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Serve: American Express' Free Gift to Travel Hackers

Updated on September 7, 2014

What is Serve?

Serve is a prepaid debit card account provided by American Express. This reloadable card provides the convenience of being able to load money online or at a variety of ATMs while charging minimal fees. It offers a plethora or services, ranging from 24/7 customer service to online bill pay. All of that is fine and dandy, but it's not really the reason it's being discussed here; we are talking about AMEX's Serve is because it's a great tool for travel hackers and people looking to maximize their credit card rewards.

With a Serve account, you can easily all those high spending minimums needed to meet new credit cards initial offers. Have to spend $3,000 in three months? No problem. Need to knock out $1,500 in two months? Easy-peasy! Serve allows you to meet those spending requirements without actually spending a dime.

How Does It Work?

Like other prepaid accounts, Serve allows you to take funds from one source and put them onto a prepaid card to use at your convenience. What sets Serve apart is its ability to take funds from credit cards and then directly apply them back to the credit card from which they came while counting as purchases on your credit card. This means that for every $200 you put into your Serve account, your credit card will rack up rewards just like you would had you spent the money in a store.

At this point, you're probably thinking, "This is awesome! I'll just max out my credit cards every month, pay them back and make bucket loads of money and rewards by doing nothing!" Not so fast there, Cowboy. While Serve does allow you to rack up points for essentially free, this benefit is not limitless. Serve limits your account deposits to $200 per day and $1,000 per month. So it does allow for you to come away with some free rewards points or miles, you can't become the Warren Buffett of SkyMiles from it. Additionally, you can only link one credit card at a time, although it is very straight-forward to change your cards.

What Do You Have To Do?

First things first, you have to sign up for Serve. About a week after registering, you'll receive your Serve card in the mail, at which point you can activate your account. Once that is finished, you will come to a screen similar to the one shown above. There are two options to link accounts (shown in the black boxes). Click on either one.

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Now Serve will ask what type of account you want to link. Assuming you are using Serve for travel hacking/credit card rewards points, we will want to select "Link Credit Card" as shown. Fill in the information from your credit card of choice as needed by Serve. Note that the account (not the card) must be in your name. So if you and your spouse have a joint credit card, only one of you will be able to link that account. Trying to link an account that you are only an authorized user on will trigger a fraud alert on Serve's end (Yes, I found that out the hard way).

Once you have all the information submitted, you should get a screen like the one shown below. At this point, you will want to click on "Add Money".

From this point, everything is fairly straight-forward. Select the amount of money you want to add, click on "Review", make sure the information is correct on the following screen, then click "Submit". If you have done everything successfully, the next screen will show the money deposited into your Serve account. If incorrect information was entered, or you triggered a fraud alert, you will receive an error message in a red box. The box will tell you that customer service hours are Monday through Friday only, but this is incorrect. Serve has a 24/7 customer service line, so if you happen to receive this error on the weekend, you can correct the issue.

If you believe that you entered everything correctly and have not triggered a fraud alert, there may be a few reasons you received an error. First, you may have exceeded the daily or monthly maximum ($200 and $1,000, respectively). The daily amount is not per calendar day, but per 24 hours, so that may also be a reason you received an error.

Once all your information is correct and your deposit has processed, you are well on your way to enjoying free benefits. To maximize this benefit, have your spouse create an account, too. My wife and I both signed up for Serve accounts. She uses her Chase Mileage Plus card and I use my Chase Sapphire. Between the two of us, we are able to add 24,000 miles to our United frequent flier accounts, plus all the bonus miles we received by reaching the spending minimums. Between the 40,000 and 50,000 mile introductory offers, 5,000 mile bonuses for adding authorized users and our Serve account transactions, we will be able to book two round-trip flights to Europe by only paying for the government fees and taxes.

Sounds like a sweet deal to me!

Which Cards Work With Serve?

Card
Fee
Accumulates Points
U.S. Bank Debit
Yes, $5 per Transaction
??
Chase
No
Yes
BarclayCard
No
Yes
Discover
No
Yes
American Express
No
No

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