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American Express Serve Review: More Choices, Fewer Fees

Dec. 11, 2018
Banking, Prepaid Debit Cards
American Express Serve Prepaid Debit Card Review: More Choices, Fewer Fees
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

American Express Serve Prepaid Debit Card

4.5 NerdWallet rating

 

American Express National Bank

at American Express National Bank,

Member, FDIC

The American Express Serve prepaid debit card offers helpful features without hidden fees. There are three different versions of the Serve prepaid debit card: the basic Serve (reviewed here), Serve Free Reloads and Serve Cash Back.

With a low, avoidable monthly fee, the basic Serve card will likely be the top choice of the three for most people. If you’re looking for an alternative to a bank account, this card offers many of the same services and features.

The bottom line

  • A low-fee alternative to a traditional bank account.
  • A feature that lets you set money aside for future goals.
  • A large ATM network that allows free withdrawals.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best prepaid debit cards

Our Ratings
General fees4.5 stars out of 5
Purchases and withdrawals4.5 stars out of 5
Reloads3.5 stars out of 5
Other services4.5 stars out of 5
Overall4.5 stars out of 5

Read on for more details about the Serve card’s fees and services.

General fees

4.0 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • A low $1 monthly fee.
  • No purchase fee when you order the card online.
  • No inactivity fee.
  • A $500 monthly direct deposit is required to waive the $1 fee.
  • Up to $3.95 when you buy the card at a retail location.

The American Express Serve prepaid debit card has some of the lowest fees among prepaid debit cards. Over a year, the monthly maintenance fees add up to just $12. For residents of New York, Texas or Vermont, there is no monthly fee.

Purchases and withdrawals

4.5 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • No fees for signature or PIN-based purchases.
  • The MoneyPass network of 24,000 ATMs allows for fee-free withdrawals.
  • A $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee assessed by American Express.
  • Merchant acceptance may be limited.

Serve charges fewer transaction fees than many prepaid debit cards. There are multiple ways to spend your balance without paying fees.

» Check out other American Express prepaid options: NerdWallet’s Bluebird review

Reloads

4.5 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • Free reloads with direct deposits, mobile check deposits and online bank transfers.
  • The card can be reloaded with cash for up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer).

You can avoid fees by using electronic features to reload the card. And you can load cash for a fee at thousands of retailer locations, including: CVS, Dollar General, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven.

Other services

4.5 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • Free online bill payments.
  • No-cost balance inquiries online, through the app or at MoneyPass ATMs (fees by out-of-network ATM operators may apply).
  • Customer service available 24 hours a day via phone.
  • A “reserve” that functions like a savings account to set aside money for future goals.
  • Check-writing option.
  • The Reserve account doesn't earn interest.

The Serve card offers many features for free that other prepaid cards charge for or don’t offer at all. For example, it offers “reserve,” which is similar to a savings account that allows recurring transfers to build toward a future goal.

Cardholders aren’t charged for adding or transferring money to “subaccounts” for their kids or another payee, replacing cards or a long list of other services.

» Is prepaid right for you? What you need to know about prepaid debit cards

Still curious about the other Serve cards?

Compare the costs for the three Serve cards below.

 ServeServe Free ReloadsServe Cash Back
Purchase price
$0 online, up to $3.95 in person
Monthly fee$1 (waived with $500 monthly direct deposit)$4.95$5.95
Unlimited 1% cash back?NoNoYes
Cash reloadsUp to $3.95$0 at more than 45,000 retail locations, including CVS, Dollar General and WalmartUp to $3.95
All other fees are the same across the three cards.

Many options, straightforward fees

American Express National Bank

at American Express National Bank,

Member, FDIC

The American Express Serve prepaid debit card has low fees and many helpful services.

If you want to avoid fees completely, the BlueBird prepaid debit card by American Express is also a good option.

Weigh the options and choose the prepaid card that makes sense for you. If you decide to go with an AmEx Serve card, skip the purchase fee and order your card online for free.

Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each category: general account fees, transactions and funds access, reloads and other services. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include fees, ATM access, reload options, breadth of merchant acceptance, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to prepaid debit card ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid

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