American Express Serve Card Review

The American Express Serve Card is a prepaid debit card that makes it easy to avoid hidden bank fees when you buy something, make deposits, or initiate an ATM withdrawal. You can also get multiple cards for various purposes. And if someone steals your payment details, they provide additional security as the thief can’t withdraw cash from your checking account. But choosing the correct Serve Card can be difficult as there are four different options. In this American Express Serve Card review, I’ll cover all of the key features and help you pick the best card.

Table of Contents
  1. What is the American Express Serve Card?
    1. Who Can Get a Serve Card?
  2. American Express Serve Card Fees
  3. The 4 Serve Card Types
    1. Serve Direct Deposit
    2. Serve Cash Back
    3. Serve Free Reloads
    4. Serve Pay As You Go
  4. Best American Express Serve Features
    1. No Credit Check
    2. Free ATM Withdrawals
    3. Purchase Protection
    4. Serve Mobile App
    5. Low Balance Alerts
    6. Multiple Reload Options
    7. Free Subaccounts
    8. Amex Offers
    9. FDIC Insurance
    10. Emergency Assistance
  5. American Express Serve Card Pros and Cons
    1. Pros
    2. Cons
  6. Who Is the American Express Serve Card Best Suited for?
  7. American Express Serve Alternatives
    1. ACE Flare Account
    2. Netspend
    3. Walmart MoneyCard
    4. Chime
  8. Final Thoughts

What is the American Express Serve Card?

The Serve Card is a free prepaid debit card. You don’t need a credit check or bank account to apply, but you do need a Social Security number. I should point out, Serve offers four prepaid cards: 3 Amex-branded and 1 Pay As You Go Visa Prepaid Card. Here are some of the key features:

  • Free Reloads: Free cash reloads at local stores.
  • Cash Back: Receive 1% back on transactions for future purchases
  • Direct Deposit: No monthly fee with qualifying direct deposits and no transaction fees
  • Pay As You Go: No monthly fee but you pay fees for each transaction, reload, or withdrawal

The purchase fee is $0 online and $1.50 in-store. It’s possible to order one or multiple cards as a primary user. You can add subaccounts for free, but your primary card may incur a monthly fee ($0-$7.95). You will receive banking details for direct deposit purposes.

Your card can also pay bills or make online and in-store purchases. Prepaid debit cards are convenient if you’re unbanked or want to avoid overdraft fees and other standard banking fees. Alternatively, you can opt for a free online checking account with more features and no monthly service fee.

Learn more about Serve

Who Can Get a Serve Card?

You must meet these three requirements to order a Serve Card:

  • Are least 18 years old (19 in Alabama and Nebraska)
  • Social Security number
  • Email address

It’s free to add subaccounts for authorized users age 13 or older. As a result, you might consider using this product as a debit card for kids. However, other options can be better to manage chores, automate allowance payments, and access budgeting tools.

American Express Serve Card Fees

Each card has a different fee schedule. So the best Serve card for you may depend on how you plan on using your card most often. This table highlights the most common prepaid card fees.

Free ReloadsCash BackDirect DepositPay As You Go
Monthly Fee$6.95$7.95$0 with at least $500 in qualifying monthly deposits (or $6.95)$0
Cash Reloads$0Up to $3.95Up to $3.95Up to $3.95
Transaction Fees$0$0$0$1.00
ATM Withdrawals$0 at MoneyPass ATMs$0 at MoneyPass ATMs$0 at MoneyPass ATMs$2.25

In addition to these fees, you also pay a one-time $1.50 order fee if you buy a card at a local store ($0 if you order online at Serve.com).

Learn more about Serve

The 4 Serve Card Types

With Serve, flexibility is the name of the game. Let’s take a closer look at the 4 different card types and the main benefits of each:

Serve Direct Deposit

The Serve Direct Deposit Card has a monthly fee of $6.95, which Serve waives if you set up a payroll or government direct deposit (min. $500). It’s an American Express-branded card and is the best option if you want to avoid the following fees:

  • Monthly service fee
  • Transaction fees
  • ATM withdrawals

Cash reloads are up to $3.95 but ATM Withdrawals are free at MoneyPass ATMs.

Serve Cash Back

With the Serve Cash Back card, each purchase earns an unlimited 1% cashback on every in-person or online purchase. The rewards you earn are deposited into your cash balance so you have more money to use on your next transaction. This is the only Serve Card that earns cash rewards. As this card has a non-waivable $7.95 monthly fee, you must determine if the rewards you earn will be enough to offset the fee.

At a minimum, you will need to spend at least $800 per month to break even. This card might be ideal if you don’t earn enough in qualifying direct deposits. For example, your employer may still print a paper check that you mobile deposit through the Serve App.

Even though you pay an annual fee, you won’t pay a transaction fee on purchases or for MoneyPass ATM withdrawals. Tip: Also use cashback rebate sites to earn bonus cash on most online purchases.

Serve Free Reloads

If you handle a lot of cash, you can use the Serve Free Reloads product to waive the in-person reload fee that other prepaid cards and online-only banks charge. You can make free cash deposits at over 45,000 locations, including:

  • CVS
  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • Rite-Aid
  • Walmart
  • 7-Eleven

You can deposit between $20 and $500 per cash reload. The Serve Card mobile app can help you find nearby reload kiosks. While you pay a $6.95 monthly fee, you avoid the maximum $3.95 reload fee the other cards charge. You also get free in-network ATM withdrawals and no transaction fees.

Serve Pay As You Go

If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee or rarely plan on using your card, consider the Serve Pay As You Go card. This card is a Visa product instead of American Express. Most merchants accept both but are still more likely to welcome Visa as the processing fees are typically lower. While you won’t pay a monthly fee, you will pay these fees:

  • Transaction fees: $1
  • ATM withdrawals: $2.25
  • Cash reloads: Up to $3.95 (varies by merchant)

Learn more about Serve

Best American Express Serve Features

As you can see, each card comes with a specific perk, like the 1% cashback or free cash reloads. A suite of benefits accompanies each card too.

No Credit Check

Unlike a regular credit card or some bank accounts, none of the Serve prepaid cards require a credit check. You can also buy these cards for free online. On the downside, you won’t build credit as this isn’t a credit card.

Free ATM Withdrawals

You can make surcharge-free ATM withdrawals at the 30,000+ MoneyPass ATMs. Only the Pay As You Go Card charges a withdrawal fee ($2.25 each time).

Purchase Protection

Qualifying purchases have up to $1,000 in purchase protection (up to $50,000 per year) for accidental theft or damage during the first 120 days. You’re also not liable for fraudulent purchases if you lose your card or have it stolen. However, you should report these transactions ASAP to dispute the purchase and get a replacement card.

Serve Mobile App

The Serve App is available for Android and iOS devices. App features include:

  • Remote check deposit
  • Barcode reloads (perform cash reloads with showing your physical card)
  • Manage multiple Serve accounts
  • Request or send money with other Serve customers
  • Get direct deposit details
  • 24/7 customer service

Low Balance Alerts

You can receive text message alerts when your card balance is running low and it’s time to refill.

Multiple Reload Options

You can add funds in the following ways:

  • Direct deposit
  • Mobile check deposit
  • In-store cash reloads

If you forget your physical Serve Card, you can add money at the 45,000+ reload stations by having the cashier scan your app barcode.

Free Subaccounts

After ordering your primary card, you can add subaccounts to free for people 13 years or older.

Amex Offers

You can activate one-time shopping offers to earn cashback at participating stores and restaurants. In-store or online purchases can be eligible. These limited-time promotions are one way to earn cashback even if you choose the Free Reloads or Direct Deposit product.

FDIC Insurance

Your cash balance has FDIC insurance up to $250,000. You will also enjoy free liability protection against fraudulent purchases. Consider storing your extra cash in a high-yield savings account to earn interest and plan for long-term goals.

Emergency Assistance

When traveling at least 100 miles from home, you can reach out to Serve customer support for emergency travel, medical, and legal assistance. The phone call is free but you pay for any third-party fees. You can also get roadside assistance when you’re at home or traveling. Once again, the service call is free but you pay the service provider to get your car running again.

American Express Serve Card Pros and Cons

If you’re looking for a prepaid debit card, there’s a lot to like about the Serve lineup of American Express and Visa cards. But they also have a few limitations. For one, because Serve is not a credit card, you can’t use it to build credit. To help, I’ve created the following list of Serve pros and cons:

Pros

  • No credit check
  • Avoid debit card fees
  • Direct deposit and cash reloads
  • Multiple cards to choose from

Cons

  • Monthly fee waiver not available on all cards
  • Multiple cards can be confusing
  • Only the Cash Back card earns cash rewards
  • Doesn’t build credit

Learn more about Serve

Who Is the American Express Serve Card Best Suited for?

The American Express Serve Cards are ideal for anyone who wants the flexibility and security of a prepaid debit card. It’s also an option for anyone who doesn’t have a regular bank account, for whatever reason. The Serve Cards offer great value, especially if you can qualify for the monthly fee waiver. If you don’t, you’ll have to decide if the other benefits (free cash reloads, 1% cashback, or no transaction fees) are worth it.

American Express Serve Alternatives

The Serve family offers many benefits but you may prefer a card with more straightforward pricing or different features. Here are a couple of other prepaid debit cards worth considering:

ACE Flare Account

The ACE Flare Account has a monthly fee of $5 with at least $500 in monthly direct deposits ($9.95 otherwise). Some of the other benefits include:

  • Direct deposit
  • No-fee cash withdrawals at ACE Cash Express locations
  • Optional high-yield savings account (up to 6.00% APY)
  • Cash back shopping offers

Read our ACE Flare review to learn more.

Netspend

The Netspend Visa Prepaid Card and Prepaid Mastercard offer monthly and pay-as-you-go plans. The monthly plan costs $5 with at least $500 in direct deposits (or $9.95). You won’t pay a transaction fee but ATM withdrawals are $2.95 and cash reloads cost up to $3.95. Pay as you go users don’t pay a monthly fee but incur a $1.50 transaction fee. The ATM and cash reload fees are the same as for monthly users. Find out how to get a $20 Netspend referral bonus.

Walmart MoneyCard

If you’re a Walmart shopper, the Walmart MoneyCard can be a better fit as you can earn cashback on purchases at the store. Benefits include:

  • Up to 3% back on Walmart purchases
  • Earn up to 2% APY on savings
  • Free cash withdrawals at Walmart stores
  • Up to $200 in overdraft protection

The monthly fee is $0 with at least $500 in direct deposits ($5.94 otherwise). You also pay a one-time $1 card purchase fee. Also, each cash deposit is $3 at Walmart Money Centers (free in the Walmart app) and up to $5.95 at other local kiosks.

Chime

Chime is a financial technology company where it’s free to open a spending account and a savings account. The platform also offers a secured credit card to help you build credit. It can be easier to qualify for as it’s a second chance bank account. You can open an account here even if you can’t open one at a traditional bank due to previous mistakes.

Some of the account perks include:

  • No monthly service fees
  • No transaction fees
  • 60,000+ fee-free ATMs
  • Up to $200 in overdraft protection
  • High-yield savings account
  • Online bill pay

While you won’t receive a paper checkbook, you can have Chime mail checks on your behalf. This perk is helpful when the merchant doesn’t accept debit card payments (or they charge a processing fee). Read our in-depth Chime review to learn more about their service.

Learn more about Chime

Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Please see back of your Card for its issuing bank.

Final Thoughts

The American Express Serve prepaid cards tend to charge fewer fees than most prepaid debit cards. In addition, you can easily access your money and reload your balance. As there are four different cards to choose from, decide which features you need the most to help pick the best card. Of course, you can also select more than one if you want more ways to maximize your money habits (just make sure you understand the ongoing fees).

American Express Serve Card

8.9

Product Rating

8.9/10

Strengths

  • No credit check
  • Avoid debit card fees
  • Direct deposit and cash reloads
  • Multiple cards to choose from

Weaknesses

  • Monthly fee waiver not available on all cards
  • Multiple cards can be confusing
  • Only the Cash Back card earns cash rewards
  • Doesn’t build credit

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About Josh Patoka

After graduating in $50k with student loans in May 2008 from Virginia Military Institute with a B.A. International Studies and Political Science with a minor in Spanish (he studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain for 3 months), Josh decided to sell his soul for seven years by working in the transportation industry to get out of debt ASAP and focus on doing something else with a better work-life balance.

He is a father of three and has been writing about (almost) everything personal finance since 2015. You can also find him at his own blog Money Buffalo where he shares his personal experience of becoming debt-free (twice) and taking a 50%+ pay cut when he changed careers.

Today, Josh relishes the flexibility of being self-employed and debt-free and encourages others to pursue their dreams. Josh enjoys spending his free time reading books and spending time with his wife and three children.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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