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American Express Goes Head To Head With PayPal With Its New Serve App, Service

American Express Goes Head To Head With PayPal With Its New Serve App, Service

March 28, 2011
American Express has released a new app called Serve. The app allows users to send and receive money from anywhere in the United States, using the company’s new digital payment platform. With Serve, consumers can make purchases and person-to-person (P2P) payments online, via the iPhone/iPod touch app, and at merchants who accept American Express cards. Serve unifies multiple payment options into a single account that can be funded from a bank account, debit, credit or charge card, or by receiving money from another Serve account. According to Dan Schulman, Group President, Enterprise Growth, American Express:
“Serve is a new type of payment platform that isn’t tied to a single card or mobile operating system. It’s a flexible, easy to use platform, which from day one brings tremendous assets to the alternative payments space and gives consumers an option to shop on-line and off-line at millions of merchants who accept American Express.”
In order to encourage users to sign up for Serve, American Express is waiving fees for the first six months. However, these fees – once implemented – could become pricey, depending on how you use the service. The two fees, which are waved, are:
  • Putting money into a Serve account: 2.9% + 30c/per load, discounted to 0% for cash, debit and ACH.
  • ATM cash withdrawal (after first one each month free): $2.00
Serve will remind most users of the Paypal service. However, there is one difference: Serve offers users the ability to create, manage, and specify sub-accounts. These accounts are linked to the master account and allow users to set spending profiles for others. For example, instead of giving your kids a $25 per week allowance as cash, you could assign them a Serve subaccount. From there, they could use their allowance using the Serve app.

To sign up for Serve, simply download the app and begin the registration process, or do so online. To actually use the service, you will be asked to provide two of three verifications: a bank account, credit card number, or the last four digits of your social security number. Serve customers will receive a prepaid reloadable Serve debit card in the mail, which can be used anywhere American Express cards are accepted. After playing around with Serve for a while, I am left with three concerns: First, those fees are nothing to sneeze at and might turn off users following the six month introduction. Second, since the service's appeal is being able to send money to others, its success will depend on how many of your friends and family actually use it. Finally, are the sub-accounts enough reason to stop using Paypal? Time will tell. What do you think? Leave your comments below. Serve is available in the App Store.

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