Now through September 30, 2012, when you sign up for a Serve card – a digital prepaid account from American Express – you will get $25 back for a single purchase of $25 or more (you get the credit on the the first purchase that meets or exceeds that amount).
A Serve card is basically a prepaid credit card that you can load with funds from a bank account, debit card or credit card, and you can only spend the amount loaded on the card, so if you’re trying to watch your expenditures, it’s a good way not to go over your limit. Since it’s an American Express product, it’s also accepted anywhere Amex is in the US. There are also mobile apps for the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone so you can keep track of your spending and move money right on your phone. Serve also works as an ATM card and though there’s a $2 withdrawal fee, it is waived on the first withdrawal of each month.
This promotion is for new Serve account holders only, and the $25 credit is only triggered by an actual purchase, not person-to-person send/receive money transactions or money loading transactions.
Now, before you go loading up a new Serve card with all your points-earning credit cards, there are several things to keep in mind. First, though you can fund your account with an American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa credit card, cash advance fees for credit card loads may apply. However, when I got my card and loaded it with $100 using my Chase British Airways Visa, I was not hit with a cash advance fee and only charged for the $100. Others have also reported that Citi cards counted as “purchases” as well and miles/points were provided. Amex cards can be used to load, but you will not get points and it will not count towards your minimum spend. Best to stay away from Amex if you want to earn points on funding your account.
Just keep in mind that several Serve users seem to have had their accounts red-flagged and even closed by loading their Serve card using a credit card and then using it to withdraw cash at an ATM. Seems like Amex is on the lookout for this kind of activity, which it views as a cash advance. However, since you have to make an actual purchase to qualify for the $25 rebate, that shouldn’t be an issue.
There are also limits to how much money you can load onto the card. Until March 15, 2013, there won’t be any fees for adding money from a debit or credit card (that deadline was actually a new one extended from last fall, so there’s a chance it will be extended again). Cardholders can only load up to a total of $2,500 on the Serve card per month. $1,000 per day via an ACH transfer from a bank account, $200 per day via debit card up to a monthly limit of $1,000, and $100 per day on a credit card up to a maximum o f $250 per month. So clearly this card is meant to be an extension of a bank account, kind of like a pre-paid debit card, and in the long-term isn’t a great way to rack up huge amounts of points or miles from a credit card- but it can help if you really need help hitting spend requirements.
You can purchase and register gift cards, like those that can be purchased at Office Max leveraging the 5x category bonus on the Ink Bold/Plus cards, and then link them to your Serve account as credit cards. After a day or two Amex will re-classify them as linked debit cards, so you can essentially turn those gift cards into Serve funds. This is in addition to adding $250 a month via points earning credit card – essentially giving you $12,000 a year in gift card/debit card spend and $3,000 a year in free credit card spend. Hey, every dollar towards hitting credit card spend, without actually accruing debt, counts! As I mentioned before, if you abuse this system your account will likely get shut down by Amex so tread lightly and read this Flyertalk thread for more detailed information.
My Experience Getting the Free $25
Once I got my card and verified it over the phone and then loaded it with the $100 by charging it to my Chase credit card, it was time to put it to use. I charged $95 at Trader Joe’s (remember, you have to make a purchase of at least $25 to get the $25 rebate), but when I looked at my Serve statement online a few days later, the rebate still hadn’t shown up. I decided to call their customer service at 1-800-954-0559 and ask what was going on. The lady on the line said that her system hadn’t even registered my card as already verified, but I explained I had already funded it and even made a purchase with it, so she fixed that then transferred me to a colleague who told me that Amex has been having problems registering new Serve cardholders for the promotion even when they register through the promotion page, but that he would be able to apply the $25 rebate immediately, and he did, as you’ll see.
Hopefully Amex will fix that so others don’t have to call in, but it was only a minor inconvenience considering it saved me $25 and worked immediately. While $25 isn’t a huge amount, if you’re in the market for a credit card product that will help you keep better track of your finances by only letting you spend pre-paid amounts, or you just want to get $25 off a purchase and don’t plan on using this as an ATM card, you might as well try this one out and get the credit.