American Express launches digital payments platform to take on PayPal

By on March 28, 2011, 10:48 AM
American Express today unveiled Serve, a new digital payment and commerce platform that lets consumers spend, send, and receive money with services that go beyond the existing global payment networks. Consumers can make purchases and person-to-person (P2P) payments online, via mobile phones, and at millions of merchants who accept American Express cards.

Serve unifies multiple payment options into a single account that can be funded from a bank account, debit, credit or charge card, or by receiving money from another Serve account. It is aimed at consumers who currently rely on cash, check, and debit cards. Serve accounts can be accessed via Serve iOS and Android apps, at serve.com, and through Facebook. American Express is using Serve to expand into new segments of the market that do not rely on traditional charge and credit cards to manage their day-to-day finances.

To get started, consumers must first set up an online account at serve.com or through the mobile app. Funds can be added from bank accounts, debit cards, credit, and charge cards, or other Serve accounts. Each customer is issued a Serve reloadable prepaid card linked to their Serve account that can be used at any merchant or ATM that accepts American Express cards. Unlike traditional debit card accounts, Serve offers users the ability to easily create, manage, and specify sub-accounts for their friends, family members, or colleagues that are linked to the master account and allow users to set spending profiles.

Serve is available immediately to anyone in the US and is expected to launch into other international markets over the coming year. While payments are the foundation of the Serve platform, American Express is also partnering with companies that will use the platform to deliver relevant offers that drive spending and build loyalty. Three of the first partners are Ticketmaster, Concur, and Flipswap.

"Serve is a new type of payment platform that isn't tied to a single card or mobile operating system," Dan Schulman, Group President of Enterprise Growth at American Express, said in a statement. "It's a flexible, easy to use platform, which from day one brings tremendous assets to the alternative payments space and gives consumers an option to shop on-line and off-line at millions of merchants who accept American Express. We intend to quickly evolve the Serve platform by adding new features and functionality as we learn from consumer and merchant experiences. To encourage a broad cross-section of people to experience the benefits and convenience of Serve, we are working with a range of partners to integrate Serve as a payment method and deliver customized offers, and we will waive most consumer fees for the next six months."

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