American Express Serve® cards: Could one work for you?

A young couple buy fries at a food truck using an American Express Serve card Image: A young couple buy fries at a food truck using an American Express Serve card

In a Nutshell

The American Express Serve® cards come in three different flavors. The most notable is the American Express Serve® Cash Back card, which earns you 1% cash back on your spending. It’s a great option for people who spend a lot on their prepaid debit cards and don’t want to miss out on cash back rewards.

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Compare American Express Serve® prepaid cards

American Express Serve® American Express Serve® Free Reloads American Express Serve® Cash Back
Purchase price $0 online, up to $3.95 in retail locations $0 online, up to $3.95 in retail locations $0 online, up to $3.95 in retail locations
Monthly fee $6.95 (waived when you direct deposit at least $500/month; no fee in TX, NY, VT) $6.95 (no fee in TX, NY, VT) $7.95 (no fee in TX, NY, VT)
Cash back rewards None None 1% cash back on purchases
Cash reload fee Up to $3.95 $0 at participating locations Up to $3.95

There are three different American Express Serve® prepaid cards. While each is slightly different, they all offer these same basic features.

  • Getting a card: You can get any of the American Express Serve® cards for free online — or you can get them at some retailers, where you may pay a fee of up to $3.95.
  • ATM withdrawals: If you need to withdraw cash, you can use MoneyPass® ATMs for free, or you can pay a $2.50 fee (plus whatever fee the ATM operator may charge) for using a non-MoneyPass® ATM.
  • Shopping: Use the card for online shopping or anywhere that American Express cards are accepted.
  • Money transfers: You can transfer money to other people, but the fees are expensive, ranging from $4.99 to $16.99, depending on the amount.
  • Card reloads: You can add money to the card with direct deposit, by depositing a check using a mobile app, by transferring money from a linked bank account, by linking your debit card, or by loading cash at one of 45,000 participating locations at retailers like Walmart and 7-Eleven.
  • Free subaccounts: If you’ll be using this card with family members, you can create subaccounts for anyone 13 and older without paying an additional fee. Subaccounts allow you to control the amount of money available and monitor activity on the card, which can be helpful if you’re using this for your kids.
  • Purchase protection: For up to 90 days after purchase, eligible items are covered for up to $1,000 of purchase protection, protecting you from losing money on a damaged or stolen item.
  • Mobile check deposit: If you deposit money with a check using the Mobile Check Capture feature, be prepared to pay a fee or wait to access your money. You can pay a 1% or 5% fee to access the money within minutes. If you don’t want to pay the fee, you’ll need to wait 10 days before you can use that cash.
Learn more about prepaid cards

Though all of the American Express Serve® cards are very similar, they have slightly different offerings. Make sure you understand the differences before choosing one, because each card has its pros and cons.

What you need to know about each card

Trying to choose the right card for you? Here’s what you need to know about each of the American Express Serve® cards.

American Express Serve®

This is the basic card offer. It comes with all of the features listed above, as well as the ability to have the monthly fee waived.

All of the American Express Serve® cards come with a monthly fee, but this card is the only one that allows you to have the $6.95 monthly fee waived for each month that you direct deposit $500 or more. Residents of Texas, New York and Vermont, you’re in luck: You won’t be charged a monthly fee on any of the cards.

Plus, if your employer is willing to submit your paycheck info to the bank before payday, you can also get early direct deposit.

American Express Serve® Free Reloads

The American Express Serve® Free Reloads card works just like the American Express Serve® card, but with two main differences: You can’t waive the $6.95 monthly fee, but you can avoid a cash reload fee.

You won’t have to pay the $3.95 reload fee if you take your cash and card to a cashier at a participating retail location — your card will be reloaded for free. That savings can add up quickly.

There are more than 45,000 free reload locations. Participating retailers include …

  • Walmart
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Family Dollar
  • Rite Aid
  • Dollar General
  • 7-Eleven

American Express Serve® Cash Back

The final card in the American Express Serve® card family is the American Express Serve® Cash Back. The card is very similar to the American Express Serve® but has two main differences: The monthly fee can’t be waived and you earn cash back with your spending.

At $7.95, the monthly fee on the American Express Serve® Cash Back card is higher than that of its siblings. The monthly fee can’t be waived, so you’ll be spending that amount each month just to use your card.

Unlike the other cards though, American Express Serve® Cash Back card offers you 1% cash back on all purchases. That means that for each $100 that you spend, you’ll earn $1 in cash back.

While the cash back is nice to have, you’ll need to spend at least $795 each month to make up for the $7.95 monthly fee. But remember, if you live in Texas, New York or Vermont, there’s no fee to cover.

How to pick the right card for you

The three American Express Serve® cards are all very similar. But there are a few situations that would make one card a clear winner over the others.

  • Planning on mainly using cash to reload your card? If you’ll be doing mostly cash reloads, the American Express Serve® Free Reloads might be the best choice. The $3.95 cash reload fee can add up quickly, so if you think you’ll be doing mostly cash reloads, this card might help you save on fees.
  • Spend more than $795 per month? If you’ll be spending a lot, the American Express Serve® Cash Back card might be a good choice. The monthly fee is high at $7.95, but with 1% back you could come out ahead if you regularly spend more than $795 each month.
  • Get paid via direct deposit? The American Express Serve® could be your best bet — Amex will waive your monthly fee every month you get a $500 direct deposit. Plus, there’s no fee to reload your card, or any American Express Serve® card, via direct deposit.

Not sure any of these cards are for you? Consider these alternatives.

If you’re not sure any of these American Express Serve® cards are right for you, here are some other options that may fit better.

  • Mango Prepaid Mastercard®: If you’re using a prepaid card to help you reach your savings goals, this card is worth considering.
  • Movo® Digital Prepaid Visa® Card: This card might be a good option if you do most of your shopping online and are concerned about your information. Read more about the best prepaid cards.