American Express Serve customers will be able to add money to their accounts for free starting in November. A partnership with InComm and the Vanilla Reload Network will allow Serve account holders to add cash to their prepaid accounts at the registers of more than 14,000 7-Eleven or CVS/pharmacy locations across the country.
Other ways that Serve customers can add money to their accounts for free will include direct deposit and mobile check capture. Paychecks or government benefits can be sent directly to people’s Serve accounts at no charge using serve.com. Customers will also be able to take pictures of checks via smartphone and have the money added to their account via the Serve mobile app.
Charging a fee to add money to prepaid accounts is not unusual; a Javelin Strategy & Research study cited by American Express showed that 41% of underbanked consumers – people who are unable to qualify for a traditional bank account– pay a fee between $3 and $4 every time they reload their prepaid cards. Prepaid card users who reload their cards twice a month at that rate would save between $72 and $96 per year with the Serve card.
New monthly fee can be avoided
Along with the announcement of these new free cash-loading capabilities, American Express said that they would begin charging a monthly fee for Serve starting December 3, 2013. Previously, Serve was one of a handful of prepaid cards on the market that did not charge a monthly fee. American Express points out that the fee, at $1 per month, is among the lowest on the market. An Aite Group study of popular prepaid cards reported an average monthly fee of $4.57.
The $1 monthly fee will be waived for customers who use the direct deposit option at least once each statement period, and for customers who load at least $500 on the card each month using any method.
More money management features
Besides free cash loading, American Express will offer Serve customers more ways to keep track of and manage their funds. They have partnered with LearnVest, to offer free educational content through their website, and are also giving customers the option to link a savings account to their Serve prepaid account. The savings account, called Reserve, is free for Serve customers and will allow them to put away funds via one-time or recurring transfers between their Serve and Reserve accounts.
Customers can also set up bill payments from their Serve accounts so bills are paid on time automatically. People can set up a Serve account online now at serve.com. By the end of 2013, Serve will be available for purchase at CVS/pharmacy, Family Dollar, Office Depot, Walgreens and Duane Reade for $2.95.