American Express Serve® Card Review

Nov 09, 2016 | Be First to Comment!

American express serve

If you need a prepaid debit card with no credit check, no minimum balance requirement, and no hidden fees, the American Express Serve® card may be just what you’re looking for. This card offers a low monthly fee, along with free ATM access at more than 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide.

All you need to register for an American Express Serve® account is an Internet connection and the card is just as easy to use as it is to get. Not only that, but it comes with many of the perks you’d expect from American Express.

What Is American Express Serve®?

American Express Serve® is a prepaid, reloadable debit card that can be used virtually anywhere American Express is accepted. For example, you can use the card to pay bills, shop online, withdraw cash at MoneyPass ATMS or pay for everyday purchases. If your friends or family members have Serve accounts, you can also use your card to send and receive money with no fee.

Main Features of the American Express Serve® Card

The American Express Serve® card has a lengthy list of features and benefits. We’ve highlighted the ones that we think hold the most appeal for prepaid card users:

  • Low monthly fee - It’ll cost you just $1 each month to maintain your Serve account. The fee drops to $0 if you load $500 or more to your card each month via direct deposit.
  • No minimum balance - Some prepaid cards penalize you if your balance drops below a certain amount. American Express Serve® doesn’t require you to have a set amount of cash in your account.
  • Mobile check deposit - It’s easy to add money to your card using mobile check deposit. To use this feature, you just need to download the free American Express Serve® app to your smartphone.
  • Free ATM withdrawals - There’s never a fee to withdraw cash with your American Express Serve® card at a MoneyPass ATM. The fee for withdrawals at non-MoneyPass ATMs is $2.50 per transaction.
  • Free reserve account - If you want to save up for a big purchase or a weekend getaway, you can park extra cash in your reserve account until you’re ready to use it. This is a separate account that’s linked to your American Express Serve® card and it’s free to transfer money in and out.
  • Subaccounts - If you want to add other users to your Serve account, subaccounts are the answer. You can set up a subaccount with its own Serve card for anyone over age 13. As the main accountholder, you’re able to set limits on spending and review each card’s transaction history.
  • Free budgeting tools - American Express Serve® members can use the Insights feature to track and categorize their spending. If you have trouble sticking to a budget, that can be a huge help.
  • American Express benefits - Your American Express Serve® card comes with complimentary fraud protection and purchase protection, along with 24-hour roadside assistance and access to the American Express Global Assist travel hotline.

Card Fees

The American Express Serve® card is fee-free for the most part but certain transactions will cost you extra. For example, adding cash to the card at a participating retailer will cost you up to $3.95 each time. You can load cash at thousands of places nationwide, including Walmart, Rite Aid and Family Dollar.

If you’re using the card for an international purchase, a 2.7% foreign transaction fee applies. Finally, if you use your card to get cash at a Walmart store, you’ll pay up to $9.49 for each withdrawal.

American Express Serve®

American Express Serve® American Express Serve® FREE Reloads American Express Serve® Cash Back
Card Price $0 Online Up to $3.95 in retail locations $0 Online Up to $3.95 in retail locations $0 Online Up to $3.95 in retail locations
Monthly Fee (No fee in TX, NY, VT) $1 - or - $0 when you Direct Deposit $500+x $4.95 $5.95
Cash Back - - Unlimited 1% Cash Back on purchases, no annual cap (Added to your Account to use for future purchases. Account spend limits apply.)
Cash Reloads Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer) $0 at over 45,000 locations including CVS/pharmacy®, Dollar General®, Family Dollar®, Rite Aid®, Walmart® and participating 7‑ELEVEN® locations Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer)
Direct Deposit $0 $0 $0
Mobile Check Deposit $0 $0 $0
Add Money from a Bank Account $0 $0 $0
ATM Withdrawals $0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply. $0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply. $0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply.
Online Bill Pay $0 $0 $0
Send and Receive Money $0 $0 $0
Set Aside Money in Reserve $0 $0 $0
Subaccounts $0 $0 $0
Card Replacement $0 $0 $0
24/7 Customer Service $0 $0 $0
Purchase Protection† on Eligible Purchases $0 $0 $0
Foreign Transactions 2.7% after conversion to US Dollars 2.7% after conversion to US Dollars 2.7% after conversion to US Dollars
Cash Pickup Powered by Ria® Up to $9.49y per withdrawal Up to $9.49y per withdrawal Up to $9.49y per withdrawal

How The American Express Serve® Card Stacks Up

American Express Serve® 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+x Up to $7.95 (Provider offer reduced fees plans or fee waivers based on qualifying activities) Up to $9.95 (Provider offer reduced fees plans or fee waivers based on qualifying activities) Up to $7.95 (Provider offer reduced fees plans or fee waivers based on qualifying activities)
Cash Reloads Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer) Up to $4.95 Up to $3.95 Up to $4.95
Direct Deposit $0 $0 $0 $0
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
Subaccounts $0 $4.95 $4.95 $0
Card Replacement $0 $4.95 $9.95 Free for 12 months; $4.95
24/7 Customer Service $0 - - -
Purchase Protection† on Eligible Purchases $0 - - -
Foreign Transactions 2.7% after conversion to US Dollars 3.0% of total transaction 3.5% of total transaction 3.0% of total transaction

Opening an American Express Serve® Account

There are two ways to open an American Express Serve® account: online or at a participating retailer. There’s no fee to register online and signup takes just a few minutes. You’ll need to provide your name, address, email, phone number, date of birth and Social Security number. American Express uses your Social Security number to verify your identity but it won’t affect your credit.

Once you’ve created your account, your American Express Serve® card will be mailed out to the address you used to register. If you need it faster, you can purchase a temporary card at any store where they’re sold. You’ll have to pay a purchase fee of up to $3.95 but you can add as much as $500 to the card right away. You can get a personalized card by registering your account at Serve.com.

Loading Money to Your American Express Serve® Card

You can add up to $100,000 a year to your American Express Serve® account using:

  • Direct deposit
  • Mobile check deposit
  • Cash reloads in-store
  • Checking/debit/credit transfer
  • Serve transfer

Direct deposit is the easiest way to get paid if your employer offers this service. If you enroll your Serve account for direct deposit you can get your paycheck up to two days sooner. Even better, there’s no fee to reload using direct deposit.

Mobile check deposit is also free if you’ve got the American Express Serve® app. You simply open the app, sign the check, snap a picture of the front and back and submit the transaction. Just be aware that it can take up to six business days for checks deposited through the mobile app to be credited to your account. Mobile check deposits are limited to $2,000 per day.

Adding cash to your card in-store is convenient since the money is available right away. The fee for cash reloads varies by retailer but it’s never more than $3.95. You can add up to $2,500 in cash per day and up to $5,000 per month.

You have three options for transferring money onto your American Express Serve® card from an outside account. You can either initiate a wire transfer from your bank, transfer funds from a linked debit card or transfer money from an American Express credit card. The monthly limit on bank account transfers is $2,000. The limit for debit and credit card transfers is $200 a day, up to $1,000 a month.

Finally, if you know someone with a Serve account you can have them transfer money directly to your card. American Express caps Serve-to-Serve transfers at $10,000 per month.

Transaction Limits

Besides limiting how much money you can add to your Serve card, American Express limits what you can spend. In general, you can spend or withdraw up to $100,000 per year but there are set limits for different transactions. Here’s how they compare:

  • Retail/online purchases - $15,000/month
  • Bill payments - $15,000/month
  • Send money transactions - $2,500/month
  • ATM withdrawals - $750/day
  • Walmart cash pickup - $900/day; up to $2,900 for tax refunds that are deposited directly to your card

It should be noted that you can only spend, withdraw money or pay bills up to a combined total of $15,000 each month. To stay within the $100,000 annual limit, you’d have to average $8,333 in combined spending on a monthly basis.

American Express Serve® vs. Bluebird

The American Express Serve® card isn’t the only prepaid card American Express offers. There’s also the Bluebird card, which is billed as an alternative to a traditional checking account. On the surface, the American Express Serve® card and the Bluebird card are very much alike but there are some key differences.

Most significantly, the Bluebird card has no monthly fee or foreign transaction fee and it comes with check-writing capabilities. That might be preferable to someone who hasn’t gotten the hang of paying bills online yet. You can read MyBankTracker’s head-to-head breakdown of the two cards here.

American Express Serve® vs. Bluebird

Bluebird by American Express American Express Serve®
Card Price $0 Online Up to $5 in retail $0 Online Up to $3.95 in retail locations
Monthly Fee (No fee in TX, NY, VT) $0 $1 - or - $0 when you Direct Deposit $500+x
Cash Reloads $0 (cash reloads only available at Walmart) Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer)
Direct Deposit $0 $0
Mobile Check Deposit $0 $0
Add Money from a Bank Account $0 $0
ATM Withdrawals $0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply. $0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply.
Online Bill Pay $0 $0
Send and Receive Money $0 $0
Set Aside Money in Reserve - $0
Subaccounts - $0
Card Replacement $0 $0
24/7 Customer Service - $0
Purchase Protection† on Eligible Purchases - $0
Foreign Transactions $0 2.7% after conversion to US Dollars

Final Verdict

If you value convenience and low fees in a prepaid card, American Express Serve® delivers in a big way. The reserve account is also a nice little extra for anyone who’s ready to start working on their savings goals.

We wouldn’t recommend this card, however, if you frequent merchants that don’t accept American Express or do a lot of traveling abroad. Ultimately, the American Express Serve® card is best for everyday spenders who regularly use direct deposit and have access to MoneyPass ATMs.

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