July 18, 2011 at 11:49 AM ET
Sprint customers who want to try something other than PayPal to transfer money to friends or other bill collectors now have an alternative.
American Express' Serve — a digital payments platform — consolidates online, offline and mobile payment options into a single account that can help friends exchange money (vs. having to shell out cash), pay bills and make online purchases. Serve also lets users create subaccounts where money can be routed for individuals (over the age of 13) and/or events. It launched in late March, available in the App Store and Android Market.
But for now at least, you can't use your phone to swipe for purchases at the counter. You'll have to use a pre-paid, reloadable, physical card (yes, another one to add to your bursting wallet) for those.
This wallet app will be available in the "Sprint Zone" to customers using Android smartphones (not all, either).
Support for Windows and RIM operating systems is also in the works.
Serve and Sprint join a field that already includes Visa (using CashEdge and Fiserv), PayPal and Square.
The way developments are going on the mobile payments front, smartphones — which already carry a ton of information about you — will be even more packed soon. So much that you're wise to never leave home without it, and guard it closely. Security for Serve includes encryption, PINs and multi-factor authentication (asking for more information upon login).
For the most part, Serve is free: Person-to-person money transfers, transfers to and from subaccounts, purchases, and funding your account via your checking account. There are fees involved with ATM withdrawals and adding money to Serve using credit cards.
American Express knows there are bound to be some snags, so they're hedging expectations with statements like this: "To us, Serve is an unfinished masterpiece, and always will be."
Let us know what works and doesn't work for you.