Cash rewards are great, but American Express is betting some users would prefer a virtual cow or two.
The company is partnering with social gaming giant Zynga to provide virtual rewards for users of its Serve prepaid debit card. From the press release:
FarmVille allows players to cultivate their Farms by plowing, planting and harvesting crops and trees. As part of the Zynga Serve Rewards phased program, FarmVille players now have the ability to plant an interactive Serve Money Tree in their Farms, which will give them the ability to level up in game and earn Zynga Farm Cash for virtual awards redemption. Once players place the tree, they will be prompted to take the following four steps to earn Farm Cash in connection with the co-branded card through July 31, 2012.
- Successfully register for the Zynga Serve Rewards program to receive a Zynga Serve co-branded prepaid card in the mail.
- Add money to the Serve account through any funding source including a bank account, debit card, credit card or cash using a GreenDot MoneyPak.
- After receiving the Zynga Serve Rewards card, activate the card online or by calling the activations line.
- Use the Zynga Serve Rewards card everywhere American Express Cards are accepted in the U.S. for purchases and receive online, in-game rewards in real time. At launch, only the first five purchases of $25 or more on the Zynga Serve Rewards card will earn Farm Cash rewards. As the program expands, all purchases will receive in-game rewards tracked through an in-game dashboard.
According to Ryan Kim at GigaOM, American Express and Zynga will eventually introduce in-game deals that can be redeemed using customers' Serve cards.
While I prefer real rewards to virtual ones, this seems like a pretty shrewd move by the two companies.
Students are a key demographic for prepaid card providers, and lots of students play Zynga games. AmEx stands to gain a lot of prepaid card users that will help them reap profits from debit-card swipe fees and ATM withdrawal fees in the short term, some of whom may turn into long-term AmEx customers when it's time for them to get a credit card or a bank account.
On the other hand, Zynga gets much-needed revenue from American Express in exchange for rewards with a marginal cost that can't be much more than zero.
What do you think? Do you know any FarmVille addicts who will jump at the chance to earn some swag for their virtual farms?
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