Business

AmEx further blurs the lines between physical and digital worlds with its latest app upgrades

AmEx is again upping its game with the latest additions to its iPhone app. (Disclosure: I own stock in AmEx.)

With the new updates, cardholders can get location-based offers based on their preferences. AmEx already allows cardholders to load offers on to their credit cards in partnership with Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Now, they can be alerted when they are within 2 miles of one of those businesses.

More interesting to me is that offers can be triggered based on swipe activity. I’ve long said that AmEx is the king of checkins, because the user doesn’t have to take an explicit action just to check in. AmEx is now using that data to generate offers. If you swipe your card at Pottery Barn around dinner time, you might get an offer for a California Pizza Kitchen nearby.

AmEx is also allowing cardholders to redeem points from its Membership Rewards loyalty program for electronic gift cards that can be used instantly at the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Nay, Pottery Barn, and Williams-Sonoma. More retail partners are available. Although I think it’s really clever and shows how broadly AmEx is thinking, redeeming Membership Rewards points for gift cards isn’t usually the best value. (For the record, the best return on spend is to use AmEx’s Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards and eschew Membership Rewards altogether.) The digital cards also solve a problem I frequently have — leaving the pieces of plastic at home. This feature is also available on Android.

That feature might come in handy around the holidays. According to an AmEx survey, 32% of consumers plan to use a smartphone during their holiday shopping, a big increase from 8% in 2011.

It’s a rare feature I won’t be rushing out to test. I’ll be saving my points for travel.

Rocky Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org; and tweets at @rakeshlobster.


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