and eBay are old stand-bys for selling unwanted junk, I’m finding more and more used items through groups I belong to on Facebook. Enter Serve, which allows members to quickly create a listing for an item for sale and distribute it to your networks. People can then pay you through Serve.

Other features

Serve is backed by American Express – which means 24/7 award-winning customer service (and in my own personal experience, Amex’s customer service is more than just a notch above the so-called service delivered by other banks). With Serve, you also get other benefits of an American Express card such as:

  • Security and data protection
  • Purchase protection: Things you buy are protected from theft or accidental damage for 90 days
  • Roadside assistance

Why use the American Express Serve Prepaid Card over a credit or debit card?

Serve’s digital features make it more like a PayPal account than another prepaid debit card. But as a prepaid card, why use Serve over a regular credit or debit card? It’s a fair question, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment.

For one, there are at least 10 million Americans who don’t use bank accounts. And in an increasingly electronic world, that can be a problem. Prepaid cards like Serve provide a good solution.

Perhaps more relevant to many of you, I don’t recommend using the debit card tied to your checking account for everyday purchases. Lots of people do it, but it’s risky. At least once a month I know someone who has money stolen directly out of his bank accounts because somebody got a hold of his debit card data. In most cases, the stolen money is returned. But the money was stolen from your bank account, often times triggering overdraft charges and other headaches that can take weeks to clear up.

To reiterate: It’s just not smart to use a spending card that’s not directly linked to your primary financial account.

Finally, there appears to be shifting opinions about credit cards. A recent survey by Mintel research found that nine out of 10 Millennials say credit cards are “dangerous”. Having been to the depths of credit card trouble myself, I know that danger all too well, but I still use credit cards responsibly because I think they’re a better tool than cash or debit cards.

But if you’re wary about credit cards at all and want an alternative to using your bank-issued debit card for your everyday spending, Serve is attractive. Unlike a lot of competing prepaid cards that charge fee after fee, Serve touts no annual or monthly fees, or per-transaction fee – all common with other prepaid options.

What are the fees on the American Express Serve Prepaid Card?

Obviously, nothing is free, but at first blush, Serve’s fees seem fair.

ATMs. There is no fee for the first ATM withdrawal each month. Subsequent withdrawals are $2.00. (Keep in mind that the ATM you use may still charge a fee.)

Loading the card. There is no fee if you load the card online from a U.S. checking account. If you load the card with a credit card, the fee is 2.9% of the load amount plus $0.30 per transaction. This fee is waived until March 15, 2013.

Sending money/withdrawals. No fees apply.

Learn more or apply for a Serve Prepaid Card now

Disclaimer: American Express gave me $250 on a Serve account to try out this product. I used that money to purchase $250 worth of clothing and food for a local homeless shelter. This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. Joseph Ferrari says:

    Prepaid cards are a great idea for security since it isn’t tied to any other accounts (unless you use the same login information which is another story). The fact that it’s backed by American Express only sweetens the security aspect due to their fantastic customer service. I use a zync card (which I first heard about on this blog :-D) and having the American Express tiger lying in wait definitely gives piece of mind. I’ve disputed charges before and the process was extremely simple – amex will confirm that you really really want to dispute the charge, and it’s a good idea to think about this because the next steps happen so simply and swiftly. Amex will refund you the purchase amount and simply make the problem go away.

    I know it’s very much frowned upon to carry a card that charges an annual fee, but in this case I feel that the $2.08/mo is justified in services. I can make a similar argument for zappos. Products cost more from them, but the customer service is just so exemplarary that the price is justified.

  2. Seems like a great way to have a card without the security risks of a debit card or the debt risks of a credit card. It also seems like a fair deal with small, reasonable fees, unlike the other pre-paid cards that gouge people with bad credit.

    If you play it right, it can be a great deal. Only load money onto it online for free. Don’t use it at ATMs, use your debit card for that. Carry cash on you and use the card for emergencies, large purchases to get AmEx protection, or for secure online purchases.

  3. I simple love Serve over the other digital payment service. I feel more secure with Serve for a number of reasons but also because its backed by American Express. I’ve been the victim of both ID theft and stolen debit cards. I use Serve everyday as a way to shield my checking accounts. As thieves get smarter and more creative, consumers have to as well. I use Serve as a buffer to make everyday purchases I would have made with my check card. The loading fees are far better than the other service and Walmart’s moneycard. I use it at the grocery store, online and for rentals at RedBox and Blockbuster. It even has neat tools you can use online. I’ve been with Serve for more than a year now, and love it and its new card design.

  4. Troy Melvin says:

    How is this serve card different from American Express prepaid card? I was using the prepaid American Express but I stopped using it because the funds were taking too long to load on the account. The last time I loaded it was for a amazon purchase for $30 dollars and it took a week for the funds to be available. Will this card speed that process up?

  5. Hey David! I just signed up for my Serve card and put in $25 bucks. If AmEx wants to give me $25 to test drive their product to match my $25, I’m down!

  6. David! Just wanted to let you know that after setting up my account and funding with $25 from my debit card, it’s not even five minutes later and the matching $25 is there. Bam! Just like that. There are only 2 more days left, so people better be getting on this!

  7. Jessica E. Myers says:

    STFU!!!! I’m so excited!!!! It worked!!!! I got the $25 promo from Amex within minutes after loading my own $25 on my new Serve card…Cyrus was right!!!! I sort of didn’t believe him at first but then I logged back in my account!!!! I have a newfound love for American Express!!!! I saw this offer on my smartphone one night last week and trusted it because it was Amex…I’m glad I did!!!!

  8. Jessica E. Myers says:

    Plus I just liked your facebook page :)

  9. Seemed to work fine, then today their systems started having problems. A friend of mine as a card on a subaccount and suddenly the money was listed on the card, but unavailable. He had just started a trip, and the card was being denied. Called several times today, but each time the agent said they couldn’t access the account (sorry, our systems are having troubles) please call back in a couple hours (or we’ll call you–but never did). After 9 hours of trying, the card doesn’t work and they still don’t know what’s going on. They can’t even get the transaction history on their terminals.

    Sad. Sad. Sad. Even worse for my friend who is traveling and was relying on access to the money.

  10. Over the last 2 months, I had to call their “customer service” call center 12 different times. Every time I called, I had to wait on hold more than 30 mins before a rep even answered my call, and everyone gave me a different “answer!” They would just tell me what they thought i wanted to hear and not what the real truth was.

    It has been over 2 months and I have yet to see a card!! WORST situation I have ever been in, by far!!

  11. I signed up with AMEX Serve and waited a long time for my card to arrive. First they sent me an email telling me the card has been sent, then I had to call them and asked them to re-issue a new card because the first one never came. That’s 1 month after I’ve already put money in. Then I tried to make a $50 purchase online and was denied. (I had $51 in my account) Logged into my account online and saw that now I only have $1 available. Called Serve and they said I need to contact the merchant because the merchant may have detected that this is a prepaid card and put a hold on it. It may take 3-5 business days for them to release the money. Serve totally blamed on the merchant. The customer service representative talked like a robot. Personally I will stop using this service. If you are still interested in trying Serve, be warned and don’t put too much money into it at first.

  12. Was on phone for 5 hrs with just the run around. Tried to add money to card on line,but was unable to.
    Tried to load money from bank card on line only to find out bank and amex are rivals and BoA will not except any transaction dealings with amex. Be forever warned BoA and AMEX do not mix.