Apple Pay Adds Walgreens as First Loyalty Partner (Nov. 9, 2015)
Five months after announcing support for retailer loyalty programs, Apple Pay has landed its first merchant loyalty partner. Members of Walgreens’ Balance Rewards loyalty program now are able to integrate their rewards accounts into Apple Pay, using a mobile device to earn and redeem points when making purchases at the pharmacy giant. Previously, Balance Rewards members had to scan a barcode or enter a phone number before making a purchase to earn or redeem points. The integration enables customers to add a Balance Rewards card to the Apple Pay app, then earn or redeem points by holding a mobile device near the POS. Users tap the device again to pay for the purchase via a payment card stored in the app.
The integration of the 85-million-member-strong Balance Rewards program is a significant step forward for Apple Pay’s loyalty ambitions. Apple announced in June that the mobile wallet would begin supporting loyalty programs—a feature industry observers had previously identified as a potential driver of consistent use for Apple Pay. Other major retailers and brands, including Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread and Coca-Cola, also are planning Apple Pay loyalty integrations, according to reports. And late last month, Apple Pay added support for its first retailer-issued credit card, from department store chain Kohl’s.
Apple’s major m-wallet competitors also have set their sights on loyalty and rewards. Android Pay began supporting loyalty programs last month, and Samsung Pay launched in the U.S. with loyalty support in September. The forthcoming Chase Pay will offer loyalty integration as well—and a recently announced partnership with retailer-led m-payments consortium MCX could supercharge Chase Pay’s loyalty component.