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American Express, Zynga collaborate on rewards

The Associated Press

Players of Zynga's online games will be able to earn rewards through a prepaid card using American Express' Serve digital payments platform under a deal announced Tuesday between American Express Co. and Zynga Inc.

The Zynga Serve Rewards program is initially available to players of "FarmVille," a popular Facebook-based game from San Francisco-based Zynga. Similar programs will be introduced in additional games such as "CastleVillle" and "CityVille" over the course of the year, so that players can redeem rewards to buy virtual goods from the games.

New York-based American Express is trying to expand use of its Serve platform, introduced in March 2011. The service lets customers make payments into and from a single account in many different ways. The account can be funded from a bank account or a debit, credit or charge card. Payments can be made into the account online, via mobile phones or at stores that accept American Express cards. Serve is aimed at consumers who currently rely on cash, checks and debit cards.

Under the collaboration, "FarmVille" players can plant an interactive "Serve Money Tree" in the virtual farm they create through the game. Planting a tree will enable players to earn Zynga Farm Cash that can be redeemed for virtual rewards.

Once a tree is placed during the game, the player can choose to receive a co-branded Zynga Serve prepaid card in the mail. The card can be used everywhere American Express cards are accepted in the U.S. for purchases, and cardholders can receive online rewards while they play Zynga games.

At the program's launch, only the first five purchases of $25 or more will earn a player Farm Cash rewards. As the program expands, all purchases will receive in-game rewards tracked through a virtual dashboard.

Later this year, the program will include new loyalty incentives to earn game cash by making purchases using the card.