The ability to leave your wallet at home and pay -- or get paid -- for everything with your iPhone is a hot ticket for financial service providers, and today it got even hotter.
Amex announced a new payment service called Serve that is available immediately, and while you'll still need a card for paying for items at locations that take American Express cards, that card is completely tied to your Serve account. The Serve card can be reloaded either from the Serve website or from an iPhone or Android-based phone app, then used at any Amex location.
The company also wants you to use Serve to facilitate person to person transactions. Amex uses the examples of paying your nanny, paying an allowance to your kids or giving an employee an expense account. All the other person needs is a Serve account and a device to access the account. Got an iPhone? You can send or receive payments, and there's no need for a card-swiping dongle or a special Near Field Communication (NFC) case for your device.
Available only in the US at this point, Amex also touts the security of the new system. Serve uses an "advanced" encryption system, a confidential PIN and multi-factor authentication to ensure that your account can only be used by you.
Amex bought out would-be PayPal competitor Revolution Money last year and acquired the technology used in Serve. Earlier this month, Visa announced an agreement with Fiserv and CashEdge that will let the payment apps from those companies -- ZashPay and POPmoney -- work with Visa accounts. Not to be left out, Google is looking into an agreement with MasterCard and Citigroup for an NFC-based payment system.