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American Express mobilizes rewards for Uber rides to drive loyalty

American Express is boosting its membership rewards program by leveraging ride-sharing service Uber to create a mobile loyalty partnership, enabling Amex card members and Uber riders to use loyalty reward points seamlessly in-app and in real time for on-demand transportation.

In what the companies are calling a “first-of-its-kind technology integration,” Amex card holders who download the Uber iOS app and store their account on file will be prompted to enroll in the Amex rewards program with just one tap. Members who opt in to the loyalty program will receive an on-screen ride summary and email receipt from Uber showing when points are earned or redeemed.

“Amex’s new feature shows there is still a lot of room for innovation in mcommerce – specifically, internal innovation,” said Cezary Pietrzak, director of marketing at Appboy, New York.

“Rather than looking to outside technologies, Amex found a creative way to use its existing assets to provide value to its mobile users.”

Driving conveniency
If a card member’s points balance is not enough to cover the ride, then the card on file will be charged the full fare and the Card Member will earn 2x points for that transaction.

American Express has gradually expanded how cardholders exchange rewards at the point of sale to have a presence in more places customers spend. For instance last year, Amex allowed members to cash in points as currency for fares in VeriFone-enabled NYC taxi cabs.

The Uber integration allows for insertion of Amex where its card members are – physically and digitally – and aims to add value and delight to everyday experiences.

The road ahead
The partnership not only increases the likelihood of cross-over consumerism, but promises American Express considerable reach as Uber – which recently closed an $18 billion-plus funding operation – is active in 128 cities and 37 countries worldwide.

Uber began forming significant partnerships last year when it began offering points to Virgin America frequent flyer members and giving prospective renters via Trulia a discount for up to three apartment visits.

Uber’s accreditations seamlessly raise awareness and credibility for its service by tapping ideal customers whom align with the brand image.

Within the past year Uber also teamed up with PayPal as an alternative payment option for its app, a move suggesting a push into international markets, where PayPal is a leading payments provider.

Digitizing rewards
 has continually been working to enhance its mobile experience for card holders.

Last November marked the first time Amex allowed consumers to pay with points via their mobile devices.

American Express has also been dipping its toes in the mobile payments space, specifically last October, when American Express, Visa and MasterCard announced a collaboration to introduce a new global standard for online and mobile payments to heighten security and simplify the purchasing experience (see story).

While American Express has not completely offered a mobile wallet, its rewards features emanate from that direction by connecting payments to its app.

“We want to connect our card members and merchants in innovative ways along the ‘path to purchase,’ helping them decide what, where and how to buy,” said David Yoo, senior vice president of mobile products and services at American Express, New York.

“We also need to engage and connect with them in those spending moments, not just when it’s time to pay their bill.”

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York