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American Express has one of the original membership rewards points programs and has consistently ranked high as one of the top tier charge cards available if you don’t mind the annual fee. Amex has never been a young, hip brand. Now, the charge card is positioning itself to appeal to Generations X and Y (you know, the technologically-savvy generations) with the introduction of the American Express “social currency” program. But what is the American Express Social Currency?
Many people think of credit card (or charge card) rewards points as a largely solitary activity. You get a credit card, you shop, you earn points that you redeem for cash back, travel, merchandise, gift cards, events and more. Pretty simple.
But American Express has re-branded its rewards points program, giving it the name “social currency.” What is social currency, exactly? In a nutshell, it’s your American Express rewards points, but with a social media twist. How? Four ways (so far).
Social Media + Rewards Points = Social Currency
1. Share how you spend your points.
Amex encourages cardmembers to share exactly how they use their points via social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook. You can tweet using your own Twitter identity directly from a box on the Amex website, and other cardmembers’ tweets appear in a column on the site, too.
When you share how you’re using your points with members of your social network, they should get excited about the possibilities American Express cardmembership offers. This brings us to the second part of Social Currency.
2. Earn 5,000 bonus points for every referral.
Affiliate programs are nothing new on the Internet, but they’re growing in popularity. The cool thing about this “affiliate” program is it’s open to any American Express cardmember and there’s no approval process to be an affiliate. Granted, you don’t get paid in cash, but you earn 5,000 bonus points for every person in your social network that you refer and who is then approved for an American Express card.
This is very different from, say, Discover’s affiliate program, which provides banner ads and your own affiliate link, but you must have a business and a website with significant traffic to become an affiliate. The American Express program is open to any Amex cardmember, and is more of a grassroots social marketing effort than a typical affiliate program.
3. American Express and Foursquare team up to bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar shopping and online marketing.
At this year’s SXSW (South by Southwest) show in Austin, American Express and Foursquare, the social media application that shows where people are, geographically, announced a partnership. It works like this: You check in on Foursquare with the name and location of a store. If that store is a participating merchant in the program, you get a special coupon, good if you use your Amex card.
The program was beta-tested at SXSW, where 60 local merchants participated in a “spend $5, save $5 promo.”
4. “Currency” website offers a place for Amex users and others interested in credit and finance to connect and get information.
The Amex Open Forum reviewed here, is a fantastic information website for small business owners who use an Amex card for their business expenses. The website “Currency” provides the same thing for Amex users interested in personal finance. You’ll find tips on saving money, shopping, home improvement, travel and more. The home page right now, for instance, shows a cool article about how splurging can help you save.
While it’s not immediately obvious the site is affiliated with — or owned by — Amex, this information network, much more than a blog, is yet another way Amex is reaching out to its customers and branding itself through social media.