Today, American Express announced the launch of Serve – a service that allows its users to send and receive money, online, offline, and mobile. This morning I promised that I will do a walk-through of the Serve platform, and compare Serve with its predecessor, Revolution MoneyExchange – well here it is!
Serve is definitely an upgrade from Revolution MoneyExchange – but I would call Serve an 1.5 upgrade rather than a full 2.0 experience… as you will see, most of the functionality remains similar to that of Revolution MoneyExchange. That being said, Serve is still an exciting service from American Express and should be viewed as more of a “first step” for American Express into the world of peer-to-peer / alternative payment field. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!
Before we dive in – full disclosure: I keep a day job at American Express – this blog is my personal blog and expresses my views/opinions only – I am not a representative of American Express online by any means!
And now, the hands-on:
On the Website / Overall Experience:
Just taking a look at the two pages here you’ll see a marked improvement of the website in terms of design. Serve is much more stylish than its RevMoney counterpart. Serve is also very, VERY purple – don’t know if I like that very much – it’s just so purple!
RevMoney’s homepage is no longer around (typing in the address brings you to the login page above) for comparison, but I think the Serve homepage could use a navigation upgrade – clicking around is a bit confusing and I’ve had to click back many times to learn more about the other sections. There’s also a weird login vs general site experience – for example, when I click on “Help” in my account page, it takes me to the FAQ page, which is OUTSIDE the account experience. I couldn’t find a way to get back into my account without logging in again. The experience is not that intuitive.
There are also some design inconsistencies that I spotted here and there – for example, for the login page and the sign-up pages, the background is primarily a blue color scheme and not the purple one.
Again, most of the RevMoney functionality are carried over to Serve – this includes:
- Send / Receive money
- “Negotiating” transfer – though this is definitely blown out a lot more in Serve. You can “negotiate” what people are sending you – for example, Person A sends Person B $20, but instead, Person B only needs Person A to send them $15, Person B can then “negotiate” and send back the revised payment amount for Person A’s approval.
Even the limitations carried over – now, Serve put in place a three-tiered structure that you can use to “unlock” additional capacity… this wasn’t there before in RevMoney I don’t think:
- Ability to create “sub-accounts” – this is a neat feature – you can now create “sub-accounts” for folks you pay often. For example, why not create a sub-account for your babysitter? I believe you can create up to 4 sub-accounts.
- Charity widgets – There’s a list of charities that Serve has listed – Serve will match all contributions via the widget up to $100,000 for each charity. If you look to the right of this blog, you will see that I have inserted a widget donated toward the children affected by the Japanese earthquake/tsunami.
- Instant verification of bank account – this didn’t work out for me, they said there was an error, but on further examination I found that this is powered by Yodlee, the same company behind other companies like Mint, so you should be good and secure using this option to verify your account. If this doesn’t work, you just have to go with the good ole’ mini deposits and verify them later (and wait for the money to show up 2-3 days later).
- Ability to load money using credit/debit cards. Before in RevMoney, the only way for anyone to load money is through ACH. Now you can do it using your credit card. Buyers beware though – this carries with it a 2.9% + $0.30/transaction fee. Loading through ACH is still free. Amex is also waiving the fees until September of this year.
Granted, I know Serve is supposed to be mostly online/mobile, but man the plastic looks nice! Here it is side by side with the RevMoney card. The card is a considerable, CONSIDERABLE (notice the enthusiasm here) upgrade from the Revolution MoneyExchange card, which was just a thin piece of plastic:
If you look at the card, you will also notice that there’s no name on the front of the card. This is a carryover from the RevMoney heritage… one of the value propositions that RevMoney always touted was the security of its product – as such, no name or any other identifiable information was included. The Serve card doesn’t include the name either, but I am guessing to make the card run on the American Express network (which it can now do), Serve had to include the 15 digit cardnumbers and the 4 digit CID on the front of the card. On the back of the card, you can also find an American Express logo, as well as a pretty Serve Network logo.
One of the key piece of the Serve platform is its mobile app. As such, I wanted to see if the app runs smoothly and intuitively – it does! Here are some screenshots showing the key screens – they’re all pretty easy to follow. I particularly enjoyed the “split the bill” and the “pizza party” functions. It’s free, feel free to go download it from your respective marketplaces. I like the app very much.
Associated Fee / Cost:
There are only two fees for consumers and fees are waived in the next 6 months.
- Loading money into Serve account: 2.9% + $0.30/per load (this only apply for loading using credit card, doesn’t applies to debit/ACH)
- $2.00 per ATM withdrawal (you get one free a month)
Improvements / Recommendations:
Two things would make Serve even much more awesome.
1) NFC capabilities – with Google/Citi/Verifone/MasterCard breathing down everybody’s necks, and ISIS on the horizon, American Express needs to step-up its game and hurry its NFC strategy to market. With Serve, they have a platform that people will accept – and would be willing to experiment with – it will be the perfect platform to build in NFC payment capability. Wave Serve at check-out? I already have ExpressPay in my American Express Blue card – why can’t the same capability be deployed to an NFC-enabled app?
2) Merchants – Serve as it stands now is a peer-to-peer play. Imagine a world where, forget the POS terminals, a customer can walk into a store and pay for a product, all using the Serve app? Imagine a scenario where a customer walks into a bag store. The customer sees the bag she likes, she shows it to the merchant. The customer wants to pay for the bag using Serve – and all she has to do is pull out her phone, open Serve, look for the list of merchants that accept Serve nearby (via GPS), locate the bag merchant, and choose and pay. The merchant confirms the payment on her iPad, and out walks the customer with the bag!
3) Loyalty program – I remember Revolution Card had a 0.5% transaction fee for its merchants. Revolution Money’s value proposition to merchants used to be this: we offer you a low merchant transaction rate, and in exchange, let us work together to create a reward program for your customers – from the money the merchant saved that would’ve been lost when accepting a credit card transaction (2.5% vs. 0.5%?). This means that there could potentially be a rewards play here still for Serve (if the two payment networks are connected on the back-end, I have no idea if they are or not). Imagine some sort of rewards program that encourage cardholders to use Serve frequently? There has got to be something here.
I hope you enjoyed this walk-through of Serve – and how it compares to Revolution MoneyExchange! Please comment with any thoughts / feedback below.
Here are some more press coverage of Serve that happened throughout the day today:
- AmEx Pushing Expansion Challenges Visa, PayPal With E-Wallets – Bloomberg
- Amex Launches Serve, Its Visa-PayPal-Square Killer – Business Insider
- American Express challenges PayPal with ‘Serve’ digital payment platform – Engadget
- American Express Takes on PayPal With Serve – Mashable
- American Express Announces ServeSM, the Next Generation Digital Payment Platform – PYMNTS.com
- After Visa, American Express Takes On PayPal With Digital Payments Platform – TechCrunch