Long has American Express held court as the social credit card company. Members could sync their AmEx cards with any number of social networks—from Twitter to Foursquare to Facebook—to earn rewards and discounts.
But, in yet another sign of how fast even legacy institutions are shifting toward social, today Foursquare announced it is partnering with Visa and Mastercard to expand its credit credit specials program. Now, just like AmEx members, Mastercard and Visa cardholders can sync their accounts with Foursquare to earn discounts at nearby restaurants and retail stores. The collaboration will not only provide Visa and Mastercard with some much needed social cred, but also open up a huge new swath of potential customers to Foursquare and its merchant partners. By bringing aboard three major institutions like Visa, Mastercard, and Amex, as Foursquare product manager Noah Weiss says, the next step in Foursquare's journey is all about "ubiquity."
The system is simple to use. After syncing their Visa or Mastercard accounts with Foursquare, users can check in at local retailers to trigger discounts. Burger King, for example, is offering $1 off for every $10 spent—only one of the merchant deals to be rolled out in the coming weeks, Foursquare says.
The secret sauce is that earning discounts is a frictionless experience—they're automatically loaded to your credit or debit card and just waiting to be used without hassle. "It's a seamless redemption experience," Weiss says. "You're not showing a paper voucher when you're on a date with your significant other, and you're not even showing your phone and trying to scan a barcode."
For merchants, that's a refreshing change of pace considering how much time and training goes into integrating with a solution like, say, daily deals service Groupon. "There's no operational overhead—no training of staff or upgrading of their point-of-sale systems," Weiss promises.
But the most obvious benefits will likely be felt by of Mastercard and Visa users, who have watched AmEx cardholders enjoy discounts on Foursquare since the card company partnered with the startup two years ago at SXSW. The new potential customers will also likely have an impact on Foursquare's bottom line. "Every time a user redeems one of these offers, we make a fee on top of that," Weiss says.
Still, that won't mean AmEx will lose its advantage over its competitors. The company will continue to introduce exclusive deals for its cardholders on Foursquare, such as the special it just launched with AMC to give customers $5 off for every $20 spent at the movie theater chain—just in time for the Oscar's.
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