Foursquare just launched its largest partnership ever: a national deal with American Express. Cardholders check in at shops like H&M and Sports Authority to get rewards on their Amex card. Foursquare won’t get a cut of the revenue, but the New York Times says the company hopes to “attract other, more lucrative partnerships.” Deals also no doubt help put some of the sheen back on the concept of the “check-in,” especially now that it’s been co-opted adopted by Facebook and Google. Partnering with a credit card company is mainstreaming the kind of coupons and smaller deals Foursquare has long offered around New York, incentivizing check-ins in cities where seeing that your friend is at a bar or restaurant isn’t just a subway ride away.
What does American Express get out of it? Proximity to the youths and better response rates to its deals. “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,” Edward P. Gilligan, vice chairman of American Express, told the Times. “But those response rates tend to be low.” The partnership was beta-tested at SXSW and cardholders with access to the deals spent 20 percent more than those didn’t.
If more credit card companies and stores sign on, Foursquare could end-up encroaching on Groupon territory–a partnership between the two is reportedly in the works–with a more frictionless offering. Deals would be aimed at people who actually use them, instead of, say, 50 percent off an a bikini wax sent to all of Manhattan. And there’s no need to scan a phone at the terminal since rewards are tallied on the back-end with swipes and taps. Does this mean monetization is the new gamification?