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AMEX enter the P2P payments war

I got an interesting link last week to a new website called Serve.com.


It’s the website spawned from the takeover of Revolution Money by American Express for $300 million last year, and goes live today with a marketing blitz across the USA.

The service is basically Revolution Money’s MoneyExchange, Version 2.0.

If you’re not familiar, MoneyExchange is a payment service that allows users to easily send and receive money to and from friends, family and colleagues online, in a secure, free and instant way.

It’s a P2P service in other words, and one that could displace PayPal as an online and mobile direct payment platform.

Here’s what the Serve home page says about it:

“Wherever you need to move money, Serve makes it easy. It is your virtual wallet, accessible 24/7 online and on your mobile phone via the Serve mobile app. And you can even use your prepaid reloadable Serve card to make purchases in stores where American Express Cards are accepted.

“In addition to making purchases, Serve is a fast, simple and secure way to send and receive money to and from your friends and family. All you need is the recipient's email address to quickly send and receive money.”

It also has some interesting new features over and above the old MoneyExchange, such as subaccounts:

“You can extend your Serve account to others by creating subaccounts. With subaccounts, you control how much of your money to distribute, who to distribute it to and how they can use it. You decide which transactions they can perform with their subaccount, can set daily limits on transaction amounts, limit their purchase capabilities and more.

“You can create a subaccount for virtually anyone you choose, thirteen and older. Create a subaccount for the babysitter so they can order pizza, create a subaccount for your son to receive his allowance, the possibilities are limitless. And managing your subaccounts is easy. You can set and change your subaccount privileges from anywhere at anytime.

“Whatever the reason and whenever you choose, you can quickly transfer money to and from your subaccounts online or via the Serve mobile app1 available for iPhone and Android making it simple to get money to the people who need it without slowing you down.”

The service  allows you to add money via a debit or credit card and has limits of $1,000 per day or $2,500 per month of transactions, which is quite low, but enough for basic usage.

In the first instance, AMEX is also waiving fees.  This waiver applies for the first six months, after which it costs 2.9% + $0.30 per load to put money into accounts and $2 for ATM cash withdrawals.

It’s interesting to see AMEX doing this and yes, it has all the obligatory stuff related to blogs, facebook and twitter.  It also has a mobile component for the iPhone and Android, as well as access via Facebook.

This is a serious gambit by the card firm, and I hear that AMEX is investing heavily with 200 people working in their Florida office on Serve, along with more developers in New York where all of the marketing is based.

This division is all run by Dan Schulman who joined AMEX as Group President, Enterprise Growth, in 2010 and is responsible for the company’s global strategy to expand alternative mobile and online payment services, form new partnerships and build revenue streams beyond the traditional card and travel businesses.

Previously, he was President of Sprint’s Prepaid Group and was the founding CEO of Virgin Mobile USA, where he led the company from its concept stage and national launch in 2002 to become one of America’s top wireless carriers, with more than 5 million customers and $1.3 billion in annual sales.

As can be seen, there is real substance behind all this and, like the Visa attack on PayPal – did you know that Visa has splashed out $2.2 in acquisitions in just the last six months? – the card companies have finally recognised that they have to cannibalise themselves and offer P2P services or PayPal will take over.

This push into P2P occurs just as PayPal push the other way, and target to open a physical network to complement their online services in a bid to displace Visa and MasterCard.

Interesting times indeed.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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