New to American Express Serve? Here’s What You Need to Know

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If you’re new to American Express Serve or are considering switching to Serve from a Bluebird account, you might have questions about how Serve works.

Serve is a prepaid card and is similar to Bluebird in many ways, but there are some differences.  But many of the features will be familiar to you if you’ve had Bluebird before!

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

You Can Use American Express Serve to Pay Bills and Earn Miles & Points

What Can You Do With Serve?

Link:   American Express Serve

Link:   Sign-Up for American Express Serve

American Express Serve has many of the features of an online bank account.  You can add funds, direct deposit, pay bills, deposit checks, transfer money, and withdraw cash from ATMs.  And you can create sub-accounts for your partner, kids, babysitter, or anyone you’d like.

1.   Add Funds

Link:   Add Funds to Serve

You can add money to your Serve account in several different ways.  Most of us are looking for ways to add fund (to pay bills) that involve directly or indirectly using a miles and points credit card.  The good news is, Serve lets you do both!

a)   Cash, Debit, or Gift Cards Loads at a Store

If you want to reload your Serve account, you can do so at the following stores:

  • CVS (cash only)
  • 7-11 (cash only)
  • Walmart (cash and debit only)
  • Family Dollar (cash, debit, AND gift cards)

Many folks have been switching to Serve now that Family Dollar allows loading with PIN-enabled gift cards.  But you’re limited to $500 per day.

Walmart also lets you load Serve with some gift cards (Vanilla Visa gift cards do not work).

You can buy gift cards with a miles-and-points earning debit card at places like office supply stores, malls, CVS, and online.

Note:   You can also load Serve with Vanilla Reloads, but most stores will no longer sell them with a credit card.

The limit for loading Serve with cash, debit, gift cards, or Vanilla Reloads and MoneyPaks is $2,500 per day or $5,000 per month.

However, folks have reported that trying to load more than $500 in 1 day at Family Dollar with a gift card results in the 2nd transaction being declined!  This Flyertalk thread has a lot of good information on the Family Dollar situation.

b)   Load Serve Online From Your Bank Account, Debit Card, or AMEX Credit Card

You can also directly load your Serve account from your bank account, debit card, OR AMEX credit card online!

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

Add Funds to Serve Directly From Your AMEX Credit Card, Debit Card, or Bank Account

You’ll need to link your bank account, debit card, or AMEX credit card to your Serve account before you can add funds.  Do NOT try loading a gift card online, because it will freeze your account!

The limits for adding funds in this way are as follows:

  • From your checking or savings account$2,000 per month
  • From your debit card:   $200 per day and $1,000 per month
  • From your AMEX credit card:   $200 per day and $1,000 per month

You must use your own credit or debit card to load your Serve account, not your partner’s.

American Express transactions will not earn points and miles, but you can meet the minimum spending requirements.  And you will earn miles and points with 3rd-party AMEX cards like the US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards American Express card.

c)   Add Checks or Direct Deposit

You can deposit checks to your Serve account using their mobile app (for iOS and Android devices).  You take a photo of the check using your phone and it deposits into your account!

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

Use the Serve Mobile App to Deposit Checks and More

You can also set up direct deposit, much like a normal bank account.

The limits for adding checks or making direct deposits to your Serve account are $2,000 per day and $10,000 per month.

Note:   There is an add money limit of $10,000 per month TOTAL to your Serve account.  This includes transfers, direct deposits, and adding money from your bank account.

2.   Withdraw Funds

Link:   Serve ATM Withdrawals

Link:   Serve Bill Pay

Link:   Serve Transfer Funds

You can remove funds from your Serve account by ATM withdrawals, bill pay, and transferring money to other folks with Serve accounts (or to your own bank account)!  And remember, Serve is like a debit card, so you can make purchases in-store or online anywhere American Express cards are accepted.

a)   ATM Withdrawals

You can withdraw cash at any ATM that accepts American Express cards.  And in the US, if you use a MoneyPass ATM, there are NO fees.  Otherwise, the fee is $2 at other ATMs.

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

Withdraw Money for Free at Over 24,000 ATMs in the US

Here’s the MoneyPass ATM locator if you want to see where the nearest 1 is to you.  You’re limited to withdrawing $750 per day and $2,000 per month.

b)   Bill Pay

You can pay almost any bill online (even things like rent, handymen, or babysitters) with Serve.  Once you’ve added your payee details and the amount you’d like to send, Serve will process the payment and either send it electronically (for registered payees, like credit card companies) or by mail (like to your landlord).

This is a great way to pay bills!

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

Pay Almost Any Bill Online Using Serve Bill Pay

Note:   One of the disadvantages of Serve is that they do NOT issue paper checks like Bluebird does!

c)   Transfer Money

You can transfer funds to other Serve account holders from your computer or mobile device.  And if you wish, you can transfer funds back into your own bank account.

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

You Can Send and Receive Money Between Serve Account Holders, or Transfer to Your Bank Account

3.   Create Sub-Accounts

Link:   Create Serve Sub-Accounts

You can create sub-accounts for family members or other folks you need to pay on a regular basis.  Perhaps your kids are at college and you’re giving them an allowance, or you have a regular babysitter you’d like to pay.  Each sub-account comes with its own card, but you can see where the money’s being spent.

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

Pay Your Babysitter or Kid’s Allowance by Creating Sub-Accounts

Serve also lets you create separate reserve accounts you can use for saving for a big purchase or a trip.

Are There Fees?

Link:   American Express Serve Fees and Limits

You’ll pay minimal to no fees on your Serve account.

If you buy a temporary card at 1 of the following retailers, you’ll pay ~$4 for the card:

  • CVS
  • Duane Reade
  • Family Dollar
  • Fred’s Super Dollar
  • Office Depot
  • Sheetz
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Once you register your card online, you’ll get a permanent card in the mail in 7 to 10 days.  You can use the temporary card, but you won’t have access to many Serve features like bill pay and credit card loading online.

If you choose to sign-up online without buying a temporary card, it costs nothing.  You’ll still wait 7 to 10 days for your new card to come in the mail.

You’ll pay a monthly fee of $1 per month (except in New York, Texas, and Vermont).  If you receive a direct deposit, add more than $500 to your account, or have your card in Softcard (a device that lets you pay with your phone), the fee is waived for that month.

Everything else is free, unless you withdraw cash from a non-MoneyPass ATM.  In that case, you’ll pay $2 per withdrawal.

What About Softcard (formerly Isis Wallet)?

Link:   Serve and Softcard (Isis Wallet)

Note:   Isis Wallet has been renamed Softcard.  American Express is in the process of updating their graphics and websites with the new name.

Softcard (formerly named Isis Wallet) is an app you can download to some smartphones that allows you to make contactless payments with your phone.  If you have an iPhone, you’ll also have to buy a special case that allows you to use Softcard.  Other phones have the technology built in.

New To American Express Serve Heres What You Need To Know

Link Your Serve Card to Softcard to Make Contactless Payments

When you register your Serve account with the Softcard app, you’ll be able to make contactless purchases directly from your Serve account using your phone.  Not all retailers allow Softcard payments, so check their location finder 1st to see if it makes sense for you.

But most folks are interested in Softcard because it increases the online debit card and AMEX credit card load limits to your Serve account.  Normally, you can only load $200 per day and $1,000 per month using a debit card or AMEX credit card.

Serve with Softcard allows you to load $500 per day and $1,500 a month using a debit or AMEX credit card.  So if you need to meet a lot of minimum spending requirements, Serve with Softcard could be a better option for you.

Bottom Line

Serve is a prepaid card account, much like an online bank account, with many similar features to Bluebird.  You can add and withdraw funds, pay bills, and transfer money to yourself or other Serve account holders.

You may find Serve useful because you can load it directly with an AMEX credit card online to help pay bills and to earn miles & points.  And now you can use gift cards (bought with a miles and points earning credit card) to load Serve at Family Dollar stores.

There are no paper checks with Serve like there are with Bluebird.  And you may pay a $1 monthly fee, or $2 for withdrawing cash at non-MoneyPass ATMs.  But otherwise, there are no fees.

Have you used Serve or recently switched from Bluebird?  How do you like it?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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54 responses to “New to American Express Serve? Here’s What You Need to Know

  1. @Daraius : Very complehensive post. Full of information !!
    Keep up the good work!!

  2. “And if you wish, you can transfer funds back into your own bank account.” I was wondering about this, but it seems like asking for an investigation/shutdown. Am I just being too cautious? Have other people had good luck with this?

  3. Very comprehensive post with all information required being posted as always… thanks for that.
    Do I need to shut down my BB account for getting Server account created? I love the free 100 check, which I got with BB and would like to use them instead of paying for getting check from my bank.

  4. Since Amazon Payments has now dried up, I’m starting up on this now.

  5. Hi

    You said that Vanilla visa can not be loaded to Serve at Walmart. How about One Vanilla? does it work?
    I know both of them do not work for Bluebird. I am wondering if I can use One Vanilla to load Serve since it has cheaper activation fee.

    Thanks

  6. Is there any benefit to having the Bluebird account over Serve?

  7. @Yongfang – OneVanilla Visa cards do not work at Walmart to load BB, Serve or to purchase money orders in my experience.

  8. Can you load Serve at Walmart MoneyCenter kiosks with debit cards? Or can you only load Serve at cash registers/customer service?

  9. Very nice overview. I’ll need to get started on this now that AMZ is no more. It sounds like a great way to move cash through my credit cards to pay rent. Let’s say my rent is $500:

    Move $1000 into serve via 5 credit card transactions
    Move $500 int serve via direct transfer from bank account

    Send $1500 check to landlord.

    If I’m reading the post correctly, these transactions won’t incur any fees – correct?

  10. The trouble I’m having is that I can’t find an office store that will let me pay for a cash gift card with a credit card… do those still exist? Or should I just give up, do that transfer-from-credit-card thing to get 1 point per dollar (better than nothing for usually no-point things like rent)?

  11. I recently switched from Bluebird to Serve. I think this card has a lot of benefits. The main one is that you can load money to the card with a credit card! That will help make paying bills easier and I won’t have to pay the $3.95 and $4.95 fees that come with buying loadable cards.

  12. Since I can load money with a credit card, and some cards don’t charge a cash advance fee for this, and then I can pay bills such as credit card companies…doesn’t that mean I could load money onto Serve with a credit card, and then use that money to pay off that same card??

  13. @Daraius …for god sakes man, can you not mention the word gift card for Family Dollar. Just reference any GC as a debit card please. Its funny for WM you just mention cash and debit but for FD you mention cash, debit and GC. GC = debit cards and that is how they should be referenced as and that goes for everyone.

  14. You covered almost everything, but failed to mention that it’s a pain in the ass to change which credit card is linked to your Serve account. Choose one that you’ll want to continue to use. You can only have 1 credit card linked to it at a time and to link it, you have to speak to a CSR and they confirm w/ the bank that the card is issued from.

  15. You said ” And you must use your own credit or debit card to load your Serve account, not your partner’s”. Is it OK if you are an additional card holder on your parterner’s account and have your own card?

  16. @ Daraius & All
    There are all negetive reviews about Serve. Horrible customer service, account lock, holding the money for a long time etc. Any feedback from the users here !! Please share !!

  17. WIll the iPhone 6 on Sprint work with Serve with Softcard / ISIS Wallet? It has NFC tech built in….

  18. @Morgan

    Sprint doesn’t allow any of its phones to use the Serve with Softcard because in order to use the Softcard Wallet, you have to have a Secure (enhanced) SIM card of which Sprint does not support. Even with Verizon/AT&T/Tmobile you have to manually request a Secure SIM at a store. Sprint only supports Google Wallet at the moment.

    With the iPhone 6 I don’t know how that is going to work but I assume it will work with Apple Pay but not with any other type of mobile wallet programs out there since you won’t need a Secure SIM card.

  19. @ Daraius & All
    In all forums there are mostly negetive reviews about Serve. Horrible customer service, account lock, holding the money for a long time etc. Any feedback from the users here !! Please share !!

  20. D, you are the man. Love the article. Is there a maximum amount we should avoid loading directly onto our Serve account with a credit card? I know Serve lists its own limits for daily and monthly loads by credit card directly, but I’m still wondering if doing it too often or being close to your limits will lead to a frozen account?

  21. Clarify please?

    You say “American Express transactions will not earn points and miles. ” Do you mean if the CC is an american express it won’t work? Or are you saying if you use a CC to deposit money the CC issue will not credit points/miles?

  22. Daraius-Good info as always. You always have the clearest instructions. As for Serve customer service, I doubt that it is worse than Bluebird.

  23. Daraius: Heads Up, Just got hit with cash advance fees when I used US Bank Club Carlson Visa to load Serve. Believe this started on 10/09 with this card. TIO

  24. Thanks for the info- but HOW exactly do I transfer funds from my serve account directly to my bank account? I don’t see an option for this-thanks

  25. Hi Daraius,
    Just switched to SERVE from BB. 3 questions:
    1) I just got ISIS device for my iPhone 5, how do I tell Serve so I can get the higher monthly load limit?
    2) How does I ADD other credit cards to use to fund my SERVE acct.?
    3) How much can I download directly into my bank acct. without causing concern by AMEX?

    Thank you as always,
    Gary

  26. Is there a maximum amount that can be loaded daily or monthly onto Serve using a credit card? By the way, I confirmed with Chase that there’s no cash advance fee is using the Ink Business Plus card to load Serve.

  27. ok…found the bank acct. link I needed (it’s kind of hidden) but I DESPERATELY need an answer for this….if spouse and I each have a separate Serve acct-spouse is already signed up with our joint checking….can I link that same account to MY serve? (I need to do a bank acct transfer for one certain bill) or do I need to link a different bank account under my account? I can’t find this info anywhere

  28. I funded $1,500 (signed up with ISIS Wallet) my Serve account with my Chase Business Ink Plus card in early November (7th, 9th, and 10th) and just had to *pay* $151.84 in cash advance fees. Interest starts accruing on these right away it seems. It’s no longer a pending/maybe problem, but it is really happening. Was coded as Sale->Finance & Other, but cash advance fee charged nonetheless. Switching to Barclay Arrival card next month.

  29. Is there anyway to confirm with your credit card company BEFORE funding your Serve account that cash advance fees will or will not be applied? If you have to pay a 10% “penalty” like Rich, this is a losing proposition.

  30. Any update on using iphone 6 with serve?

  31. Does the Chase Business Ink Plus card charge a cash advance for AMEX Serve? I shut off the cash advance feature on the card, and it won’t let me load the $200 onto Serve. I’ve read various reports on this. Any insight?

  32. Does Chase Business Ink Plus card charge a cash advance for AMEX Serve? I shut off the cash advance feature on the card, and it won’t let me load the $200 onto Serve. I’ve read various reports on this. Any insight?

  33. I tried to load using a Sapphire card and the Business Ink Plus card but it gave me a “Risk Operation Decline Error”. Does anyone know what this means?

  34. I’ve had Serve for a few months now. I love it! And since I’m on checks systems due to some stupid decisions when I was younger, this card really allows me to have some financial freedom. My question is…when I look on my statement on the mobile app, I see a “Thanks for using your card” $1 credit, what is this about? Us it really a credit to my account for using my card?

  35. I’m thinking of switching from BB to Serve. How do you load these at the Walmart kiosks? There’s an obvious Bluebird button for when you load a BB, but there’s nothing for Serve. What button do you need to use?

  36. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the recent comments about the change in coding as cash advance. I just looked at my Chase CC account and the amount of available cash advance limit is lower. So it looks like it will be a cash advance. BE WARNED!!!

  37. serve locked my account after my wife and i tried to use credit card that was in her name to (load up the serve account on my name.) then i called them up and they asked me to upload drivers license, credit card photos etc to the serve account. so USE ONLY CARDS THAT HAVE YOUR NAME.

  38. Hi,
    Can you let me know how to reload serve with visa debit gift cards (purchased from Staple)? Do I need to go to Walmart and etc to reload? Or can I do it online?
    Thanks,
    James

  39. I just tried to load $450 from my Visa debit GC to Serve at Family Dollar today and there was a message on the cashier’s screen in red. It said something about Visa tender. I tried twice, but it didn’t work. I didn’t have the option of entering a PIN or anything.

    Cashier said it shows as a credit card, and that’s why. I will try another location.

  40. @everyone – While Serve website states to call the credit card company to confirm if a card load via CC would be considered a cash advance, when I called Chase (CC company) they mentioned that it’s really depends on how the charge comes in. I called Serve and the agent confirmed that loading a Serve card via CC would be sent as a cash advance.
    Chase also mentioned that a cash advance cannot be paid off till your cycle ends so you get stuck paying the APR on cash advance as well as the cash advance fee.

  41. I tried adding more funds from my linked debit card, it only allows me to put $200 on it. I have tried to add more daily, but an error comes up about protective service and to call a number.

  42. How do I transfer money back to my bank account? which link do i use for this? I don’t have another serve account, and i can’t use bill pay it seems?

    If you could email me that would be very helpful.

  43. I had this card for a couple of months now and I must say it was a mistake to get it. Yes, reloading the card is somewhat easy – Seven Eleven etc… But if you try to do something advanced, like getting a money transfer from someone not in the Serve system, you’ll be disappointed. No such option exists (but the “money transfer” info on the site never mentions that you can only get a transfer from another Serve user – good luck getting mor of those!). The Direct Deposit option is no good for this (and frankly, it wasn’t any good for my employer, who refused to do a Direct Deposit because “Serve” is not a “real bank” and their direct deposit info is not accepted by most corporations when it comes to payroll). So, if you are looking for a truly versatile prepaid card, keep looking!

  44. On the Amex Serve FAQs – Note: Starting April 16, 2015 you will only be able to use an American Express Card if you want to load your account with a credit card. Discover, MasterCard and Visa credit cards will no longer be supported after April 16.

    Serve still accept debit cards (no change). Was wondering if can add your Google Wallet debit card number/info (you can get a physical GW card besides the phone app) to your Serve account as a funding source? At the Google Wallet website after you login, you can have your Google Wallet balance funded by a variety of sources (most are free) including a credit card of your choosing (but there is a 2.9% fee for credit cards by Google for doing plus possible cash advance fees for some but not all credit cards depending on your issuer).

  45. Can someone help me. I called Family Dollar Store. They will not take VISA GC to upload to serve. Why is the info on this website wrong???

  46. Can i transfer the money on the serve card to my bluebird card?

  47. Lauraine,

    Try a different Family Dollar store. It varies from store to store. I don’t know the exact reason but I’ve been to like 10 different stored and about 60% of them accept Visa GC.

    The problem i’m having is that I cannot load more than one Serve card at the same store. I have multiple Serve card and the 2nd transaction is always declined.

  48. AMEX CC load to Serve does not earn points but do they count as purchase since I want to get Diamond level with Hilton Honor membership.

  49. I’ve had my Serve card for a few weeks and for a prepaid card its really good. The fees are low and easy to avoid if you use Moneypass ATMs and reload the card at Walmart or other free service centers. I can’t speak for the direct deposit system, but I do want to notify people about the mobile check cashing system. DO NOT USE IT IF YOU NEED YOUR MONEY. The system currently has a 6 business day waiting period before the check your cashing clears and the money is deposited on your card. I could find no notice of this extended processing time until after the check was cashed, its not even in the fine print with the card, as the system wasn’t active when the information was printed. So now I’m stuck waiting 8 days to have access to my paycheck, I could have mailed my check to a bank and had the money deposited quicker. So, unless your cashing a personal check from someone and you don’t need the money anytime soon, I would recommend not cashing your check thru their system.

  50. Is my Family Dollar the only one that is completely off put by this? I have gone to two, both were very much unhappy. Yet Walmart with a kiosk is too far.

  51. I absolutely love my Serve card, especially because it’s accepted at ATMS worldwide. Or it was, until 1/6/16. Not anymore. Total pain if you live in a city on the MX border and cross regularly. BONK!

    I’ve also had glitches with some online merchants accepting the Serve card if I happen to be connecting from a MX IP address. Never mind that I live in a border town, and my billing address is maybe 2/10ths of a mile from the border fence. HP, Toys R US, Costco will accept the order and then a few minutes later they cancel it claiming the charges were rejected which is false – in each case, the charge was accepted by Serve AND a pre-auth or hold has been placed on the funds.

    There have also been glitches with Pay Pal transfers in both directions, but that was a Pay Pal problem

    I have direct deposit and always use domestic ATM’s within the Serve network, so the only time I was paying fees was when I withdrew from a foreign ATM. I don’t recall the exact percentage that was charged, but calculating in with the fees, the exchange rates were very favorable. Sadly Serve is no longer compatible with the international banking network. I don’t know why but hey they just cut their nose off to spite their face because they’re not going to get any fees from me if I can’t withdraw from Mexico.

  52. Hey! Great article. I was hoping you could explain how using a serve card can help me earn points, when it in fact is an unconventional debit card?