[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]
When you start shopping around for a prepaid debit card, you should be looking for a few things: low (or no) fees, the possibility for rewards and a card that’s, simply put, easy to use and manage. The American Express Serve is a top contender in the prepaid debit card market for all of these features.
What Is American Express Serve?
American Express Serve is a prepaid debit card you can get at a number of retailers or online via the American Express website. As a prepaid debit card, Serve works like this: you load money onto the card, which you then can use almost anywhere American Express cards are accepted. Here’s a list of some of the major retailers where you can purchase a temporary American Express Serve card:
- Dollar General
- Family Dollar
- Rite Aid
Once you purchase a temporary card, you can sign on to the American Express Serve site to register for a personalized account and get some of the long-term benefits of being a cardholder. You can also sign up for a personalized card directly on the American Express site if you don’t want to get a temporary card at a retailer — you can save up to $3.95 by doing this as retailers may charge a fee to purchase the card. You don’t need credit to get a Serve card, but you will need to provide a Social Security number when you sign up in order for American Express to confirm your identity.
There are actually three different kinds of Serve cards you can sign up for, depending on whether you want to earn rewards for your spending or want extra flexibility for reloading your card. Here are the three different Serve cards and how they compare. (Be sure to read the full terms and conditions of any card before you apply as terms are subject to change.)
The standard American Express Serve comes with these features (among others):
- Free early direct deposit. You can get your money up to 2 days earlier with this feature. If you direct deposit $500 or more, you can avoid the standard $1 monthly fee.
- Free MoneyPass ATM withdrawals. MoneyPass has 24,000 locations where you can make free withdrawals with your Serve card. A $2.50 fee is charged by AmEx when you use Serve at non-MoneyPass ATMs (in addition to any fees you could incur from the ATM operator).
- Cash reloads cost up to $3.95 depending on retailer.
- Free online bill pay, card replacement and card reload from a bank account (fees from your bank may apply, however).
- An app that lets you manage your money from your phone.
American Express Serve FREE Reloads
In addition to all of the benefits of the standard American Express Serve card, the Free Reloads option comes with these features:
- Large network of retailers (45,000+) where you can load cash onto your card for free. Retailers include CVS, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Rite Aid and Walmart, among others.
- $4.95 monthly fee. The standard card has a $1 monthly fee unless you direct deposit $500 or more. The $4.95 fee for the FREE Reloads version of the card cannot be avoided by direct depositing.
And lastly, the Cash Back version of the Serve card includes the features of the standard Serve card, plus:
- $5.95 monthly fee.
- Earn 1% cash back on every dollar you spend on online or in-person purchases. The amount you earn is rounded to the nearest dollar. For example, if you make a $2.49 purchase, you’ll only earn cash back on $2, not $3.
- Cash back is unlimited, though currently sub-account holders cannot earn rewards. The cash back is deposited into your account and can be used as you see fit.
Is American Express Serve a Credit Card?
American Express Serve is not a credit card. It is a prepaid debit card and as such, has fewer consumer protections than a credit card.
A common and understandable misconception about prepaid cards is that they can help you build credit. The American Express Serve will not help you build credit even though it looks and feels like a credit card. If you’re looking for a card that will help you build credit, check out our list of the best secured cards on the market right now. Secured credit cards require a deposit that then “secures” a line of credit, allowing you to build credit if you have no credit history or have made some mistakes in the past and are having trouble getting approved for a standard credit card. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com and track your progress as you make strides to improve it.
At publishing time, the American Express Serve Cash Back is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for thiscard. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.