Amex, Foursquare take mobile wallet scheme national

Program doesn't require coupons or NFC chips; discounts appear on Amex statements after a purchase

American Express Thursday announced the national rollout of mobile payment system that pairs its Amex credit card with a user's smartphone-based Foursquare profile to offer discounts for retail purchases.

The discounts, initially available from retailers H&M and Sports Authority, are credited to a user's Amex card within three to five days of a purchase, the company said, adding that no coupons, smartphone codes or NFC smartphone chips are needed.

Foursquare, a mobile platform that uses GPS technology, currently has more than 10 million subscribers who use the service as a social network to share their location with friends.

The joint effort requires that cardholders register with Amex to link their card to their Foursquare profile.

Once registered, users in proximity of participating stores will be notified of special offers, an Amex spokeswoman explained.

At the store, the Amex card can be used to purchase discounted products. The discount will be placed in the shopper's Amex account within three to five days. A push notification will inform users when the special offer is redeemed.

The specials include a $10 refund for spending $75 at an H&M store and a $20 refund for spending $50 at Sports Authority. Foursquare is reportedly not receiving any revenue from the deals.

Use of such mobile wallet technology is escalating in the U.S., as credit card companies, banks and wireless carriers have announced pilot programs or proposals in recent weeks.

And Google Wallet, which requires the use of a smartphone equipped with a Near Field Communication chip, is set to launch in the U.S. this summer.

The Amex-Foursquare partnership doesn't require the use of an NFC chip, nor does a user have to show or scan a smartphone inside a store. A trial of the joint program at the South-by-Southwest event in Austin, Texas, in March worked well enough to launch it nationally, Amex said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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