Do You Need an Amex Prepaid Card or a SunTrust Bank Credit Card?
The initial appeal of a prepaid card or a secured credit card is easily understood: it allows you to avoid hefty overdraft fees and prevents you from spending more than you have. Opting for this logical form of payment makes sense for consumers who are still working on establishing a pattern of financial responsibility and health.
Consumers are generating lots of questions surrounding these various payment methods. It can be a challenge to wade through the seemingly minor details regarding which of the American Express Serve® or SunTrust Bank credit card choices is the best fit for you. In response to the interest and intrigue, AdvisoryHQ has compiled this detailed comparison to help clarify the finer points.
If you’ve been wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of the various options are, we’ll dive deeper into what fees you can expect, the pros and cons of each type of card, and ultimately assist you in discovering if the Amex Serve card or SunTrust Bank credit card is right for you.
Comparison Review List
The list below is sorted alphabetically:
- American Express Serve®
- American Express Serve® FREE Reloads
- Cash Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust
- Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards from SunTrust
High-Level Comparison Table
Credit Card Name
|American Express Serve®|
$1 per month (waived with $500 direct deposit)
|American Express Serve® FREE Reloads|
$3.95 per month
|Cash Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust|
5% cash back on first $6,000 in gas and groceries;
|Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards from SunTrust|
10.49% to 21.49%
2% cash back on first $6,000 in gas and groceries annually;
Table: The above list is sorted alphabetically
Amex Serve Card vs. SunTrust Secured Credit Card
How do you make a decision between one of the American Express Serve® prepaid cards or a SunTrust secured credit card? Understanding the fundamental differences between these Amex Serve card choices and the secured credit cards can help you to make a more informed decision.
A prepaid card, like the Amex Serve card, allows you to deposit cash conveniently into a card that you use in a manner similar to a debit card. When the money comes close to running out, you can reload your Amex prepaid card with more cash. Alternatively, you can make adding money even easier with the American Express Serve® direct deposit.
Image Source: American Express®
When the money on your American Express Serve® runs out, you aren’t subject to overdraft fees, and there are never any late fees. Transactions will not clear on the Amex Serve card if there are no funds available in your account. Similarly, you won’t pay late fees because there is never a bill.
You should be prepared for the fact that you will likely face some sort of monthly fee for the use of these American Express Serve® prepaid cards.
Secured Credit Cards
A secured credit card, including those available from SunTrust Bank, works slightly differently from the Amex prepaid. In this instance, you are actually receiving a real credit card that will be accompanied by a billing cycle and monthly statement for the amount spent. This is the primary way in which secured credit cards will differ from the Amex prepaid options.
Secured credit cards are typically designed for individuals with poor credit or no credit. Lenders feel less secure in issuing credit limits to these individuals, so secured credit cards require an upfront deposit that is typically equal to the available line of credit. This gives the bank collateral to use in the event that you default on your payments.
When you take a look at the two options (the American Express Serve® card or a SunTrust secured credit card), it can be hard to determine which option will put you ahead. To help you decide, we will take a look at the various costs and advantages to each:
- Secured credit cards require an upfront deposit (could be equal to a few hundred dollars) whereas Amex prepaid credit cards require a monthly fee.
- Secured credit cards come with a monthly statement and bill whereas Amex prepaid credit cards do not.
- Secured credit cards can build up your credit score whereas Amex prepaid credit cards cannot.
Differences in American Express Serve® Card Types
The American Express Serve prepaid card comes in a variety of options, with the two most popular being the American Express Serve® and the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads. With the official names of these Amex prepaid options so similar, what is really the difference between these American Express credit cards?
Both of the Amex Serve card options feature some of the same basic functions to cardholders:
- Free direct deposit
- Free transfers from bank accounts
- Free ATM withdrawals from MoneyPass® ATMs
- Free online bill pay
- Free subaccounts
- Free to send and receive money
Those are some of the more popular features to note in a quick American Express Serve® review. A handful of other perks exist as well, including 24/7 customer service and purchase protection on eligible purchases.
The original card price for both the American Express Serve® and the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads is free when handled online. Retail outlets may charge up to $3.95 per Amex Serve card though. The monthly fees are where these two cards really become distinct.
Source: American Express Serve®
The American Express Serve® comes with a $1 monthly fee, waived when you direct deposit $500 or more each month. Unfortunately, cash reloads on this Amex prepaid will cost you up to $3.95 and will vary depending on the retailer used to make the deposit.
Source: American Express Serve®
In contrast, the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads costs more money on a monthly basis but offers free cash reloads at more than 45,000 locations. For consumers who make frequent cash deposits or need to perform an American Express Serve reload as opposed to simply direct depositing funds, the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads is likely to be the better choice cost-wise.
SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards vs. Amex Prepaid Options
The major benefit for individuals with abysmal credit is that the Amex Serve card options do not require any type of credit check. There is no minimum balance to maintain, and they require significantly lower cost investments initially when compared to the SunTrust secured credit card options. Unfortunately, the Amex prepaid options also do not help to build up or polish an often-neglected credit score.
The SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards will require a credit check and force your application to be subject to approval. Once approved, you’ll need to make a deposit in the amount of your approved credit limit into a SunTrust savings account. While your deposit is held, it will accrue interest in your new savings account.
Since your initial deposit is going to be significantly more than the monthly payment required by the American Express Serve®, the cost to gain access to one of these cards is significantly higher.
The initial cost of having a SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards may be higher than the American Express credit cards, but you gain a significant advantage with its cash back rewards program:
- 1% unlimited cash back on qualifying purchases
- 2% cash back on the first $6,000 spent on gas and groceries annually
- Cashback bonuses of 10%, 25% or more, depending on your relationship with SunTrust, when you deposit into an eligible checking, savings or money market account
Points can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, and more. This gives you a significant advantage over the American Express Serve reload card by allowing your everyday purchases to earn you discounts and rewards. If you can handle the upfront cost, you benefit from the cashback rewards and the additional boost it can give your credit score.
SunTrust Cash Rewards Credit Card vs. SunTrust Secured Credit Card
For individuals who have already done some work on their credit score, should they consider the secured credit card or the SunTrust Cash Rewards credit card? It’s easy to see the biggest initial difference in the two cards: the cash rewards credit card does not require an upfront deposit in order to open a credit line.
As far as upfront costs go, the SunTrust Cash Rewards Credit Card allows you to bypass the lump sum payment required by the SunTrust Secured Credit Card. It is most similar to the American Express Serve Reload cards in this way. The major difference still remains that the SunTrust Cash Rewards Credit Card allows you to build your credit while you shop.
Bear in mind that the American Express Serve direct deposit allows you to manage your payments directly from an employer. Neither of the two SunTrust Bank credit card options will allow you to do so. Their primary function is to allow you to borrow the money on your credit line from the bank versus managing the cash you currently have available.
The SunTrust Cash Rewards Credit Card does feature a more generous rewards program than the secured credit card counterpart. You’ll earn up to:
- 5% cash back on the first $6,000 spent on gas and groceries in the first year
- 2% unlimited cash back on gas and groceries after the initial offer
- 1% unlimited cash back on all qualifying purchases
- 10%, 25% or higher cashback bonuses when redeemed into a SunTrust checking, savings or money market account
The cost to maintain the unsecured SunTrust Bank credit card is also lower. An annual fee of $32 accompanies the secured version while the unsecured version has no annual fees. Likewise, the interest rates are significantly more favorable on the unsecured credit card.
Interest rates will range from 10.49% to 21.49% APR on the cash rewards credit card compared to 20.24% APR on the SunTrust secured credit card. Even better, the cash rewards credit card also has a 0% APR introductory rate on all purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.
Deciding Which Card Is Right for You
It’s apparent that among these three different types of cards (American Express Serve prepaid card choices, a SunTrust secured credit card or unsecured SunTrust Bank credit card), one of them is likely better for your wallet than another. Let’s take a look at when each card may benefit you the most:
- American Express Serve Prepaid Card: These American Express credit cards work best for consumers who are looking to manage their cash more effectively. The American Express Serve direct deposit and potentially free cash reloads (on the American Express Serve® FREE Reloads) make it an ideal way to make convenient purchases without worrying about credit scores or overdraft fees.
- SunTrust Secured Credit Card: This type of card is better for consumers who have the ability to make a larger initial deposit, not required by the Amex prepaid options. It can help to build and refine credit scores while earning cashback rewards. However, it will have higher interest rates and annual fees than its unsecured counterparts.
- SunTrust Cash Rewards Credit Card: Compared to the SunTrust Secured Credit Card, this type of card is better for consumers who have already done some work on their credit score. It features the lowest rates and fees as well as working to maintain and increase your credit score when used responsibly. It does have a low upfront cost, similar to the way the American Express Serve® will have very little initial cost.
As you can see, the American Express Serve card, SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards, and Suntrust Cash Rewards Credit Card uniquely fit different types of individuals. Before you decide which one to apply for, you should evaluate your current financial standing and need with these questions:
- What does your current credit score look like?
- Does your credit score need improvement, or are you only looking for a way to more responsibly manage your cash?
- How much can you afford to spend to open a new account?
- Do you need the American Express Serve direct deposit option?
- What sort of cashback rewards program were you expecting to have with a new credit card?
These questions can give you a good idea of your current standings and financial needs before moving forward with applications or opening accounts.
Build Your Credit or Manage Your Cash?
Once you’ve taken the time to fully determine what your current level of financial need is, you can have a more thorough understanding and appreciation of which cards will work best for you. The Amex Serve card, SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards, and Cash Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust are all top choices depending on what your current preferences are.
Don’t allow the minor details and research to prevent you from finding the right addition to your financial repertoire. The Amex Serve card may very well be the right one to manage your cash alongside the SunTrust Bank credit card choices. The two options don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
In fact, using two different types of cards (a credit card and an Amex prepaid) in tandem can help you to both manage your cash and build your credit simultaneously.
Allow AdvisoryHQ to help you sort through the details of what you need to consider before you add another card to your wallet. You may just find that the solution means you need more than one type of card. Perhaps both the Amex Serve card and the SunTrust Bank credit card choices are right for you.
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