retail news in context, analysis with attitude

American Express said yesterday that by the end of this year, all of its cardholders enrolled in its Membership Rewards points system will be able top use those points to buy burgers, shakes and fries at McDonald's restaurants in the US.

"We’re leveraging our technology to make it easy and seamless to redeem points in real-time,” said Leslie Berland, executive vice president, Digital Partnerships & Development at American Express. “When Card Members pay with their American Express Cards at McDonald’s, this technology adds flexibility and choice to that payment experience.”

The program will work so that when someone uses an Amex card to pay for a McDonald's meal, the card reader will give the shopper the option of using points to pay for it - at the conversion rate of 100 points for $1 worth of food.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that "American Express’s upscale, business-traveler image notwithstanding, card members already spend hundred of millions of dollars at McDonald’s every year. No word on how much of that figure consists of meals in airports during business trips. Berland expects customers will go to McDonald’s more frequently and spend more money because of the rewards program. That’s what happened earlier this year, when American Express worked out a similar arrangement with Uber and with New York taxis via Verifone, she says."
KC's View:
I have to be honest here … I have trouble with that sentence that starts out, ""American Express’s upscale, business-traveler image notwithstanding … "

Because somehow linking Mickey D's to the brand positioning of American Express - where the goal seems to move people from the green card to the gold card to the platinum card to the black card, all with the idea of creating the image of a club that not everyone can join, and by the way, you pay for the privilege - seems incongruous.

Maybe this works. Maybe the idea is to get people to burn off points on Big Macs rather than use them for more expensive items. But for me, this is like fingernails on the chalkboard … and one has to wonder if it is a short-term answer to a problem that required more long-term, big-picture thinking.