Two years ago, Foursquare launched a partnership with American Express that let cardholders check in and receive instant discounts, known as Specials. The company took a fee from merchants every time users redeemed a discount, while American Express used the deals as yet another incentive to having an American Express card. Everybody wins.
Today, Foursquare is expanding Specials to the rest of the world through partnerships with Visa and MasterCard for both credit and debit cards. This means that Visa and MasterCard can approach Foursquare to reward cardholders for checking in to places like Burger King. Merchants, on the other hand, get enhanced analytics from Foursquare about the kinds of people spending money at their location. "Every person in the US has an American Express, Visa, or MasterCard credit or debit card, and the offers now work for all of them," Product Manager Noah Weiss says. Once you've initially added a credit card to your Foursquare account, discounts activate automatically any time you check in to an eligible location, like a restaurant or bar.
While deals sites like Groupon may have scared off some consumers and merchants, Foursquare's Specials require less of a commitment. "There's no printing coupons or pulling out your phone to show a waiter, and there's no overheard for merchants, who don't want to train 10,000 staff members on how to handle deals," Weiss says. "You just spend like you normally would, and if you spend over a certain amount you get a discount." Backed up by a constantly evolving database of 50 million venues and big companies like Visa and American Express, Foursquare might soon know more about where you're eating than anybody else.