Archive for January, 2010

The Rewards of Being Green

January 15, 2010

I recently received a mailer from American Express, pitching their ZYNC charge card. It is basically an a la carte version of their Membership Rewards program. The base fee is less than the usual membership rewards programs; however, a cardmember can gain extra rewards by signing up for “packs”. These are merchant groups where s/he will gain extra rewards (2% vs. 1%). The packs are “social”, “go”, “connect”, and “Eco”. Essentially, the cardmember can customize the overall rewards package.

I found the Eco pack particularly interesting. First, it exists in the first place. I am more used to credit offers for double points at grocery stores and gas stations—not for being eco-friendly. Second, of the four “packs” available with the ZYNC card, only the Eco pack comes without an extra fee (The others are around $20-$25.) The no extra fee is definitely an encouragement to add the Eco-Pack. Third, all of the qualifying ECO-Pack merchants have been rated by an independent third party. The idea is to prove their, well, “eco-cred”.

The rewards network as screened by Amex’s certification vendor Greenopia is impressive. It covers many cities across the country, and also contains numerous categories. In fact, there over nearly 20 main categories (baby food, coffeehouses, grocery stores, airlines) with many more subcategories spread over almost 100 cities. For example, the newest listing in the Philadelphia area (as of this writing) is a compressed natural gas fueling station (operated by PECO).

American Express has identified a group of prospective “green” customers who would be attracted to a collection of eco-friendly merchants. I think it is kind of neat that American Express judged “eco-friendly” to be as potentially important to the ZYNC target market as travel, socializing, and communicating with friends. Hopefully, the eco-friendly aspect will be as prominent in other market segments. I am actually waiting to receive the next credit card offer from an AMEX competitor that includes its own “eco-rewards” product.

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