Following a trial run at the South by Southwest digital conference in March, Foursquare and American Express are teaming up to offer discounts across the US to AmEx cardholders. AmEx commented tonight on Twitter: "Amex and Foursquare go national! Sync, explore, save... GET STARTED NOW."
As the New York Times notes, "Foursquare users are accustomed to receiving awards in the form of coupons and digital merit badges. But more substantial deals like those being offered to American Express cardholders may bring Foursquare and other location-based services further into the mainstream."
“In 2010, it was all about the check in,” commented eMarketer analyst Noah Elkin to the Times. “Now, it’s about checking out.”
Effective immediately, American Express cardholders can sync their cards to unlock exclusive specials on Foursquare. Currently, only one card per Foursquare account may take advantage of the offer.
AmEx, which recently expanded its membership rewards to be more social, is offering deals such as — just in New York — discounts at restaurants such as Blue Smoke and Union Square Cafe, or retail rewards such as earning a $10 AmEx credit for charging $75 at H&M, or getting a $20 reward after spending $50 at Sports Authority.
According to the Times, the partnership is a loss leader for the New York-based social check-in startup, but it — like AmEx customers — will reap greater rewards: "Although Foursquare will not be receiving any revenue from the American Express deal, it says the promotion will help legitimize the company’s approach and will help attract other, more lucrative partnerships."
In addition to more high-profile partnerships, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley hopes the AmEx tie-up will help it stay ahead of Facebook, which is now in the local check-in and deals space. “When people think about Facebook, they think about it as a place to send their friends messages or post updates, not necessarily as a place to check in,” Crowley said. “We’re associated with one thing, location, and that really helps.”
“We’ve always done marketing with merchants to make offers to our card members, like send offers through direct mail, put information about sales on the Internet,” AmEx vice chairman Edward Gilligan stated. “But those response rates tend to be low.” The SXSW pilot, in contrast, brought a “higher response rate than anything else we’re doing.”
“We don’t tend to skew under 35,” Gilligan added. “We hope this will help us stay relevant to younger customers.”
At 10 million members, Foursquare is growing faster than rival start-ups (Gowalla has "about one million users" while Loopt "has more than five million"). Besides Facebook, it also faces competition from Google Offers, a local deals service being tested with Google Wallet in Portland, Oregon.
Facebook, meanwhile, reports "more than 250 million" users of its mobile app, but declined to break out for the Times how many mobile users were checking out its check-in feature.