American Express Serve is an absolute must have tool for manufactured spending. This post will cover everything about Serve accounts, including best uses for travel hacking.
Serve is a prepaid account that reminds me of a full service checking account. After signing up online for free, they mail you a personalized Serve Card with your name on it. Your new Serve account includes the following:
- Fantastic online bill pay feature that allows payment to businesses or individuals
- The ability to transfer to other bank accounts and setup direct deposits
- Free ATM withdrawals at all MoneyPass ATMs
- FDIC insurance
- Purchase Protection through American Express
Serve charges a $1 Monthly Fee (except in NY, TX and VT)
But you can get that fee waived if you load $500 or more to your Account in each billing cycle.
Don’t worry about the fee, because you won’t pay it. If you signup for Serve you should always be loading more than $500/month, as I’ll show below.
Travel Hacking With Serve
Update 01/2016: American Express has shut down most Serve accounts used for manufactured spending. It now looks like any large loads to Serve will result in your account being blocked, effectively rendering Serve dead for manufacture spending purposes. You can still sign up for new accounts, but expect to be blocked after making a few large loads via credit card or gift card.
Online Credit/Debit Loads
All Serve accounts allow online credit and debit card loading. Each month, you can use this for manufactured spending purposes.
Normal Serve Accounts have the following limits:
- Online Debit Card Load – $200/day and $1,000/month
- Online Credit Card Load – $200/day and $1,000/month
You can only make online loads with American Express cards.
It is possible to automatically set up recurring online loads to make life easier. You can do so in account settings.
Keep in mind that you can only link one credit card to your Serve account for online loading. If you switch credit cards, be prepared to call Amex and “verify” your identity. For some reason they don’t like any card switching and it’s very annoying to do each time.
Additionally, All online loads must be initiated by the primary or joint cardholder. You cannot do an online load with someone else’s credit card. You can sometimes load Serve with cards that have you listed as an authorized user, but it seems to be hit or miss.
Loading Serve at Walmart
There are other uses for Serve in addition to the easy online loads. You can load your Serve account with any debit card at Walmart stores nationwide. This includes prepaid cards that have a pin. This opens a lot of other manufactured spending possibilities.
For example, you could use your credit card to buy $500 Visa Gift Cards, and use those to load your Serve card at Walmart. (Read more here)
There are limits to store loads, just like online loads:
- $500/swipe, $2,500/day and, $5,000 total per calendar month (Softcard doesn’t get any advantage here)
With these two methods described, you can load up to $7,000/month with Serve. And if you direct deposit or add cash to your Serve account, the total monthly limit is $10,000. So keep that in mind before you make huge direct deposits or transfers from another bank.
Serve Review Summary
American Express Serve is the best prepaid card currently available. Easy online loads, Walmart loads, and a boatload of promotions from American Express make this a great travel hacking opportunity. Grab a free account and get started.