IQ News: Netcentive Aids Amex With Rewards Program

American Express Co. today launched BlueLoot, a rewards program for users of Blue, the new consumer credit card it introduced Sept. 8. Blue has an embedded chip that’s read by a smartcard reader (provided free by Amex to the cardholder) so users don’t have to enter the credit-card number when shopping online.
BlueLoot rewards card users with points for purchases, typically one point for each dollar charged. Cardholders can redeem points for more than 40 items in an online Rewards Catalog, including merchandise from Weber, Barnes & Noble and Taylor Made.
“It’s important for Amex to offer rewards on Blue,” said Melissa Shore, digital commerce strategies analyst at Jupiter Communications, New York. “To date, consumers have signed up for Blue more out of curiosity than a real interest in using the card. An attractive rewards program will give them an incentive to start using it as a normal card product.”
The rewards program was designed and implemented by San Francisco-based Netcentives, which operates the ClickRewards Shopping Network. Netcentives also will host the portions of the American Express site where cardholders can check on the points they’ve accrued, peruse the merchandise that’s available and actually spend their points.
“American Express, which certainly knows a thing or two about loyalty, is using our loyalty infrastructure to drive loyalty to the Blue card,” said Netcentives chairman and CEO West Shell. “With BlueLoot, you can do everything online to really get control of your reward value.”
Netcentives will credit cardholders’ BlueLoot accounts with points as they’re accrued, keep secure and private records that users can access, and debit points when they’re used. Although Netcentives’ technology has the ability to award points as soon as a transaction is completed, American Express has chosen to award them within 72 hours of the close of the monthly billing cycle.
“Our rewards program is integrated directly with Amex’s back end,” said Netcentives’ director of business development Tom Katis. “We’re like a bank ourselves–a rewards bank. We have a secure scalable transaction processing platform.”
Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, it will extend over several years, with Netcentives collecting revenue based on transaction and licensing fees. New York-based American Express also has made a financial investment in Netcentives of less than 5 percent.