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Citi, Best Buy debut rewards app

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Friday, August 19, 2011
Posted: 2 pm ET

If you hate to wait, especially to redeem credit card rewards, Citi and Best Buy have an app for you.

The duo on Thursday debuted a new app for iPhones and Androids that allows Citi ThankYou rewards members to redeem points instantly at Best Buy via smartphone. Simply scan or type in an item's barcode at the electronics retailer, instantly apply points to buy it and arrange for in-store pickup.

And get this: You don't have to be in the store to make a purchase. Eat dinner next door and search for Best Buy merchandise on the ThankYou Rewards catalog. When you find what you want, buy it with points and pick it up from the store on the way for ice cream.

No calling the credit card issuer to redeem points. No going online. Your rewards points for Best Buy swag are literally at your fingertips. The app is available at the App Store or Android Market.

The app is part of Citi's overall strategy to be "the best digital bank in the world," says Ralph Andretta, executive vice president of loyalty and new products at Citi.

"The smartphone has become inseparable from the person. Now, it's becoming inseparable from the consumer experience," says Andretta.

In May, the company partnered with Google, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint to launch the Google Wallet that allows smartphones to act as wallets. With either a PayPass Citi MasterCard or a Google prepaid card, customers can pay by tapping their phones at a PayPass-enabled checkout.

"When you look at what is going on in mobile, it's not just a technological movement, it’s a behavioral movement," says Chuck Martin, CEO of think tank Mobile Future Institute.

He noted that 38 percent of the U.S. population has a smartphone and that percentage is expected to rise to half by the end of the year. It's a stat that hasn't gone unnoticed by the credit card industry, especially American Express, which has ramped up its mobile offerings this summer.

In June, the company announced a program with Foursquare that offers consumers mobile discounts redeemable by smartphone. It also teamed up with Verizon Wireless this month to offer digital payments from online or a mobile phone.

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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