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Earlier this month, I wrote that American Express would introduce a new version of Serve which offers cash back.
But for most folks, it’s NOT a good deal. I’ll explain!
What’s the Deal?
Link: American Express Serve
But you’ll pay a $5.95 monthly fee (except folks in New York, Texas, and Vermont) and up to $3.95 to reload the card with cash, debit, or PIN-enabled gift cards at locations like Walmart, CVS, and Family Dollar.
Note: Remember, you must choose between AMEX Serve, Bluebird, or Target Prepaid REDCard. You’re only allowed 1 type of these cards per person.
With the American Express Serve Cash Back card, you’ll only earn cash back on purchases. So transactions like paying bills, transferring money to others, or withdrawing funds to your bank account will NOT earn anything!
And unlike the Green Serve (Free Reloads) card, you’ll still pay a ~$4 fee every time you reload the card. That’s not a good deal at all, and negates the value of the cash back you earn!
Most folks do NOT use Serve for purchases. Instead, they load their AMEX prepaid accounts with PIN-enabled gift cards (purchased with a credit card) to meet minimum spending requirements. Then pay bills that can’t normally be paid with a credit card, like utilities or loans.
You will NOT earn cash back for bill pay!
And there are lots of no-fee credit cards that earn more cash back for regular spending, including:
- Discover It – Earn 1% cash back on all purchases (doubled at the end of the 1st 12 billing cycles for new cardholders, so effectively 2% back for the 1st year)
- Discover It Miles – Earn 1.5 miles per $1 you spend (doubled at the end of the 1st 12 billing cycles for new cardholders, so effectively 3% back for the 1st year)
- Citi Double Cash – Earn 1% cash back on purchases and 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases in full or over time
- Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express – Earn 2 Fidelity points per $1 (2% cash back) on all spending, when you deposit your rewards points into a Fidelity account
What About Paying Utilities, Rent, or Taxes?
Some bill payment services charge a lower (or NO fee) when you use a debit card instead of a credit card.
For example, you’ll pay a small flat fee when you use a debit card to pay income taxes (compared with fees of 1.87% to 2.35% when you use a credit card).
And rent payment services like RadPad don’t charge any fees for debit transactions.
However, folks report when you use your Serve card as payment on these types of sites, the purchase is coded as a credit (NOT debit) transaction, and you’ll pay the same fees as using any other credit card.
So you’re better off paying directly with a credit card that earns more cash back or miles & points if you’re trying to meet minimum spending requirements.
There’s Still a Fee-Free Serve
Earning 1% cash back on purchases with the Serve Cash Back card is generally not worth it for most, especially considering you’ll pay a monthly fee plus reload fees.
Folks might consider registering for the ONE VIP version of American Express Serve. There’s no fee to reload it, and you’ll only pay a $1 monthly fee ($0 if you add at least $500 to the card each month, or if you live in New York, Texas, or Vermont).
I don’t know how long the ONE VIP Serve card will be available.
The new Serve Cash Back prepaid card earns 1% cash back on purchases in-store and online. It’s NOT a good deal.
You will NOT earn cash back for transactions like paying bills, transferring money, or withdrawing to your bank account.
Plus, you’ll pay a ~$6 monthly fee and ~$4 each time you reload the card. You’ll likely pay more in fees than you’ll earn in cash back!