American Express, Twitter to offer purchases via tweets, hashtags

American Express wants to turn your Twitter feed into a digital shopping mall starting Wednesday by letting you tweet to purchase items such as a Kindle Fire HD, Xbox 360 4GB console and Sony Action Cam. The new program, called Amex Sync on Twitter, is the latest service from American Express that integrates its services into social networks. Cardholders could already register their cards to take advantage of online discounts via Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and Xbox Live. This is the first time, however, that Amex has allowed you to purchase physical items on a social network.

American Express card holders looking to make Twitter purchases will first have to sync their card with Twitter at sync.americanexpress.com/twitter. This will let you take advantage of special ongoing discounts as well as physical purchases. If you previously signed up for the program to get special discounts, you have to update your registration to include your shipping address so Amex can arrange delivery of purchased items. Twitter will never obtain your address, American Express said.

The new program is only available to valid holders of a U.S. consumer card or business card from American Express OPEN. Prepaid cards and corporate card holders are not eligible.

How it works

Starting Wednesday, February 13 at noon on the East Coast, the official American Express Twitter account will release a list of special offers that you can take advantage. Each offer will have a special hashtag tied to the product.

When you see a hashtag for a product you’re interested in, you send out a tweet to your followers that includes the hashtag; a tweet like “Give me the #AmexKindleHDOffer” would be one example. Amex will be able to see that tweet and send you an @reply via the @AmexSync account. The reply from @AmexSync will have a second hashtag such as #ConfirmAmexKindleHDOffer to confirm your purchase. You then have 15 minutes to tweet a second message that includes the confirmation hashtag. You could, for example, say, “Yes, give me my tablet already! #ConfirmAmexKindleHDOffer.” After you confirm your order on Twitter, your card will be charged and a new Kindle Fire HD will be shipped to you via free 2-day shipping.

Buying with Amex on Twitter is a bit of an arduous process since you have to keep your eye out for Amex’s confirmation tweet and then you have a limited time to respond to make the purchase. Amex gets the added benefit of advertising to your Twitter followers courtesy of your two tweets.

But some of the deals Amex is offering might be worth a little Twitter spam to your followers. The first round of physical items slated for purchase will include:

  • $25 American Express Gift Card for $15
  • Amazon Kindle Fire HD for $150
  • Sony Action Cam and Waterproof Headband Mount for $180
  • Urban Zen Bracelet Designed by Donna Karan for $80
  • Xbox 360 4GB console with a 3-month Xbox LIVE Subscription and 2 game tokens for $180
  • Xbox Controller for $30

Some of these offers seem like pretty good deals. The Xbox 360 console, for example, is currently selling on Amazon and Best Buy for $30. And the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is normally priced at $200. Amex will save all its current offers on the favorites tab of the main Amex Twitter account. The offers starting Wednesday are good until March 31 or when supplies run out. Amex cardholders are eligible for one Twitter-based purchase per offer. Taxes will be calculated based on your billing location.

Amex’s new Twitter deals sounds like an interesting idea and it’s not clear whether Twitter is getting a cut of any revenue from the buy-on-Twitter program. Twitter and American Express first partnered in 2012 to create a self-service advertising platform for small businesses. Amex began offering discounts on Twitter in March 2012.

I have to wonder how effective this new program will be. Taking a look at the majority of recent tweets from the @AmexSync account, for example, the company appears to be sending out confirmation tweets to mostly non-existent or suspended accounts. That suggests Twitter spammers and fakers are responding to Amex’s deals instead of actual customers.

It’s not clear why that would happen, as it would be pretty hard for scammers to screw merchants out of physical items purchased via Twitter. The biggest roadblock to that attempt is that an actual Amex card is tied to your Twitter account, and prepaid cards are not eligible to purchase via Twitter. But if the current state of Amex’s program is any guide, this idea is going to attract a lot of automated Twitter accounts, other spammers and scammers, and maybe a smattering of real people.

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