AmEx has made a fairly significant improvement to its points redemption system, via the financial institution’s mobile app. So all those points that AmEx users rack up when swiping their card or making online purchases, can now actually be automatically used right after the transaction for a designated purchase.
Here’s how it works. AmEx Card members accumulate membership rewards points with transactions. The program allows card members to earn one point for every dollar charged on enrolled American Express cards. These points, which have no expiration date, are redeemable in a number of categories. In the past, members were able to redeem points for purchases from brands online via AmEx’s redemption hub or for travel (airfare, hotels and more). But the general consumer behavior was to redeem big purchases, not everyday expenses like food or other transactions.
Previously, members could check their account balances, make payments, browse rewards options, and load special offers to their cards from their phones. With this recent addition, card holders can redeem points for any purchase, from gas and groceries to clothing and manicures, on their phones. Card members have to download or upgrade their existing iOS or Android AmEx app, and sign in with their online username. Whenever they make a purchase with their card, they can open the mobile app and select Use Points for that particular charge once it hits their AmEx statement. A credit in the amount of the charge is applied to the card holder’s account so the merchant is left out of the equation completely.
As David Yoo, AmEx’s SVP Mobile Products and Services, explains, the company is seeing that more and more card holders are making purchases through mobile devices, and are reliant on these devices. So it made sense for AmEx to develop a way where consumers could redeem points in the offline and online worlds.
There are a few caveats to the new feature. You can’t use the points towards any card membership fees. AmEx is currently testing out push notifications, so that when you spend at a restaurant, you would see an alert on your phone to remind you that you could redeem points for the charge. Yoo says the company is only implementing push notifications for restaurants at the moment but this feature could be extended more broadly in the next few months (and users could turn this feature off as well, he adds).
For me personally, I rarely use my AmEx points unless I am booking travel. But it’s a lot easier to be reminded to use your points when your phone is on hand, and you can simply click from wherever you are to redeem points. This isn’t the first new technology iteration added to the membership rewards points system — the company also partnered recently with VeriFone to allow card members to use points to pay for cabs. This new update is simply another way that AmEx is attempting to encourage and incentivize users to use their payments system and credit card over others. And the key to accomplishing that goal is to use the mobile phone as a touch point, and to extend rewards into the offline world.