ReThink: Personal Finances

With the advent of mobile banking, a slew of new startups have appeared that offer ways to transfer money from one party to another via a mobile device. While all operate on essentially the same idea of bypassing traditional banking institutions (we’re talking institutions like checks, ATMs, wire transfers, etc), each has its own niche. Back in UnConventional’s early days, we highlighted Dwolla, which lauds itself as the “online cash option;” it essentially acts as an electronic wallet. Today, we’re taking a look at a Serve, which has its own unique structure and function.

Beyond the electronic wallet function shared by most like-minded companies, Serve (which is actually a branch of American Express, which was incidentally nominated as one of the most innovative companies by FastCompany) offers two stand-out features: the Serve card and subaccounts. The Serve card acts like a debit card for your Serve account, meaning you can use it to access your Serve funds anywhere American Express is accepted. This is especially useful if you are worried about your card being stolen or about going over your budget (think traveling). Subaccounts are just that: accounts within your main Serve account. Each subaccount also gets a Serve card, so you could, for instance, set up a subaccount for your daughter at college, allowing effortless financial provision for her while simultaneously keeping tabs on her spending. What’s more: Serve is almost completely free. Starting this June, the only fees associated with Serve are funding your account via a credit card (which is silly) or withdrawing funds more than once per month from an ATM. And we haven’t even touched on Serve’s widgets, which is yet another way American Express is proving itself to be rethinking personal finances from the bottom up.

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