With its latest membership rewards feature, luxury credit card brand American Express continues its recent strategy of aggressively targeting mobile consumers.

Launched last month, Use Points for Purchases allows eligible American Express card holders, including small business (but not corporate) card holders, to offset credit card purchases with membership reward points using the company’s mobile app.

“We recognized there are two populations of redeemers out there: Those who like to accumulate points for a large trip or significant reward of some kind, and – more and more – those who want to use their points more frequently, often for smaller, everyday types of purchases,” Megan McKee, American Express Canada’s vice president of consumer card marketing, tells ITBusiness.ca.

“We wanted to make sure we accommodated both groups with our reward offering.”

A rebranding and expansion of the company’s former TripFlex reward program, which invited customers to comb their statements for eligible (often travel-related) transactions they could offset with points, Use Points for Purchases extends the range of available transactions to credit card purchases in general – and with a focus on instant mobile access, though the feature can also be accessed online, at a member’s bank, or over the phone.

“We noticed that individuals are interacting with us more and more on their mobile devices, and so when we launched Use Points for Purchases it was very important for us to launch it on mobile,” McKee says.

To access Use Points for Purchases, all American Express cardholders need do is log into their account either online or through the company’s mobile app and view their recent charges. When selecting eligible transactions, they can simply click “use points for purchases,” and receive the appropriate credit within 48 hours.

Using Use Points for Purchases to pay a grocery bill. (Courtesy American Express)
For example, you can Use Points for Purchases to pay a grocery bill.
(Courtesy American Express)

The rate at which users earn membership reward points depends on the card, of course – for example, a Gold Rewards Card member can earn a welcome bonus of 25,000 points, followed by two points for every $1 purchase at eligible gas stations, drug stores, and grocery stores.

Users must also redeem a minimum value of 1000 points – equal to $10 for travel-related purchases and $7 for non-travel-related purchases – though purchases can be grouped, so customers could conceivably redeem points for a series of $2 items.

“Travel is core to Amex’s brand and heritage, and we’re continuing to invest heavily in it to ensure the redemption rate is as rich as possible for our card members,” McKee says. “What’s great is that it’s basically a way to source your own rewards, instead of being restricted to a merchandise catalogue, or being forced to accumulate a certain number of points for a larger-ticket item.”

Of course, Use Points for Purchases is only the latest in a long line of American Express features aimed at the mobile market. The company was famously the first provider to offer Apple Pay in Canada, while its substantive mobile app includes fraud and promotional event alerts, a restaurant search, an airport lounge finder, and even allows members to refer their friends.

“I think there was a time when mobile was for outside the home, and I think now it’s more used in the home,” McKee says. “For many of our customers, it’s simply become their preferred method of interacting with us, and so we’re trying to get ahead of where the mobile market is going in terms of the benefits and services card members want to access from their mobile devices.

“I think the more opportunities we give a card member to interact with our brand, the better,” she continues.

With Use Points for Purchases currently in “soft launch” mode, American Express has yet to release any marketing or advertising materials related to the program. But that hasn’t stopped users from discovering it for themselves.

“We’re seeing massive takeup already, and a huge portion of the points that are being redeemed are on mobile,” McKee says. “Most of our mobile-savvy card members have sort of found their way to it already.”

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