You’re out running errands when you realize you’re out of cash and the bank is about to close. Not again!
You are a bit uneasy at the idea of spending any money on a credit card; that’s for emergencies only, and you don’t want to get in the habit of “saving yourself.”
If you’re looking for a good alternative to banking but are tired of being hit with fees, then the American Express Serve® Card could be a great option for you.
Card Summary Table
- Card Bonus & Info (Partner Content)
- Card Provider
- Card Type(s):
- Card Focus:
- All Purchases
- Annual Fee
- $0 if you direct deposit $500 monthly, otherwise it's $1/month ($12/year) for the American Express Serve® Basic Card
- $4.95/month ($59.40/yr) for the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads Card
- $5.95/month ($71.40/yr) for the American Express Serve® Cash Back Card
- Reload fee of up to $3.95 at a retail location ($0 for American Express Serve® FREE Reloads Card at participating locations)
- Rewards CenterCash-back rewards are found in your American Express account.
- Foreign Transaction Fees2.7% foreign surcharge on transactions processed outside the U.S.
- Typical UsersThe Average Spender
- Customer Service Number
- Login Link
- Interest Rates ?
- N/A; this is a debit card
- Late fees ?
- Balance Transfers
- Cash Advance APR
The Ideal Cardholder
Signing Up and Bonus Cash-Back
While the American Express Serve® Card is not a traditional credit card, it is still a valuable tool for your personal finances.
This convenient reloadable card offers free online bill pay and other convenient banking features without all the excessive charges.
It acts just like a debit card from a traditional bank, and you can only use the cash that is stored on the card.
You have access to more than 24,000 MoneyPass ATM locations across the United States.
You also have free access to American Express customer service reps, which is a feature that other prepaid cards don’t offer.
There are 3 different versions of this card:
The American Express Serve® Card
The American Express Serve® FREE Reloads Card
The American Express Serve® Cash Back Card
Cost of Using the American Express Serve® Cards
The basic card is free to use online but costs up to $3.95 at retail locations when reloading the card with cash.
There is no monthly fee for the basic version if you direct deposit $500 or more per month on the card. Otherwise, the monthly fee is $1.00 (or $12 per year).
It is free to use the FREE Reloads Card online ($0), but this card costs $4.95 per month. The benefit of this card is a waived $3.95 reload fee at over 45,000 locations.
Finally, the American Express Serve® Cash Back Card works like the basic card, except that it earns 1% cash-back for all purchases and costs $5.95 per month.
American Express Serve® Card Banking Features
One of the great features of these different versions of the card is the ability to create sub-accounts. You can get a separate prepaid card for each sub-account you open.
In addition, you can send and receive money for free between any members, which is helpful in times when you need to split bills.
A service called Cash Pickup Powered by Ria is available at Walmart, and lets you take out up to $900 in cash at one time.
Additional Benefits of Being an American Express Serve® Card Member
Two other great features of the card are Amex Offers and Membership Experiences.
Amex Offers is a program that allows you to add “deals” for shopping, dining, and entertainment purchases periodically.
These offers get updated every few weeks. If you like one, simply add it to your card and use it by the expiration date.
Membership Experiences is an entertainment portal that offers access to tickets and events that you might not otherwise have access to. It is always worth a check to see if there is something that catches your eye!
Just like AMEX credit cards and charge cards, the pre-paid debit card also offers access to other benefits like:
- Purchase protection
- Fraud protection
- Roadside assistance
Some Items to Consider Before Becoming A Card Member
Remember that because this is a prepaid card, it can’t help you build up your credit.
Because of the card’s prepaid nature, though, it can be a good tool for those who are trying to keep a limit on their spending and/or stick within a budget.
Summary of the Card
Overall, if you are looking for a handy prepaid card that will allow you to take care of banking on the go, the American Express Serve® Card can do the job. While there are some minimal fees, they are avoidable.
American Express Serve Card holders have access to more than 24,000 MoneyPass ATM locations across the U.S which can be accessed for free. You also get other nice perks that are offered free to AMEX charge and credit card holders.
These include roadside assistance if you happen to have a vehicle emergency, purchase protection for items that you’ve bought with your card, and free customer service from American Express representatives.
Most beneficial, perhaps, are the Amex Offers and Membership Experiences that provide potentially high-value discounts or experiences you could not otherwise get.
Great Card If
- You’re looking for a convenient way to replace your banker without the hassle of a checking account
- You are seeking a fee-friendly prepaid card
- You want an easy way to limit your spending
- You don’t want to carry around a lot of cash
Don't Get If
- You want to build up your credit
- You want to use a lot of out-of-network ATM locations
- You do a lot of international transactions
U.P. Pro Tips
Why consider the American Express Serve® Card? Why not!
If you’re on the go and you’re looking for a convenient way to pay bills without all of the traditional banking fees, then this can offer you a great solution.
Direct deposit, online bill pay, low (or no) fees, and the ability to check your balance and conduct transactions from just about anywhere.
What else could you ask for in a convenient prepaid card? How about cash-back? The Cash Back Card offers 1% cash back on all purchases.
How To Use the American Express Serve®: The Upgraded Way
How To Really Maximize Your Use of the Card
There are many ways that you can benefit from using the American Express Serve® Card. Here are some ways to help make sure you get the most out of it right from the start:
Tip #1: If you will be adding sub-accounts to your card, it is important to be sure that a parent or guardian is the primary account owner. No one under the age of 18 can be an account owner.
Tip #2: For those who are hoping to build up their credit, this card can’t help there, though it is convenient to use. With that in mind, you may also want to consider opening a credit card in addition to your Serve account.
That way, you will be able to start (or continue) building up your credit and your credit score, while at the same time taking advantage of all the many benefits that the card has to offer.
Best Way To Redeem Points
The American Express Serve® Cash Back Card collects cash-back that can only be used in the form of credit to your account. Once accumulated, you simply apply it to your account for a direct deposit!
There are no travel partners, but they do partner with MoneyPass ATM for free withdrawal at over 24,000 locations.
When compared to other prepaid cards, the American Express Serve® Card can definitely make sense, especially in terms of its low (or no) fees. Here’s a look at the math as far as what fees cardholders are charged for different types of transactions:
|American Express Serve® Card||Green Dot||NetSpend||RushCard|
|Card Price||$0 Online / Up to $3.95 in retail locations||$0 Online / Up to $4.95 in retail||$0 Online / Up to $4.95 in retail||Up to $9.95 Online / $3.95 in retail|
|Monthly Fee (No fee in TX, NY, VT)||$1 or $0 when you direct deposit $500+||Up to $7.95||Up to $9.95||Up to $7.95|
|Card Reloads||Up to $3.95 (varies by retailer)||Up to $4.95||Up to $3.95||Up to $4.95|
|Mobile Check Deposit||$0||–||–||1% or 4% of check value|
|Add Money from a Bank Account||$0||$0||$0||$0|
|ATM Withdrawals||$0 at MoneyPass ATMs / $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs / (ATM operator fees may apply)||$0||$2.50||$0|
|Online Bill Pay||$0||$0||$0||$0|
|Send and Receive Money||$0||$0||$0||$0.99|
|Set Aside Money in Reserve||$0||–||$0||$0|
|Card Replacement||$0||$4.95||$9.95||No fee for 12 months; $4.95|
|24/7 Customer Service||$0||–||–||–|
|Purchase Protection on Eligible Purchases||$0||–||–||–|
|Foreign Transactions||2.7% after conversion to U.S. dollars||3.0% of total transaction||3.5% of total transaction||3.0% of total transaction|
|Cash Pickup Powered by Ria||Up to $9.49 per withdrawal|
Is the Cash Back Card Worth It?
The American Express Serve® Cash Back Card offers 1% cash-back for all purchases, but costs $5.95 per month (equivalent of $71.40 per year).
It’s important to calculate whether that 1% cash-back will be worth it before you pay the fees.
To pay it off, you will simply need to spend enough in a year to earn over $71.40 in cash-back, which is simple to calculate at 71.40/0.01 = $7,140.
So, if you will spend over $7,140 on your Cash Back card each year, you will get your value back from this card!
The Gritty Details: Everything Else You Need To Know
Any time you’re considering a prepaid, charge, or credit card, it is important to have a good understanding of just exactly what it does and doesn’t include. So being familiar with the gritty details can be helpful!
(For this card, a more in-depth synopsis can be found in the card member agreement).
The American Express Serve® Card can provide a number of benefits, including reducing the cost of your everyday banking. With this card, when you deposit at least $500 per month, the monthly membership fee is waived. (In some states, there is no monthly fee at all.)
Some Things To Consider Regarding the Card
Prior to diving into any banking transaction, you should understand that there will likely be both pros and cons; this card is no exception. With that in mind, there are a few items to consider with regard to the American Express Serve® Card.
For instance, even though the card has access to more than 24,000 free ATM locations, you will run into a fee of $2.50 for out-of-network ATM transactions. So, before moving forward, you might want to be sure that there is a MoneyPass ATM location near you!
Also, you will also be charged a fee each time you reload the card. Be sure to add $3.95 to your fee chart each time you go to put funds on the card, which could make it somewhat pricey depending on how often you load it up.
In addition, all card holders have to be at least 18 years of age. If you’re seeking a way to have the card for a teen, a parent or guardian will still need to be the primary user.
The Serve card also charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so if you tend to conduct international transactions or travel overseas regularly, then this could get expensive.
Other Unique Features
The American Express Serve® Card also offers a number of other features, such as:
Free online bill pay – Card holders are able to pay any recurring bill for free using their Serve account, regardless of whether the bill requires a card payment or a paper check.
Free ATM withdrawals – Serve cardholders also have free access to more than 24,000 MoneyPass ATM locations nationwide.
Free check cashing with mobile app – Using Serve’s mobile app feature, cardholders can also cash checks for free. All you need to do here is open the app on your smartphone and take a picture of the check.
Free sub-accounts – Card holders can also open up to 4 additional sub-accounts at no additional charge, provided the other individuals are at least 13 years of age. This will allow users to send and receive money between the accounts and take care of other banking needs.
Roadside assistance – If your vehicle breaks down or has a flat, assistance can be arranged through the roadside assistance plan.
Purchase protection – You can protect items you’ve purchased with your card for up to an additional 90 days.
Fraud protection – If your card gets lost or stolen, you’ll be protected against fraudulent purchases.
Card holders can also access American Express customer service. So if you have an issue, a question, or a concern, you can talk directly with a live representative 24/7 to find a solution right away.
Summarizing the Card
Overall, the card provides a number of really nice attributes for a prepaid card. While there are a few fees that cardholders will be subject to, this card is still on the low side in terms of nickel-and-diming you!
Plus, it also comes with some added benefits that American Express credit and charge card members get, such as purchase protection and roadside assistance.
American Express also offers a variation of the Serve card that allows you to obtain 1% cash-back on purchases, although this version also comes with a monthly fee.
For those who are careful with their spending and also want to benefit from the conveniences of banking on the go, then the American Express Serve® Card can be a great way to do so.
Photo Credits/Credit/Copyright Attribution:
Frustrated Shopper: Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock
Man Shopping Online with Card: Syda Productions/Shutterstock
Withdrawing Money at the ATM: ImYanis/Shutterstock
While many prepaid cards can really hit their holders with fees, the card is a pleasant surprise in that it offers a lot of free attributes along with some nice additional benefits.
For those who are looking to build (or rebuild) their credit score, this card isn't going to get you there since it isn't a credit or a charge card. In fact, the card won't even show up on a credit report.
However, it can provide a long list of positive features when you're comparing it to other cards in the prepaid niche. For example, it offers an extremely competitive fee structure overall.
In addition, the benefits include other things such as Purchase protection, Roadside assistance, Fraud protection, and Free customer service access.
It is better to get your card online than from an in-store retailer. This is because doing so online is free, while getting the card from a physical retailer can cost up to $3.95.
Plus, if you get the card from a store, you will still need to register it online and then wait for a permanent Serve card to arrive in the mail.
The funds that are held in a prepaid card account are not always as safe as those in a regular checking or savings account, because prepaid cards are not required to insure against bank failure.
However, account funds are FDIC insured up to the very same $250,000 per-depositor limit that applies to a traditional bank account. This can provide cardholders with a great deal of peace of mind!
There is an annual direct deposit limit of $100,000.
You can use any other travel rewards credit card with the American Express Serve® Card. If you spend enough, your best bet would be to get the Cash Back card in addition to a rewards card that has bonus points for one of your biggest spending categories.
Most people do well with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card since it earns 2x points in travel and dining, which covers a broad area of spending!
Yes. The Bluebird from American Express is very similar. It does not require a minimum deposit to avoid fees and can be used to pay bills online.