American Express Serve Prepaid Card Review

(Editor Rating)



The American Express Serve card offers a low fee prepaid debit card with all the benefits Amex has to offer. A prepaid card with a roadside assistance hotline and purchase protection? Yep. Here’s our detailed review.

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Customer Service




  • Low Fees
  • Amex Level Services
  • Cash Back Potential

Editor's note - You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.

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It’s now been several years since I began covering the prepaid market. Over those years, there have been major changes to prepaid debit cards.

First fees began to come down, to the point that many prepaid cards are free. Then some major companies entered the market, such as Wal-mart and Chase. Then American Express took it to the next level with a card called Serve.

Think of Serve as a prepaid account, not just a card. It now comes in two different types: the original Serve and Serve Cash Back. First, we’ll talk about the features these options share, and then we’ll talk about what sets them apart.

Main Amex Serve Features

All version of the Serve card come with the following features:

  • Free Early Direct Deposit
  • Free Online Bill Pay
  • Free ATM withdrawals at over 24,000 MoneyPass® ATMs

That last feature is critical. ATM fees can cost a small fortune if you need access to cash on a regular basis. With the Amex Serve card, you have plenty of free ATMs.

Now let’s look at some features that many prepaid cards don’t offer.


Subaccounts are an easy way to give allowance to your kids or even pay the babysitter. Each person with a subaccount gets his or her own Serve card. You can then transfer money to these cards and set a spending limit. You could even use this feature to help budget your money.

Bill Pay

With Serve, you can pay anyone with free online bill pay. You can even write a check online. American Express will take care of sending a check to anyone you need to pay. You can also use this feature to pay individuals.

Free ATM Withdrawals

You can use your Serve card to withdraw cash for free at 24,000 MoneyPass ATM locations around the nation. You can use other ATMs, but you’ll pay a fee for the privilege.


Money added to your card is held by American Express in one or more FDIC-insured banks.

Adding Money to Serve

Serve offers several ways to add money to the card. There is, of course, direct deposit. You can have your employment check or government benefits check deposited directly to the card.

There are several other ways to add cash to the card.

  • Transfer Money: You can transfer money from a bank account or another Amex Serve card for free.
  • Cash Reloads: You can load cash on the card from many retail stores, such as CVS, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Rite Aid, Walmart and 7-Eleven.

American Express Benefits

Serve prepaid cardholders enjoys many of the benefits offered by American Express credit and charge cards.

  • Purchase Protection: When you buy with the Serve card, this Amex benefit can protect you against accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days.
  • Fraud Protection: Amex protects you against fraudulent transactions if your card is lost or stolen.
  • 24/7 Customer Service: Get help with your account whenever you need it.
  • Amex Offers: Get offers and access to sporting and entertainment events. You can also explore a range of shopping and dining offers.
  • Travel Protection: Amex offers a roadside assistance hotline you can call for help.

Pros and Cons


  • Low Fees
  • Amex Level Services
  • Cash Back Potential
  • FDIC-Insured
  • No Credit Check Required


  • Doesn't Improve Credit

Two Versions of the Serve Card

There are two primary versions of the card. One offers cash back on purchases, while the other does not. With the cash back version, however, the fees are slightly higher.

Here are the details.

Original American Express Serve

The thing that once made this card wonderful–its lack of monthly fees–is still there. You won’t pay anything to sign up for the card online. And the monthly fee is $1, but it’s waived if you direct deposit $500 or more per month onto the card. Direct deposit and adding money from most bank accounts is free, as is making withdrawals at qualified MoneyPass ATMs.

Unfortunately, it does cost money to do a cash reload on this card–up to $3.95 per transaction. But you can do most other transactions, including adding subaccounts, for free.

American Express Serve Cash Back

Once again, this card is free to open online. But it costs $5.95 in monthly fees, except in Texas, New York, and Vermont. And cash reloads cost up to $3.95, depending on where you load the card. You can see how the fees on this one could add up quickly.

So why pay the money? Because you’ll get unlimited 1% cash back on all your purchases.

So let’s say you pay the monthly fee and only use direct deposit, so you aren’t paying fees for cash reloads. If you spend at least $595 per month on the card, you’ll earn back the fee. Spend more than that, and you’ve got extra cash in your pocket.

Of course, if you’re spending this amount of money on a prepaid card, it may be time to consider moving to a traditional bank account and a cash back credit card. But if for some reason that’s not in the cards (pun intended), the American Express Serve Cash Back could be a good option. Just be sure you use it enough to outearn the fees you’ll pay.

All in all, if you need to use a prepaid card–or if you want to use one for your kids–this is a pretty good option. The low-fee original card is a good place to start. But be sure to look at how you plan to use and reload the card. Then look for the one that will get you the lowest possible fees.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1080
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.
Article comments
victoria laingren says:

can i have my husbands and my tax return atomically put on my serve card

Rob Berger says:

Victoria, according to the Serve website, they do not accept direct deposit for government funds.

Patricia Piazza says:

I have had my tax return deposited into Serve several times.

bob says:

I have never used one of these cards so pardon my ignorance. How do you put money on this card ie if I want to use it once a month to pay a bill, how do I put the cash on the card?

Rob Berger says:

Bob, the best way to add money to a prepaid card is either through a transfer from a bank account or direct deposit. In the case of an Amex prepaid card, you can also add money with an American Express card. To add cash to a prepaid card, you’d need to use a MoneyPak, which you can buy at most convenience stores. But it will cost $4.95.

Melissa says:

Will using a Pre-paid card like this help build credit, i.e., rebuild a poor credit score?

Eric says:

Far as I’ve heard / know it won’t .None of pre-paid cards will. If I’m wrong hopefully Rob above will correct me.

jess says:

Rob, can u refill at a local store like Walmart to add money? They sell prepaid cardsas well and can refill it right at the register.

jess says:

I meant rob* sorry. And work local* typo

Rob Berger says:

Jess, you can’t refill at a Walmart store, although Walmart does offer an Amex prepaid card called Bluebird that enables you to reload the card at Walmart stores.

James says:

How does Serve Prepaid Card from American Express differ from Bluebird by Amerian Express



Melinda K Cline says:

Need advice. Please.

SD says:

Will I be able to apply for the card, and sign up for direct deposit at a later date if I desire to do so?

Rob Berger says:

Yes. You can sign up for direct deposit any time.

Emma Landon says:

Serve prepaid card from American Express is bogus. Many of my bill collectors accept American Express, so I have to withdraw cash to pay my bills. I am being denied access to my funds. This is a prepaid card, not a credit card!! The money on this card is mine and I need it now.l

Emma Landon says:

I meant the bill collectors do not accept American Express.

steph says:

Serve is an awful cards with awful customer service! I know from experience! Pay a LITTLE more and get the prepaid Visa!

Porsche says:

I love American Express only thing is that i have to withdraw money inorder to make some purchases.

Patricia Piazza says:

Serve can be used anywhere American Express is accepted for purchases.

Ellen Simpson says:

The American Serve card helps me to lay that debit and credit card down. It helps me watch my spending. I could not use it at Sam’s and that bothered me. But overall I like it andI have had only positive results with customer service.

Tommy says:

what is the minimum load amount for these cards

Tracy Sarris says:

DON’T GET THIS CARD! My AMEX Serve account was hacked several weeks ago. I was notified my account information was being changed and I called AMEX right away and told them to shut down the account. 20 minutes later, they still had not shut down the account and I watched as my account was drained while they were still playing 20 questions and transferring me around to different people. Two weeks later, I finally get my money back in my account and try to access it with my new card I received today. It declines and I get an email that my account has been permanently suspended. I called and was told I may not get my money back at all. I would have to write a complaint and there was no guarantee. I was recently laid off and have no income coming in right now. I need this money – it is not theirs to keep. I have done nothing wrong and was the victim, yet they have treated me like I did something wrong. I have now been on the phone with four different customer service representative and they all keep saying there is nothing they can do “but they understand and am very sorry”. This has to be illegal! I did nothing wrong and they said there is no one I can talk to or any way for them to change the system so I can get my money out. I will be filing a consumer complaint and hopefully will be able to get an attorney to go after them on contingency. How may people do they do this to? Imagine how much money this can add up to for them. Epic fail for @AmericanExpress #AmericanExpressFail

Dimenya D Banner says:

why cant I use my card at cash point atm . But it will let me withdraw money from a bank that charges me $3