Serve has just announced its first carrier deal since its launch in March of this year. The company's new partnership with U.S. operator Sprint will allow Serve's mobile wallet application to be made available in the Sprint Zone for customers using select Android phones.American Express' new digital payments and commerce platform
Serve, which can be funded by a bank account, debit or credit card, or from another Serve account, does not require users to be American Express card holders. Instead, it's aimed at those who don't rely on credit cards. With Serve, customers can shop both online and offline, anywhere American Express is accepted. Serve can be used for either physical goods and services at local merchants, as well as online purchases. Sprint customers can even use Serve to pay their phone bill or to send money to friends, the company says.
In the future, Serve will also be used for redeeming offers on goods and services, too, by way of a Groupon-like program.
Currently, Serve supports both Android and iOS and is being developed for RIM's BlackBerry and Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating systems. On Sprint, Android phones will be supported expect for the Nexus S 4G and the Samsung Moment, which don't offer the Sprint Zone application.
Serve Gaining Momentum
American Express invested in mobile payment startup Payfone in order to combine Payfone's mobile authorization and payment services with the Serve platform. This allows customers to pay for both digital and physical goods using just their phone number. The move was expected to help strengthen AmEx's position outside the U.S., where Visa and MasterCard typically dominate.In April,
Payfone is unique in that it leverages the security built into mobile operator networks, like Sprint's, to aid in payment authorizations. With Payfone, the customer's SIM card, device ID and location are tied to each customer's account, which helps to cut down on fraud.
Later this summer, American Express announced a partnership with Patch, AOL's hyperlocal news and content outlet. Serve will power the Patch Deals platform, a Groupon-style discounts program with local merchants on the AmEx network.
With this partnership, deals could be loaded onto customers' American Express cards, allowing them to take part in the discount without printing out physical coupons. Serve customers, too, will have the same option - and will be able to use their phone to redeem offers at local merchants on AmEx's network in the future.
All this adds up to a quickly growing digital payments platform from American Express, but it will not be without its challengers. Visa, too, has its own plans for digital payments, and will be launching its platform this fall. There's also competition on the mobile wallet front from Google, via its Google Wallet service, and from the operators themselves with Isis, a coalition between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.