Foursquare announced Thursday that it has partnered with American Express to bring a pilot program to the Austin area during SXSW 2011. In what the company hopes to be a “truly game-changing” move, the two companies are enabling American Express cardholders to access exclusive specials all around Austin between March 11 and March 15, the dates for the Interactive portion of SXSW.
The gist of it is that, after linking their American Express card number to their Foursquare account, users will be able to redeem cash-saving deals at various pre-selected venues. For example, check in to the Whole Foods on 95 E Houston St., spend $5 or more on the Amex card, and then wait for $5 to be credited to your account within three to five days.
To participate, users need only visit this page and enter in the necessary information. After that, it’s just a matter of exploring Austin for the more than 50 merchants on board with the pilot program.
What’s really amazing about this new savings feature is its seamlessness. Even traditional Foursquare specials require the user to flash their phone to the businesses in order to redeem whatever deal they’ve unlocked. With this new program, the ordinary Foursquare user doesn’t need to change their behavior at all: just check in and make a purchase. Earned savings post to the spender’s account automatically.
And remember: this is just the pilot. “If all goes well,” says Foursquare director of business development Tristan Walker, we’ll be seeing this kind of thing rolled out permanently to more locations.
While there’s been tons of talk over whether upcoming versions of Android or iOS devices will don NFC-powered payment services, no one’s really certain how soon a system of that sort could be rolled out. Or, even less predictable, when it could go mainstream. To me, Foursquare and American Express have taken us a step in that direction by getting consumers used to the idea of wedding phones and in-store purchases. But it’s probably just a transitory stage.
Today’s announcement from Foursquare follows two big other news items for the location service from the past two days, the launch of Foursquare 3.0 for iPhone and Android and an overhauled merchant platform with new specials. The beginning of SXSW 2011 is shaping up nicely for the maturing startup.