AmEx looks to expand brand beyond credit cards

AmEx looks to expand brand beyond credit cards Several months ago, American Express launched an online payment platform known as "Serve," and will soon begin issuing Serve-branded prepaid cards that are designed to help consumers better associate those accounts with the digital system and not the lender itself.

American Express is generally viewed by consumers and experts alike as being a lender for affluent people, and the company, in an attempt to reach a wider customer base, is looking for ways to make Serve stand as its own entity in Americans' minds, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. To that end, its new prepaid accounts will now come with the Serve name on the cards and the AmEx-associated branding will be limited.

"A big part of our [research and development] is can we grow this without leveraging the [AmEx] brand," Ed Gilligan, vice chairman of American Express, told the newspaper.

The reasons for this are two-fold, the report said. First, the company would like to expand the brand recognition of its digital platform – which launched in March as an alternative to similar services like PayPal – so that more consumers associate it with convenient payment options. And second, it would like to reach more people who may currently believe they cannot afford or obtain cards bearing the American Express name.

Consumers will be able to load their Serve cards from a number of sources, the report said. That includes credit or debit cards and checking accounts – even those controlled by other financial institutions – as well as the type of "money pack" typically used to reload other prepaid cards. It is also expanding partnerships with smartphone providers and striking deals with merchants to allow consumers to pay through Serve.

Of course, American Express would also like to expand the Serve platform because other companies are entering into the digital payment arena, or will make increased pushes to do so in the coming months, the report said. Companies like Google, Visa and various wireless phone service providers are pushing their own versions of these services, or will in the new year.

Consumers may be able to use these prepaid cards as a means of making convenient payments at a number of businesses without taking on credit card debt.