American Express Serve Platform Review – Let it Serve You

Serve is the American Express reply to both PayPal and Google Wallet (Amex Serve vs. PayPal). It has been criticized for not offering anything new that PayPal was not offering one year ago, and this was last year. However, just this February 16, 2012, Serve released a statement that it would be operating with the same technology as Google Wallet – making a sale or transaction through the use of smartphones and an NFC card reader.

A Competition in the Offing

This makes it a potential three-way race – PayPal has been at Google Wallet right from the start, after Google hired one of PayPal’s top employees prior to introducing the Google Wallet to the world. And then the Google prepaid card was born, making the use of the Google Wallet much easier. With the entry of the AMEX Serve, PayPal is being left behind, but the real benefit is to the consumer – competition is always to its advantage.

The more merchants employ NFC readers for their transactions, the better it is going to be for the consumer. With Google Wallet alone, there is no real pressure to fix the glitches in the system when trying to make a purchase off your mobile phone. However, with a new competitor, one will try to outdo the other, and here, AMEX Serve has already taken a swing.

No Fees

The AMEX Serve does not come with any fees whatsoever. For people used to seeing extra charges on their American Express credit cards, this will be something new, and potentially something more attractive. For American Express, this is also a foray into an entirely new market – the prepaid market has been ignored by American Express for the longest time, and with Serve, the potential to dominate the market is just waiting.

This is because unlike Paypal or Google, the American Express has had a financial relationship with the whole of the United States at one time or another. Besides, the AMEX Serve has the whole structure of American Express behind it, putting it at least one step ahead of the Google Wallet, which is composed mainly of innovators and programmers, and not by financial wizards.

Aside from that, the AMEX Serve already has a list of participating merchants that American Express already has in its pockets. So while Google is still struggling to find more merchants to install NFC readers to make Google Wallet transactions, all American Serve has to do is to advice each merchant on the list to participate with AMEX Serve by installing NFC card readers in their physical stores.

serve is free to use, quiet expectedly. Services offers are:
  • Person-to-person money transfers
  • Purchasing online and in stores with the Serve card, which comes once you open your account.
  • Reloading money on your account from a checking account
  • You can withdraw money from ATM
  • You can deposit money from your Serve account to checking account in exchange of a fee.

Getting cash from an ATM after using your first free withdraw a month will cost you $2.00, plus whatever the ATM might charge you for using it. If you want to fund your Serve account with a credit card, you’ll be charged 2.9% of the amount transferred plus $0.30 for each transfer.

Paying money to someone else with serve account is cheaper than what PayPal takes.

The Winner

In every business competition, the end consumer is always the winner. With AMEX Serve on the move to have more NFC readers installed, even Google Wallet will be along for the ride. With both AMEX Serve and Google Wallet able to make wireless transactions through the combination of smartphones and NFC card readers, more merchants will be familiar with the transaction process, unlike today, where making a transaction via the Google Wallet is like making big juju magic with your smart phone.

And with more merchants willing to take on wireless transactions, more consumers will have that option to do so, and will hopefully take on the technology as both Google and American Express hope they do.

And it all started with PayPal, so don’t count them out yet. If the technology takes, it is certain that PayPal will take the bait as well. And the more competitors, the better, because then the technology will make the wireless transaction safer, smoother and hopefully cheaper than where it is right now.

Our Recommendation

Things we like about

1. $10 sign-up bonus

2. Sign up is easy both on Mobile and online versions.

3. Trusted brand from American Express, who are in business for more than 150 years. With global presence.

4. Sub account feature makes sharing same account within family easier than any other mobile payment platform

5. Well defined user interface which is very easy to navigate and easy to transact.

6. Instant money transfer between parties, even faster than PayPal.

We give this product a “should Apply” rating with the above factors in mind. Whether it will be as widely accepted as PayPal is to be seen.

Google Wallet Review – Should This be in Your Wallet?

Powered by NFC technology, Google Wallet allows your phone to act as your credit card.

By tapping your phone (only Android at this time) against a compatible chip reader available with select shops, your payment information are transferred to the merchant without swiping any physical card.

Google Wallet in fact aiming for a plastic credit card extinction.

While the idea of combining your phone and your credit cards may be scary, Google Wallet, in theory, is more secure than a plastic card. If you haven’t used Wallet in the past 30 minutes or so (or if you manually lock it), a PIN is required to use Google Wallet app.

The Google Wallet is not a new innovation – the technology of just swiping a smart card over an NFC reader has been present since the 1990s, if you can imagine.

Germany has been using the NFC technology for quiet some time, albeit not with smartphones.

The innovation is integrating that function with a smart phone, and that is all there is to it. The smart phone is becoming more and more the gadget for all gadgets.

To use a credit card on Google Wallet, you first need to store the details of the card in Google Wallet app.

Where to use Google Wallet

The biggest drawback so far is the limited applicability. I guess in a few years NFC technology, whether from Google or from any other company, should become mainstream.

You can use Google Wallet only if all of the following are true

  • You have Sprint as cell phone carrier
  • You have Nexus 4s smart phone
  • You installed Google Wallet App on your Nexus 4s
  • The store or site you are shopping from accept master Card Pay Pass. Find out where


Paying with Your Google Wallet

First, you have to see the Google Wallet logo on the door of the merchant. If you don’t, then you won’t be able to use your Google Wallet even if you can still use your credit cards. And there is the next problem.

While the technology is more than a decade old, it is still one of those new-flanged things when it comes to the average salesperson. You will certainly see eyebrows raised when you pass by the checkout counter, tap your phone on the NFC reader, pick up your bill from a surprised cashier, then leave, still with eyebrows raised. The transaction is wireless, so unless you know what’s going on, you wouldn’t know what happened.

But that is the best case scenario. Sometimes, the process of paying with your Google Wallet doesn’t work, and it will raise eyebrows just a little bit higher. And since no one knows what is happening in the first place, you better have your credit cards at the ready, since that is how you will be paying if the process is experiencing some glitch or the other.

Currently, Google Wallet supports two kinds of credit cards: most Citi® PayPass™ eligible MasterCard® credit cards and the Google Prepaid Card.

Google promises to included all available credit cards eventually.

The Possibilities with Google Wallet

But imagine the possibilities as the Google Wallet becomes more reliable in transactions. Potentially, you can have an app that chooses the best credit card to use in any transaction you make. That alone should save you some money already. Long lines at the checkout counter can be a thing of the past – NFC readers can be available right at the shelves of the store, and can make the checkout counter obsolete.

Try to remember each time you pulled out your wallet, and then replace the whole process with just tapping your phone against an NFC reader. Even bank transactions can become wireless, regular payments easily scheduled, and for merchants and retailers, a more comprehensive set of information about you and your purchases.

And the best part is that the Google Wallet is not even a credit card. Well, you can have a virtual Google Wallet prepaid card where you can transfer funds, so that in case something goes wrong with the transaction with your credit card, the Google Wallet prepaid card comes in to save the day.  But the Google Wallet in itself is not a credit card.

Security of Google Wallet

Believe it or not, Google Wallet is more secure than you actual wallet. Your credit card information which you store in Google wallet app, is stored in a hardware chip, not on the phone operating system. Not an easy task to break in to that.

By the time hackers get in to the stored card information, you’ll have ample time to alert your credit card company to cancel the card.

You need to use PIN for every transaction. So, just stealing your phone and using it for payment is not going to work instantly. The PIN has to be retrieved first.

Potential Problems with Google Wallet

The real problem with Google Wallet is going to be security.

Making all transactions virtual is the future, but until everyone is familiar with the technology, there are a lot of ways to lose your information, instead of making it convenient.

Not only merchants should be educated, but also card holders, and while the impetus is already there with the omnipresent smart phone, it is still going to take some time.

The biggest one though, is that you need to buy Nexus 4s phone from Sprint to be able to use Google Wallet, until they are expanded.

Conclusion on Google Wallet

Google Wallet is the mobile payment system I have always waited for. But, until more vendors, credit cards, and my iPhone are supported, I’ll wait and watch.

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