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Cellphone in New Role: Loyalty Card


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Loopt Star mobile game

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Loyalty cards--those little paper cards that promise a free sandwich or coffee after 10 purchases, but instead get lost or forgotten--are going mobile. And merchants are looking for ways to marry the concept to games that customers can play to earn more free items and, it is hoped, spend more money.

Instead of collecting paper cards and fumbling through wallets at the cash register, customers are increasingly using their cellphones to track their visits and purchases, and receive rewards.

Some start-ups, like CardStar and CardBank, store existing loyalty cards on cellphones with scannable barcodes. And companies including Motorola and a start-up called mFoundry are providing retailers with the technology to build cellphone loyalty cards.

Loopt is one of several start-ups--including Foursquare, Shopkick and Gowalla--that are experimenting with ways to use cellphones to bridge the digital and physical worlds and turn the tasks of everyday life, like buying coffee and running errands, into a game.

From The New York Times
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