Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Use Your AmEx, Scan a Bar Code, Get an iPod?

American Express Black Card holders might not strike some as the bargain-hunting kind, but AmEx is getting on board with mobile bar code scanning to offer more loyalty rewards to all cardholders.

The financial services company is forging an official partnership with eBay-acquired RedLaser to offer consumers on-the-fly comparison shopping options, and to boost buying through its online rewards store, shopAmex.

RedLaser is a leading mobile bar code application, with an estimated 15 million downloads across all mobile operating systems.

All AmEx cardholders with membership rewards — whether Green, Platinum or Centurion Black Cards — that download the free app to their smartphones will be able to scan item bar codes, find out how many AmEx rewards points they’ve accumulated and potentially purchase the same item at a discount on shopAmex, a catalog of five million products from approximately 60 online retailers like Target, Saks and Apple. About four million of the listed products will be available to cardholders that use the RedLaser bar code scanner.

For American Express, the RedLaser deal is part of a growing push toward serving customers through mobile. The company’s most recent earnings report shows that AmEx has 95.8 million cards in force, including consumer, corporate and small-business cards; and according to the company, an estimated two-thirds of cardholders with membership rewards use a mobile or tablet device.

“In everything we do right now in terms of mobile and tablet, we’re trying to figure out ways to deliver value to our customers, because this is where it is right now: They’re using their phones to shop,” said Dustin Harris, director of interactive development at American Express.

For retailers — and consumers — it goes to show that it’s a brave new comparative world out there, with more shoppers having access to potentially better price points right in the palms of their hands, via smartphones. As my colleague Tricia Duryee reported recently, mobile shopping shot up during this year’s Cyber Monday record-setting sales, and mobile is expected to spur even more buying as smartphone adoption increases.

The RedLaser app for AmEx membership rewards will work only on the iPhone to start, though the company expects an optimized iPad app to become available soon.

Update: A previous version of this article suggested AmEx users could use the RedLaser bar code scanner to cash in on membership rewards and buy an Apple iPad. Cardholders will not be able to scan a bar code to buy an iPad through shopAmex.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik