Milestone for Blue - AMEX Card Will Work in Stores

By Kuykendall, Lavonne | American Banker, May 11, 2001 | Go to article overview

Milestone for Blue - AMEX Card Will Work in Stores


Kuykendall, Lavonne, American Banker


American Express Co. has announced a marketing partnership that will allow its Blue cardholders to use the smart chip in their cards in U.S. stores for the first time, at Virgin music stores.

The program, called Blue for Music, includes two music-oriented companies, of which Virgin is the newer. Virgin Entertainment Group, which operates 20 Virgin Megastores in the United States, has installed chip card readers at each checkout line in its stores.

Its other partner, SFX, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications that operates music amphitheaters, is expanding a program it began last year that gives gives Blue cardholders a special Will Call window where they can claim Internet-purchased concert tickets by inserting the card into a chip card reader. The program will soon include more concert halls, and will offer free music CDs to Blue cardholders who buy tickets online.

Richard Lobel, SFX's senior vice president of alliance marketing, said last year's test of the special Will Call windows was successful, though the numbers of Blue cardholders who used the service "aren't that big."

He called American Express' focus on music for the Blue card a smart strategic move. "It is one of the smartest extensions of a brand that I know of," he said. "They have identified music as a platform they want to own."

Mr. Lobel said American Express paid a fee to install the program in SFX amphitheaters. "It is a good deal for us," he said. "A win-win."

The announcement of the deal with Virgin, which includes the first chip-based loyalty application for Blue, came more than 18 months after the card's introduction, which was heralded by rock-music-oriented promotions that included a series of free concerts. American Express had 2.2 million Blue cards in force at the end of 2000, making the card more popular than the company had projected, said Alfred Kelly, American Express group president for U. …

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