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After Visa, American Express Takes On PayPal With Digital Payments Platform

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Following in the footsteps of rival Visa, American Express this morning announced a digital payment and commerce platform dubbed Serve, enabling U.S. consumers to make purchases and person-to-person payments online, via mobile phones and at AmEx’s network of millions of merchants.

Serve integrates a variety of 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. The platform is available immediately to anyone in the U.S. and is expected to launch into other international markets over the coming year.

American Express has released mobile applications for iOS and Android. Serve accounts can also be accessed through Facebook.

It won’t stop there, says Dan Schulman, Group President at 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.”

Indeed, in the first six months Serve will charge no fees to open an account, for P2P transactions, use social network widgets or anything else. After that period, it will cost 2.9% + 30c/per load to put money into Serve accounts (discounted to 0% for cash, debit and ACH) and $2.00 for ATM cash withdrawals.

Interestingly, Serve also offers users the ability to create, manage, and specify sub-accounts for friends, family members or colleagues. Linked to the master account, they allow users to set spending profiles for “everything from children’s allowances to dog walker fees”.

Serve is the result of technology obtained by American Express through the $300 million acquisition of PayPal competitor Revolution Money in early 2010.