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CVS, Walgreens to offer American Express reloadable cash services
October 8th, 2013
NEW YORK – The nation's biggest drug chains are among the more than 20,000 stores that will offer the American Express Serve reloadable prepaid card and account, which now includes a free nationwide cash load network and new money management functionality.
American Express said Tuesday that starting in November, Serve users will be able to take cash to the register at more than 14,000 CVS and 7-Eleven stores and add it to their account. According to Amex, that capability is made possible through a relationship with prepaid card service provider InComm and its Vanilla Reload Network.
By the year's end, over 20,000 retail stores are slated to offer Serve account services.
Plans call for Serve to become available at select Walgreens, Duane Reade, Family Dollar and Office Depot stores later this fall for a one-time purchase price of $2.95.
The new Serve features announced Tuesday include direct deposit, bill pay, mobile check capture, personal financial management tools and Reserve, a linked account to Serve that enables consumers to put aside money for future expenses.
Amex noted that the new functionality helps meet the needs of the approximately 70 million Americans underserved by traditional financial services.
"Unfortunately, the traditional banking system is not easily accessible to large segments of the population, making managing money cumbersome and expensive for many," Dan Schulman, group president of enterprise growth at American Express, said in a statement. "We launched Serve two years ago with the simple idea that consumers needed a better way to move their money. Today, we've added a number of new features to make the management and movement of money more affordable and convenient for everyone."
Besides the cash load network through retailers, Serve now allows users to directly deposit their paycheck or government disbursements into their account through Serve.com. And later this year, customers will be able to use their smartphone camera to take a photo of a check and add it directly into their account via the Serve mobile application.
Amex also has partnered with LearnVest to provide free financial education content to Serve.com. The information focuses on helping consumers set financial goals and save money. In addition, Amex has introduced Reserve, which lets Serve account holders move funds with one-time or recurring payments to a linked Reserve to put money away for future purchases such as a vacation or holiday gifts as well as for emergency funds.
Serve customers, too, now can pay bills online (via Serve.com and the Serve mobile app) and withdraw cash for free at more than 22,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide.
Other Serve features include the ability to create and manage subaccounts for friends and family, send or receive money, and benefits such as Purchase Protection, Roadside Assistance, Global Assist Services, fraud protection if the card is lost or stolen, and 24x7 live customer service.
With the new features, Amex said it plans to charge Serve customers a monthly fee of $1 starting Dec. 3, which the company reported is one of the lowest fees among leading prepaid cards that charge a monthly fee. The $1 fee is waived if customers use direct deposit to load their account or add $500 or more to their account during a monthly statement period.
Citing an Aite Group study, Amex said the average monthly fee for prepaid cards is $4.57, while according to Javelin Strategy & Research, 41% of underbanked consumers report they pay a fee of $3 to $3.99 to reload their prepaid cards. Amex pointed out that since prepaid card users who reload their cards do so an average of two times a month — with 10% reloading five times or more per month — adding money to Serve could realize a potential savings of about $72 to $240 a year.
On Monday, Walgreens announced that it's launching Balance Financial, a package of financial services anchored by a co-branded cash card that can be linked to its Balance Rewards customer loyalty card.