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McDonald’s enhances customer payments via app-based AmEx rewards

McDonald’s moved farther into mobile payments by partnering with American Express to let card holders in the drive-thru lane use reward points from their mobile application to pay for food purchases.

AmEx card holders also can pay for McDonald’s items with their points by swiping their cards through a credit-card reader. The partnership, coming amid a report by the 9to5Mac Web site that Apple is gearing up to launch Apple Pay as soon as this week, moves McDonald’s long trial of mobile payment systems at restaurants around the world into its latest chapter.

“Having the options to pay as customers choose is a big opportunity we are leveraging,” said Lisa McComb, director, McDonald’s media relations, Oak Brook, IL.

“We’re focused on making the experience at McDonald’s easy and convenient, and this additional payment method offers more options for our customers.”

Charity donation
As part of the launch, each time a card member uses points for his or her McDonald’s order, American Express will make a $1 donation to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides programs that improve the health and well being of children.

Apple is readying staff at its retail stores for the upcoming rollout of Apple Pay as soon as this week, 9to5 Mac reported. The mobile payment platform will allow users to complete transactions by tapping a payment terminal with an iPhone.

Although the McDonald’s-AmEx program expected to roll out to all participating McDonald’s U.S. locations by December lets customers use an app only in the restaurants’ drive-thru lanes, customers in-store also will see improvements in convenience.

“In the restaurant … it’s a card swiper machine – just as easy as an app, perhaps faster,” Ms McComb said.

There is no need to use codes or to register to use the AmEx reward points to pay for McDonald’s orders.

When customers pay at the counter with an eligible AmEx card, they are given through the card reader the option to use points, and the number of points needed for the order. By pressing the green “Yes” button, they can use points for the order and receive an on-screen confirmation that points were used.

To use points at the drive-thru, card members can use points for their order via the AmEx app or online at

On Sept. 9, McDonald’s announced it would accept Apple Pay at all of its U.S. restaurants, making food and beverage purchases faster and easier for customers using iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch.

The combination of Apple Pay and McDonald’s investments in NFC (near-field communication) enabled payment scanners will significantly simplify how the restaurant chain’s customers pay for their food and beverage purchases.

The quick-service restaurant industry is eagerly anticipating McDonald’s launch of Apple Pay given the brand’s scale and reach as one of the world’s most frequented businesses.

McDonald’s has been trialing a number of different mobile payments solutions around the world.

In June, McDonald’s first U.S. use of a company-branded mobile-ordering and payments application at restaurants in Columbus, GA, continued an effort by the chain to get a much-demanded service right before making it more widely available.

Leading the charge
The app, available for both iPhones and Android devices, allowed customers to skip store or drive-thru lines by scanning a QR code at a restaurant. The move was the latest example of how the QSR sector is leading the charge with mobile payments.

McDonald’s also has experimented with mobile order-ahead and payment smartphone apps in foreign markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Sweden, France and Austria. It has also tested offers through the Isis mobile wallet.

The Georgia test, marking the first U.S. use of a McDonald’s-branded ordering app, was seen as helping to meet customers’ desire to avoid waiting in lines. The payment app also would give McDonald’s new data that would enhance targeting of offers.

“This is all about providing options for our customers to have an easy and convenient experience at McDonald’s,” Ms. McComb said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.